Chris Carss, the owner and managing director of Rothay Garden in Grasmere, has risen up the ranks from his humble beginnings in hospitality to become one of the top owner-operators of an independent hotel in the UK.
Carss has been in the hotel business since starting out a waiter aged 16 in the Lake District and in 1990 he was catapulted into the spotlight when he acquired Rothay Garden, which was then a rather tired 19 bedroom, two-star hotel. Over the course of the next 25 years, Carss has built up the property to become a four-star luxury boutique hotel and spa, setting the bar high for other hotels in the Lake District.
The awards soon followed, including titles such as Cumbria Tourism Hotel of the Year, Les Routiers UK Hotel of the Year, Cumbria in Bloom Hotel, Cumbria Newspapers Businessperson of the Year, and VisitEngland third-best small hotel in England. Defying all the odds, when Britain hit the recession in 2008 Carss decided the time was right to close the hotel for redevelopment, creating five new suites, 25 new bedrooms and giving all the public areas a refresh.
Three years later, he then ‘completed the vision’ at Rothay Garden, with the further creation of seven more suites, a new Garden Restaurant, which later received 2 AA Rosettes, and the boutique Riverside Spa. The hotel’s financial results put Carss among the top 2% of hotel operators in the UK, and he is the backbone to the property, looking after guests and motivating staff and manager daily. Additionally, he still finds time to fly the flag for Cumbria at travel industry exhibitions and conferences – having served on industry committees, including the BHA’s Northern Committee, Cumbria Tourism’s Commercial Members committee, and the Institute of Hospitality.