A MAJOR Lake District employer will be toasting 60 years of service this Christmas.

Family-run hotel group, English Lakes Hotels, Resorts & Venues, celebrates its Diamond Jubilee on Christmas Day.

It marks the 60th anniversary of the opening of its first hotel when the lease on the Low Wood Bay Hotel was purchased in 1952, for an annual rent of £310.

The group has grown to employ more than 450 staff, has a turnover of £16 million and welcomed 140,000 guests to its venues in the last financial year.

The ownership of the Low Wood was taken on in the coronation year by successive generations of the Buckley and Berry family.

Simon Berry, managing director, said: “The availability of the lease on Low Wood in 1952 was of major interest to Norman Buckley and his family. He had a great affection for the Lake District and had a private lakeside residence just a mile or so away.

“Although he knew little of the hotel trade back then, he had a strong entrepreneurial spirit and with his brother Kenneth took the plunge on a 21 year lease. The hotel was in a very run down condition when the family took it over, but has gone from strength to strength ever since, thanks to our commitment to excellent service.”

The lease for the hotel, garden, grounds, garages and two boat landings commenced on Christmas Day. Turnover in the first year of operation was just over £17,000, but by 1959, the family had acquired its second hotel, the Wild Boar Inn at Crook.

Now the Low Wood Bay Resort, Hotel & Marina runs a choice of restaurants and bars, a leisure club, beauty salon and watersports centre. Notable visitors over the last 60 years include HRH Prince Charles, Tom Cruise and Sir Richard Dimbleby.

Since its launch in 1952, it has grown to become one of the leading hotel and leisure groups operating six properties - Low Wood Bay; Waterhead Boutique Hotel and Dining, near Ambleside; Storrs Hall, The Wild Boar Inn, Grill and Smokehouse, near Windermere; Lancaster House, and the famous Midland Hotel in Morecambe.

Its future plans include a new conference centre creating a further 30 jobs. English Lakes has recently obtained planning permission for the development of a world class business facility from across the country for conferences, exhibitions, product launches and even concerts.