Despite the fact that hospitality wasn’t the first industry Ian Crighton saw himself in, he’s found a true passion as general manager for The Eastbury, a Georgian country house hotel that is the epitome of comfortable luxury. Located in Sherborne, Dorset, The Eastbury was awarded four stars by the AA and is owned by esteemed hoteliers Peter and Lana de Savary. “The de Savary family are excellent and well-respected hoteliers with many successful hotel projects under their belts,” says Crighton.
Running and managing a team that is expected to continuously deliver the superior service that The Eastbury’s clients expect is not an easy task. Crighton speaks highly of the de Savary family and enjoys being able to learn from the best.
“For me, who was new to the business, they and the senior management team have provided strong leadership, guidance and support. If we see things that we can improve, we discuss it openly and work out a plan of how to action the changes. The key to providing a great guest experience is the attention to detail in every area of the hotel. Mr de Savary has a very keen eye and will always offer advice on what we can do to make our guest experience even better,” he says.
Luxury Lifestyle Magazine speaks with Crighton on The Eastbury’s reopening and his favourite things about the hotel.
Was a career in hospitality always on the cards for you?
Having always loved fine hotels and great food, moving into hospitality seemed like an ideal career move. I have always believed in offering exemplary service so this move gave me an ideal opportunity to spend time ensuring our guests have a wonderful time when they stay with us.
What are some of the skills you built in previous roles that you believe have helped you get a leg up in your current position?
The key practice that I have always employed when managing teams is to encourage ownership of tasks by the staff. This way they, not only, develop themselves more quickly, but enjoy what they do and do it better. I believe that motivated staff is the key to success, particularly in the hospitality sector.
What are some of the leadership principles you abide by?
Listening to and empowering our staff. Find out how they are feeling about their job and offering them ownership of their role. In turn, they remain motivated and more passionate about the work they do on a day-to-day basis. I have always stuck to the rule that you have two ears and one mouth and you should use them in that proportion. Also, keeping the door open, making sure that our employees feel as though they can come to me with any problems they see or any new ideas they have for continuous improvement.
What would you consider your favourite spot within the hotel and why?
There are many, however, my absolute favourite is the lovely walled gardens. As a keen gardener myself, I get great pleasure from seeing guests wandering around the gardens, smelling the flowers, watching the local wildlife including the resident squirrels and pigeons enjoying themselves. Tina, our resident gardener keeps everything looking beautiful.
If we were to come for a visit, which dish is an absolute must-have at Seasons, the hotel’s restaurant?
My personal favourite is the roasted lamb dish on our fine dining menu. Being a fan of Indian food, this tandoori-spiced lamb with cauliflower, cucumber yogurt, and the chef’s special black dal is simply amazing. It has a great balance and is full of flavour. It’s definitely one to try!
The Eastbury Spa is such a unique concept. What’s it all about?
We wanted to create something unique, cool, and exclusive. With its arched roof, covered in summer meadow flowers, its large round roof light and large round wooden door, the spa is certainly a building you won’t forget in a hurry. You get to the spa through the wooded area of our garden, once inside guests have exclusive use of the spa facilities and outdoor hot tub. There are two fully-equipped treatment rooms offering relaxing treatments for individuals or couples using the eco-friendly Caudalie range of products.
How has The Eastbury dealt with all of the uncertainty surrounding the travel industry this year?
The pandemic has had a significant impact on the whole of the hospitality sector and we have also experienced this ourselves as we suddenly had to close after a very busy weekend in March. My belief is that people, when allowed to, will want to holiday in the UK this year. They will want to stay somewhere safe, quiet and where they can relax in seclusion. They will bypass the bustling cities and crowded beaches to find an idyllic haven from where they can take day trips to explore the beauty that this great country has to offer.
What do you love most about Sherborne?
I have lived in Sherborne for just over four years and I absolutely love the place. I love its friendly people who stop and talk without hesitation; the quaint high street full of independent shops; and the quintessentially English feeling of this beautiful, sleepy, historic town. Oh, and of course not forgetting the two castles, magnificent Abbey, and many lovely old stone buildings all within walking distance of The Eastbury.
When not working, what are some of your favourite luxury hotels to visit?
I am very lucky to work for the de Savary family. They own a handful of luxury hotels throughout the Southwest which I absolutely adore for the quality and uniqueness of their offerings. The Cary Arms and Spa in Babbacombe, Devon has spectacular views over the sea. It reminds me of being in the Mediterranean, particularly on a lovely sunny day. The bay even has its own family of seals that visit regularly. The Merry Harriers in Surrey is the only hotel I know where you can go llama trekking during the day and stay in a luxury shepherd’s hut at night. These are just two of my personal favourites.
Address: Long St, Sherborne DT9 3BY
Phone: 01935 813131