County holiday venue celebrates 25 years of transformation

In 1994, when the UK was still recovering from a deep recession, the Harrison family bought a partly developed and derelict caravan site in Wrea Green.

Wednesday, 3rd April 2019, 4:53 pm
Updated Wednesday, 3rd April 2019, 4:59 pm
Paul Harrison pictured near the original cottages built at Ribby Hall Village in 1995. The holiday centre is celebrating its 25th anniversary.

With just a handful of neglected caravans and a couple of sorry-looking cowsheds, the 100-acre site had nothing to offer but potential.

Now twenty-five years later and that once forlorn-looking site has become one of the country’s top holiday villages, attracting over a million visitors a year and winning countless awards.

Ribby Hall Village chief executive Paul Harrison recalled: “My father was 72 at the time but he clearly wanted one more business challenge. “So, despite the numerous unknowns, concerns and raised eyebrows, he bought it within days.”

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How Ribby Hall looked in 1994 when the Harrison family took over

Planning permission was sought immediately to build 175 cottages, 350 holiday homes, a hotel, sports facility, shop and restaurant and construction began in July 1994, continuing for ten years.

Paul joined his father Bill in the business in 1995 four years before Bill’s death.

Paul said: “He’d be surprised to see how far we have come, but I like to think he’d be delighted at how we’ve surpassed his original vision.

“We had a vision to develop an independent holiday village with an unrivalled choice of luxury, self-catering accommodation, and a variety of leisure and dining facilities.”

The building of the first cottages at Ribby Hall in 1995

The original sports centre was opened in 1995 and the first cottages in 1997. The Village’s original hotel, The Manor House, opened in 2001. The sports centre, restaurant and nine-hole golf course were added.

The luxury pine lodges were added in 2005 and Starbucks opened in 2009 to complement the varied food and drink outlets already there.

In 2011, The SPA Hotel opened its doors, a £7m pound investment, once again bucking the post-recession trend and immediately bringing new clientele.

Ribby Hall Village was awarded five star status as a holiday destination by Visit England in 2009 and has retained its top-tier rating ever since. It employs almost 600.

Paul Harrison at Fisherman's Reach Ribby Hall Village 25 years on

“I wanted Ribby to be a place where people enjoy coming to work and I hope the fact that most of my senior managers have worked here for over 20 years reflects this.

"We are all committed to creating an ideal working environment because we believe that if people are happy in their work, it will really show and will have a very positive impact on the business.”