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Case study: The Rowley Estates

The Rowley Estates is a family-run collection of farms, woodlands, historic manors, gardens, businesses and holiday cottages in the North Lake District and Eden Valley. While working on a recent business venture, Christine and Charles Rowley called on Cumbria Business Growth Hub for support. We were happy to oblige!

The estates have been in the Rowley family for six generations with strong roots in livestock farming and forestry. In the last few decades, the family has diversified into the tourism sector converting some of its large historic properties into luxury accommodation for holiday makers and offers these for guest accommodation together with a range of holiday cottages and shepherd’s huts.

The family’s passion for providing experiences for holidaymakers is balanced by its responsibilities to the local community with accommodation on the estate being designated specifically for long term housing. Christine said:

“We have worked hard over the last 25 years to ensure that each time we have changed the use of a historic dwelling into a holiday property that we have replaced that with another offered for long term rental.  For example, in Melmerby, we built three new houses in the former orchard and have two of these in the long term residential rental market to replace the housing removed by having Melmerby Hall and its neighbouring Stag Cottage operated as holiday accommodation.  We are currently working to complete another restoration for local housing in the Lake District National Park.”

Christine and Charles’ latest business venture is into the market for corporate retreats, providing destinations for team building exercises and conferences.

“Like most hospitality venues and accommodation providers in the local area, we are much busier over weekends than during mid-week periods with holiday and wedding guests. We believed that there could be an opportunity to host companies or activity-based groups looking for exclusive use venues where they might be able to get together with their teams or clients. 

“We anticipated that groups of this nature might prefer to come during the weekdays so that their group participants and team members can be at home on weekends with their friends and families.  It seemed like a good fit but was a new market segment for us.”

Three manor houses on the estates were selected to be used for the retreats: Melmerby Hall, Blencowe Hall, and Hause Hall. Each is equipped with luxury bedrooms, generous accommodation space and terraces for meetings and drawing rooms to relax in the evening.

The family also undertook renovation work converting the stables at Melmerby Hall and the Byre at Blencowe Hall into spacious open plan conference rooms.

“The Grade II listed sandstone stables at Melmerby Hall had been disused for decades and were full of stuff that our family found hard to get rid of. After not using anything that was stored in those buildings for more than 20 years, it was time for us to take the plunge to clear them and turn the space into something useful and beautiful whilst preserving the heritage of the buildings. 

“It was much the same with the byre at Blencowe Hall. It is a Grade II listed building with a lovely heritage sandstone tracery window but the original wooden roof truss structure was in danger of collapse. The restoration and conversion took this building from a hazard to an asset for the business whilst preserving its structure and original sandstone stonework.

“These halls are absolutely unique historic buildings offering private and exclusive use for groups looking to meet in Cumbria and the Lake District. They provide places for collaborative work and activities as well as being set in the beautiful Eden Valley and Lake District countryside. We also find that our guests enjoy the “a la carte” services offered on site including catering, spa treatments, clay pigeon shooting, archery, yoga and other outdoor activities.”


Early on in the project, Christine approached Cumbria Business Growth Hub for support. We were able to pair Christine with one of our business advisers, Gareth O’Rourke, who – with his expertise in Lake District tourism and ecommerce – was perfectly positioned to advise on the project.

“Cumbria Business Growth Hub is a great organisation and well embedded in the community which is so helpful. Its network of advisers have a variety of experience and, being local, they really understand the issues we face in Cumbria. Gareth O’Rourke, our adviser for this project, has unique skills which really plugged into the needs of our B2B outreach project for these new conference rooms including experience with a major local holiday property website platform as well as with developing and running e-commerce sites. 

“We go the extra distance to surprise and delight our guests through providing a great service and facilities and do well with “old fashioned” repeat referral marketing for our business but we lack the skills to achieve traction on newer digital marketing platforms. Gareth and his team have been very helpful with this.”

Gareth’s input into The Rowley Estate’s digital marketing strategy seems to have paid off – their optimised website can be viewed here. We’d like to wish the team at The Rowley Estates the best of luck as they move into the first phase of trading.