A Victorian hotel just a stone’s throw away from Lulworth Cove has unexpectedly been put up for sale at £2.2 million by its owners, activity holiday firm HF Holidays.
The four-star West Lulworth House hotel is a five minute walk away from Lulworth Cove, a mile from the Fossil Forest and a short drive from Durdle Door, in a village which attracts more than half a million tourists every year.
The sale site of West Lulworth House hotel
Cosy country house atmosphere
The 22 bedrooms mostly have a sea view and the hotel had built up a strong reputation for walking and activity holidays, offering a cosy country house atmosphere with a locally sourced restaurant which served crab and lobster from the cove.
It was part of the property portfolio of HF Holidays, a firm started up in 1913 to promote walking holidays to improve the lives of the working classes by a social reformer who went on to help found the Youth Hostel Association and the Ramblers Association.
But the hotel has now been deemed too small to fit the business model for HF Holidays, which has taken the ‘reluctant’ decision to streamline its property portfolio.
It has been put up for sale through joint agents Primmer Olds B.A.S and Savills with an asking price in excess of £2,200,000 complete with trade contents.
The orangery dining room was a 2016 addition to the Victorian property
Hotel does not fit the model due to size
Chief executive officer for HF Holidays David Harrington said:
“HF Holidays has regrettably made the decision to sell West Lulworth House. This was due in part to the inability to easily expand the site which is currently too small for our larger holiday groups.
“The proceeds from the sale will be used to reinvest into the remaining 16 UK country houses in our portfolio.
“This was an extremely reluctant sale as we know Dorset is very popular with our guests. Equally, Lulworth and the surrounding area are excellent for walking. We have ambitions to return to Dorset as we know it’s a desirable area for holidays.
“West Lulworth House was recently refurbished and a beautiful conservatory with a sea-facing terrace adds to its appeal. The house is ideal for someone to live on-site and potentially trade from in an incredible location that’s always hugely popular with visitors.”
An aerial view of beautiful Lulworth Cove
No longer possible to book Dorset rooms with HF
Formerly the Cromwell House Hotel, the hotel was run by local couple Catriona and Alistair Miller for more than 21 years until they sold it in 2013 to HF Holidays, who were then looking to expand their operation.
It was sold then in an off-market deal brokered by hotel specialists Colliers International, which was rumoured to have been in the region of £1.4 million.
At the time, HF Holidays were keen to expand, but have now cut their portfolio to 16 properties, described as ‘cosy Victorian manors, elegant Georgian mansions, lovingly converted farmhouses and lakeside hideaways all with desirable addresses just a skip away from some of the UK’s best-loved national parks’.
Although the ‘epic’ Dorset Coast is still featured on their website with its ‘fossil-filled beaches, glittering Caribbean-like coves and a collection of enchanting castles’ it is no longer possible to book any local accommodation through HF Holidays.
The view from the front of West Lulworth House out to sea
The residents lounge was a popular place to sit in the sunshine with a coffee
Decision to close hotel has been criticised
The closest destinations are now Freshwater Bay House on the Isle of Wight – a 43-room Georgian property visited by Lewis Carroll, Anthony Trollope, and Alfred, Lord Tennyson – or Holnicote House on Exmoor, a 32-room house on a site where the original manor was mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1068.
West Lulworth House has been highly praised in reviews on TripAdvisor for its location, charm and service by guests including Keith T, SalCrow and Angela C, but there has also been criticism of the decision to close it.
West Lulworth is a favourite base for walkers exploring the Jurassic Coast
Local walk leaders clearly love the area
Angela, who stayed there in September 2022, said:
“This charming Victorian hotel, situated in the perfect location around 200 metres from Lulworth Cove, is a credit to managers Mark and Lisa.
“The staff were friendly and helpful, and the two enthusiastic walk leaders, Angela and John, had extensive local knowledge; they clearly love this stretch of the Jurassic coast.
“This hotel is smaller and cosier than most of HF’s properties around the UK and a real jewel in its crown, so we were both surprised and deeply disappointed to learn that HF will not be keeping it in their portfolio after October 2022. We would have so loved to return.”
SalCrow, who was at the hotel in August 2022, said:
“A wonderful walking holiday. The hotel was fantastic, beautiful room with an amazing view. Breakfast first class and all food very good. Great bunch of people and lovely walking guides. Lovely people running the hotel as well.
“It is just a shame that HF are misleading their customers with regards to the pool which has not been open this season at all but it is still advertised.”
And Keith T added:
“The hotel is situated in the perfect location for enjoying the cove or exploring the local countryside. Mark and Lisa the managers were brilliant – thanks!”
The South West facing heated swimming pool in the grounds of West Lulworth House
Heated outdoor pool has maximum sunshine
The West Lulworth House Hotel was built in 1881 over three levels plus attic accommodation. A single storey orangery extension was added in 2016 to extend the dining space, and a modern two-storey cottage alongside the main hotel, The Purbecks, is also included in the sale.
Public areas in the hotel include a small residents’ lounge, which leads through to an open plan bar and dining area with around 36 covers as well as soft seating for a further 25 covers. Behind the bar is a commercial kitchen which is arranged as two rooms, at split levels.
Behind the property is a heated outdoor swimming pool with its own seating area, facing south west for maximum sunshine, a decked and paved guest terrace and a number of further terraced levels with shrubs and lawned gardens.
The red brick hotel stands out in an aerial view inland from Lulworth Cove
Popular with walkers and fossil hunters
A spokesman for Savills said:
“West Lulworth is a picturesque village on the Jurassic Coast, just a short walk from the world renowned visitor attractions of Lulworth Cove and Durdle Door. As a result, the local area is very popular with walkers, bird-watchers and fossil hunters and draws visitors throughout the year.
“West Lulworth House is opposite the main car park serving the area and offers a unique opportunity to benefit from the high footfall.”
Ben Simpkin, spokesman for Primmer Olds B.A.S. added:
“HF Holidays operated the country house hotel to patrons only, offering members and guests full board along with guided and self guided walking and activity holidays.
“An incoming hotelier will be well placed to take full advantage of a demand for accommodation, while also serving food and drink to non patrons.”
A bedroom at the West Lulworth House Hotel with views out to sea
Dining at the hotel frequently included fresh lobster and crab from Lulworth Cove
Founder was as influential as Thomas Cook
HF Holidays is a co-operative society with 44,000 members, which was set up in 1913 to promote friendship, fellowship, fun, fresh air, and the feel-good factor.
Founder Thomas Arthur Leonard had previously set up the Cooperative Holidays Association, but resigned when he felt it was encouraging middle class guests at the expense of workers.
He has been called the father of the open air movement in Britain, and was deemed to be as influential as Thomas Cook and Billy Butlin in the early days of mass market holidays.
West Lulworth was mostly thatched cottages before the red brick guest house was built
Built in contrast to thatched cottages
West Lulworth House was reputedly the first purpose-built guest house in Dorset outside of the resort towns of Swanage, Bournemouth and Weymouth.
The Victorian red brick building, something of a contrast to the thatched roofed cottages of West Lulworth village, was owned by Mayor of Weymouth Sir Richard Howard, who also owned the paddle steamer that sailed from Weymouth to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight.
Sir Richard purchased the land that became known as Sunnyside from the Weld Estate and was the first person other than the church and the estate itself to own land in Lulworth.
In 1906 much of the estate was sold and West Lulworth House became the private residence of Mr Daniel Radcliffe and remained in private hands until the late 1970s when it once again became a guest house.