NO WONDER Simon and Jill Rhatigan were elated when their victory was announced.

They had bought the Feversham Arms in Helmsley six years ago, when it was little more than a pub with rooms and a leisure club/gymnasium – a business in trouble where the bank was forcing a sale.

Today the Rhatigans describe the Feversham Arms Hotel & Verbena Spa as “a four-star luxury hotel of the world”, with a gorgeous new spa and hitting the heights not only in quality of customer service from their 55 staff but also in financial performance, projected to turn over more than £3 million this year.

Know-how was the key, particularly as Simon was already an award-winning hotelier, best known for running Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saison in Oxfordshire. Jill had her own successful event management company.

By October 2006, the hotel had 24 rooms, including nine poolside suites – and the demand for them led to the Yorkshire Tourist Board – as it was then – awarding it the Hotel Of The Year, plus a prize for Simon at the inaugural Northern Hospitality Awards.

By October last year the couple had created nine extra suites, an underground car park and extra “back of house” facilities.

In spite of diffult times last year brought on by the economic downturn, the business, boosted by Jill’s marketing experience, began to draw serious attention with glowing reviews appearing in some of the industry’s most well-known titles, including Glamour, Elle and Harpers Bazaar. It also made it into Tatler’s 101 Best Spas in June.

Judges noted that “to spend five minutes with owner Simon Rhatigan is like witnessing a small whirlwind” such is his enthusiasm for his luxury hotel and the art of catering in general. The sheer uncompromising quality of his product has made the Feversham Arms & Verbena Spa’s offering simply irresistible. It is, said the judges, “well on the way to achieving Simon’s vision of being the best hideaway hotel in the north of England”.

His victory in The Press awards also means that he is a giant step closer to achieving his ambition of attaining a Michelin star.

Tourism And Hospitality Business Of The Year

Winner: The Feversham Arms Hotel & Verbena Spa

Finalists: Cedarbarn Farm Shop and Café and The Grange Hotel