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Legonda Club: Tour of the Lake District 2015

Sunday 7th to Thursday 11th June 2015

Macdonald Leeming House: Post-event Report

Macdonald Leeming House has clearly recovered high standard and strong momentum under the current team.  Macdonald Leeming House exceeded the expectations of every one of us, in ever respect.  The team proved that the Lagonda Club made the right choice when it selected Leeming House as its hotel for the 2015 Tour of the Lake District, and continued its extended relationship with Macdonald Hotels.

Location

Macdonald Leeming House is well located for a car club tour of the Lake District, with easy access to the rest of the UK via the motorway and trunk road network, and to mainland Europe via Hull and other ferry ports.

  1. Location overlooking Ullswater is excellent, and facilitates club events with social aspects.
  2. It is away from the traffic hot spots of Bowness, Windermere and Ambleside, and surrounded by the best Cumbrian motoring.  The high spots of Lakeland's challenging high passes are close at hand.
  3. The hotel has a safe main road access, although the right turn out is dangerous due to blind approach and high traffic speeds

Arrival - Sunday 7th June

Presentation and greeting were excellent, with a welcoming afternoon tea provided by Reception.  This set the flavour for an excellent stay.

Car Park

The car park is excellent, with plenty of room for club cars to park together.  This facilitates security where required.  We contacted Sight & Sound in Carlisle for overnight security and at our visits: they have necessary approvals and performed well.

GM Karen Irving provided a gazebo and water supply for car washing.  A nice touch.  However, adverse weather demolished the gazebo prior to our arrival: we shared her disappointment.  Fortunately, that incident heralded the start of good weather.

Registration - Sunday 7th June

We use the library for registration, which worked well, with plenty of room and seats for the ebb and flow of arrivals.

It was noted that storage space was limited, a problem with pre-delivery of considerable materials for Welcome Pack and support materials.  While this was sorted out without problems, this could prove an enduring problem in view of the restricted office and storage space.

Reception & check-in - Sunday 7th June

Excellent systems and management for accommodation check-in, and for slot-booking and pre-ordering of Sunday dinners.  Impressive reception performance, with no problems.

Serious delays in rooms availability was unfortunate, and caused comments from our tired travellers, many of whom had driven their historic cars long distances, with some using overnight ferry crossings to mainland UK.  Reasons were understood (e.g. staff shortages at this isolated property), but this needs attention for other groups.  Late availability of room for organisers was a [articular annoyance.

Hotel rooms

All double/twin rooms were within Garden Wing, and the four "Doubles as singles" were within the main hotels.  Full detailed room format instructions had been provided.  These were complied with, with the notable exception of two male friends, who requested Twin but had their room made up as a Double: swiftly sorted, but an avoidable details fault.

All rooms were without exceptions approved by their occupants: we did not receive one adverse comment, and even those with 'secondary' rooms without view or balcony were happy with their rooms.  There were many compliments over the style, furnishings, presentation and facilities of the rooms allocated.  An excellent result.

Housekeeping and cleaning were unobtrusive, thorough and efficient.  We had a number of comments on the pleasant manners and attitudes of the housekeeping staff, with their smiles and greetings complimented.

Lounges

Much appreciated, and well use.  Service was at times leisurely, but this attracted no criticisms.  The quality and personality of service from Arik and Carlos was much complimented by our well-travelled group.

Bar

Attractive and well used,.  Range of drinks matched our requirements and premium pricing was accepted without comment.

There were particular congratulations from our Club President, who commented that his supply of wine in its ice-bucket was put on the table the moment he entered the bar.  Despite the demands and occasional pressures from our group, the team coped very well.

Hospitality

  1. Sunday Dinner: 7th June
    Our selected limited Table d'Hote worked well, and pre-allocated timings for dinner service were accepted.  A good start.
  2. Breakfasts: Monday 8th to Thursday 11th June
    Table service
  3. Swift and helpful, from an impressive team mixing enthusiastic and well-trained youngsters with mature experience: the assessment applied throughout our stay, and elicited many compliments.
    Buffet service
    Perhaps the food served was not as impressive as the same ingredients at table service - but the system worked very well, with the swift processing we needed, particulalrly on our early start Tuesday. The mix of table and buffet service was appropriate and effective, and would appeal to other car groups.
  4. Lounge meals
    We had anticipated low levers of bar/lounge meals, as a long list of suggested local pubs in the route books followed our usual format for our established programme of Tours.
    Unexpectedly, the demand for bar/lounge meals from our group was over 40, rather than the 12 or so anticipated.
    Chef, kitchen team and front of house (led by Arik and Carlos) coped brilliantly with the unexpected pressure; with no-one feeling their meal or snack was delayed.   Well done.
  5. Barbeque -  terrace & dining room - Tuesday 9th June
    Simply excellent, in quality, selection and quantity. The flow of our group from terrace to dining room worked seamlessly, with food served on time and continuously thereafter.  Quality of meats (including gammon and burgers) was complimented.  Service from chef and the whole team was exemplary, and drinks support worked well.  An excellent sociable evening ensued: a great result.
    The restaurant layout of large round tables without table place worked a dream and helped maximise the sociability of the occasion.  Weather was good, but we recognise that had it been less pleasant the space and layout internally would have meant the evening would still have been a full success.
  6. Reception - terrace - Wednesday 10th June
    A success throughout, with good Prosecco and well-chosen canapés served by the excellent restaurant team.  My only comments would be the quantities of canapés service, and the limited circulation by staff service the Prosecco: a minor comment, which did nothing to mar the excellent start to our Gala Dinner.
  7. Gala Dinner - dining room - Wednesday 10th June
    The room looked magnificent and exceeded our expectations.  Congratulations and thank you to all concerned.  The table layouts without pre-allocated seating worked well, although the enthusiasm of certain guests to rearrange the table seating caused confusion and a small delay.
    The dinner menu was a great success, with a good salmon based starter, an intriguing amouse bouche, and a very fine lamb main accompanied by appropriate and tasty vegetable cooked to perfection.  I toured all tables before plates had been cleared and notices that practically everyone had been eaten clean a compliment to chef and his kitchen team.
    Again, service from the team was exemplary, with complements all-round from everyone.  Dessert was well liked: alternative cheeses showed good variety, and appeared a meal in itself.
    A memorable occasion, in splendid beautifully-decorated surroundings, with attentive and professional staff.
    The only debit side was speed of drinks service, and particularly wine.  Perhaps a pre-dinner wine station would have avoided this issue.  However, I will not allocate any blame for this to the team: those of our well-travelled and highly experienced group who pre-ordered their win at the bar were well satisfied, whereas those who didn't even think of pre-ordering waited a little longer.  The impatience of our group was unwarranted: I trust Arik and the team accept my intervention and apologies for this.
    There were no adverse comments on wine pricing, and I got the impression that the predominance of our diners did not stint themselves.  It was particularly noted that the bar and dinner was very well supported.  An appropriate end to an excellent evening, and stay at Macdonald Leeming House which exceeded our expectations and impressed us all. 

