Hotels and venues group on road to growth following £25m loan

Wennington Hall

OakNorth Bank has provided a £25m loan for Lancashire-based Bowland Inns & Hotels to continue its expansion across the North West.

Founded in 1996 and owned by James Warburton, pub, hotel, and wedding venue specialist operator Bowland Inns & Hotels comprises two sub-brands, James’ Places and Dream Venues Collection, which operates its wedding venues.

Based in Clitheroe, the firm’s portfolio has continued to grow as a result of its successful ‘buy and build’ strategy, with it now operating 11 separate venues across the Ribble Valley, Lune Valley, Yorkshire Dales and the South Lakes.

The £25m loan from OakNorth will be used to refinance the existing portfolio of properties and complete both the acquisition and refurbishment of one new property, Wennington Hall, near Lancaster, and expand the bedroom stock of one existing property, Waddington Arms near Clitheroe.

Wennington Hall, an imposing country house set in magnificent gardens and grounds situated in between the Lake District, the Ribble Valley, and the Yorkshire Dales, is to be transformed into a luxury hotel, retreat, and exclusive-use wedding and events venue.

Opening in late spring 2024, the site will join Mitton Hall near Whalley, Eaves Hall near Clitheroe, and Falcon Manor near Settle among others in the Dream Venues Collection.

The Waddington Arms is a popular village inn in a picture postcard village at the heart of the Ribble Valley. The expansion scheme will see an increase in the number of bedrooms from six to 14 and an increase in dining capacity.

James Warburton, said: “Since starting the business way back in 1996 I have always had an eye on growth, always looking out for the next opportunity, the next building to get hugely excited about.

“As the business has grown, ‘I’ became a ‘we’, and the appetite for growth has got stronger and stronger. Finding the right funding partner for each stage of our growth has been one of the biggest challenges we have had to face. Finding a funding partner that wants to go on the journey with you, that’s more than key, that’s vital.”

He added: “We have been talking to OakNorth for a number of years, we found them interesting, different, and genuinely unlike any of the other lenders we have previously spoken to.”

Stewart Haworth, director of debt finance at OakNorth, said: “It is testament to James’s leadership that Bowland Inns & Hotels has been able to build such a positive reputation for offering luxury hotels and wedding venues across large areas of the North West.

“At OakNorth, we thrive on supporting businesses such as James’s and, given the nature of wedding income remains robust throughout the region, we expect these new sites to be an enormous success.”