VisitEngland gold award for self-catering cottages in Weshall

A complex of five luxury self-catering cottages in Suffolk has been honoured by a prestigious award ceremony that aims to promote the country's tourism industry.

Belle Grove, at Westhall, near Halesworth, was given the gold award in the Self Catering Holiday Provider of the Year category of the 2012 VisitEngland Awards for Excellence.

The honour delighted Jo Jordan and her husband Nick Fisher, who created the cottages after converting redundant buildings on their family farm.

Mrs Jordan, a consultant at a solicitors' practice, said: 'We were thrilled to be chosen and feel proud to draw the attraction of Suffolk and Norfolk to the nation.'

Mr Fisher undertook much of the building work on the cottages himself while Mrs Jordan focused on the interiors, which feature an eclectic mix of furnishings of Indian, Indonesian, Middle Eastern and Oriental styles.

She said: 'The concept is 'stay but be away' – in other words have an exotic holiday but without bothering to jet off overseas.'

She added: 'The surroundings are tranquil and we benefit from our location seven miles inland from Southwold so have the advantage of the proximity of the sea but in the countryside too.'

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Mrs Jordan said that the project had required considerable commitment but that it had been a great success.

She said: 'From a business point of view, it's proving considerably more profitable than farming is at the moment and we actually quite enjoy the fact of having our visitors, our guests. We enjoy meeting them.'

The couple, who previously ran an overland safari company in Africa for many years, were delighted when their hard work was recognised by the VisitEngland Awards for Excellence.

The judging panel awarded a total of 18 golds, 16 silvers and 13 bronzes nationally, with a further 22 finalists highly commended.

There was further success for the region at the awards ceremony in Leicester with Bewilderwood, near Wroxham, receiving a bronze award in the Large Visitor Attraction of the Year prize, while Kelling Heath Holiday Park, near Sheringham, was highly commended in the Sustainable Tourism Award.

James Berresford, VisitEngland's chief executive, said: 'All our finalists are to be warmly congratulated for their success – particularly our gold award winners, whose passion and commitment to excellence is outstanding.'

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