Check-out & Billing - Thursday 11th June

Efficiently handled on Thursday morning.  I understand problems and questions were minimal.  Since that day, I have received nothing but compliments from our group, particularly all whom have sent congratulations and expressions of total satisfaction with our Tour of the Lake District, and particularly complete quality and excellence of Macdonald Leeming House Hotel.

We separately discussed the accounting confusions which emerged on Friday morning, and which were sorted out by GM Karen Irving and Receptionist Sandra with commendable promptness.  This avoided any lasting negative tastes, and maintained the excellent relationship between the Lagonda Club, Macdonald Leeming House and the Macdonald Group who's hotels hosted earlier Northern Tours in Cheshire in 2011 at Macdonald Portal Hotel, Golf & Spa and in the Yorkshire Moors at Gisborough Hall Hotel in 2013.  I am sure Macdonald Hotels will be leading contenders for future Lagona Club Tours.

Administration

With the minimal exceptions noted here, this was efficient, unobtrusive and appropriate.  As organiser, I put great effort in ensuring every aspect of our Tour, and particularly our stay and hospitality at Macdonald Leeming House, was documents in full detail in writing.  This paid dividends in ensuring expectations were fulfilled, and the Macdonald Leeming House team fully briefed and every element of our plans and agreements.  This avoided and confusions and misinterpretations: I trust it helped the Macdonald Leeming House team to enjoy our stay, and appreciate our patronage.

Communications

Communications with Macdonald Leeming House over two years has been considerable, in quantity and depth.  It is testament to the quantity and depth, and the commitment of team members at Macdonald Leeming House, that we all enjoyed such a great experience.

The absence of adequate mobile reception, and in particular the failure of Macdonald Houses to provide a good level of broadband access on a permanent and reliable basis in all areas of the hotel, remains the most problematical aspect of our use of Macdonald Leeming House.  In the 21st century, with guests like ours who are dependent on such communications for their corporate, Government and personal interests, such shortcomings are simply not acceptable.

Team

  1. Management
    Particular complements and thanks are due to Karen Irving, General Manager of Macdonald Leeming House.  Her professionalism, experience, positive attitude and pro-active support made planning and managing our Tour of the Lake District a pleasant and rewarding exercise.  It is clear from talking with her Macdonald Leeming House team that her leadership and inspiration are key elements in the success and growing reputation of Macdonald Leeming House.
    Arik leads and inspires an excellent team, mixing with infectious enthusiasm the professionalism of his older team members with the outstanding energy and skills of his younger team members and trainees. An impressive performance, from and impressive team.
    The results achieved by Chef and his kitchen team were also impressive in every aspect, from canapés and starters to main courses and desserts, and from early breakfasts to formal dinners. Congratulations.
  2. Bar & Lounges
    Macdonald Leeming House has a unique and personable asset in Carlos.  Aided by younger members of the team service the lounges, and baked up by the impressive Arik, he coped well with the ebb and flow of demands from our group.  He helped us feel that we had a much-loved local pub within a larger hotel.  Well done.
  3. Housekeeping
    Excellent in all respects, particularly as we recognise the real challenges or retaining adequate staffing in Macdonald Leeming House's distant and inaccessible location.  Their humour and pleasant approach, and their efficiency in maintain all our rooms, added to the enjoyment of our stay.
  4. Reception
    The first point of contact for our group, and the people who set the tenor for our departures, the whole team on reception at Macdonald Leeming House impressed.  From our opening check-in with the smart and pleasant Anna, through days with Richard, and the considerable strength and professionalism, of Sandra, the whole process was well-handles throughout.

Summary

Since the completion of our Tour, I have received many emails and letters from participants.  They are unanimous in their praise for Macdonald Leeming House, dining and team.

Among them was an email from our immediate ex-Chairman, Jonathan Oppenheimer.  Jonathan is a gentleman of considerable corporate, family and individual accomplishment, and an international traveller of great range and depth.  Jonathan wrote: "Thank you once again for organising such a wonderful tour.  My first visit to the Lake District (to my shame!) and it couldn't have been better, except for Merav's absence.  We are now determined to visit Macdonald Leeming House together."

You could not have a better testimonial to the excellent of our stay at Macdonald Leeming House.

Tim Gresty
The Lagona Club Northern Secretary