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As part of our 'Meet The Owners' series, we'd like to introduce you to… Highlands End Holiday Park in Dorset! At Best of British, we focus on independently owned and run holiday parks, and Highlands End is a brilliant example of this. It's a 5 star family-run holiday park on the Jurassic Coast. Over the years, the park has been transformed from a small clifftop farm to a multi award winning holiday park.
Highlands End offers luxury sea view lodges, caravans, apartments and glamping accommodation, as well as 180 pitches for touring and camping. Facilities include a bar and restaurant, a leisure club, a park nature trail and more. We meet the Cox family who this year celebrate the 50th anniversary of their family ownership of Highlands End.
1. Tell us about the history of Highlands End and the area in which you are based…
Highlands End began as a small farm on the Dorset coast, with cow and pig sheds, as well as 60 holiday homes and 20 tourers. Over the years the business has expanded into the holiday park it is today and the clifftop position offers panoramic views over 99 miles of Dorset and Devon coastline.
In 2001, the coastline here was given UNESCO World Heritage status (known as the Jurassic Coast) and is world-famous for its fossils, spectacular scenery and impressive landmarks such as Chesil Beach, Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove.
The South West Coast Path runs past the park and it’s a short walk to Eype Beach and the fishing village of West Bay, with its towering and iconic golden cliffs. The park and area are popular with walkers, dog owners and young families and locally there are some popular attractions and experiences.
2. Please introduce your team…
Today, Highlands End is run by two generations of the family – Martin and Vanessa and their sons James and Robert. I (Vanessa) moved to Highlands End in 1971 when my parents (Ken and Pat Butcher) wanted a change from farming in Hertfordshire to run a business in the tourism industry.
Martin became the seventh member of the team in 1984 and over the year we worked hard and invested in the park to gradually improve and expand. Today, our sons James and Robert look after the day-to-day running of Highlands End and the other four holiday parks in our family-run group.
We have always aimed to keep at the forefront of trends in the industry and have improved our accommodation, facilities and experiences, as customer expectations have grown. We now employ over 100 people in the local area who help us deliver the highest level of customer service and memorable holidays to over 40,000 guests each year.
3. What are the values that are your unique selling point as a holiday park?
We think there are many aspects of Highlands End that make it unique and a great place to visit and we have guests that come back year after year! The location is world-class and a great place for families, couples, walkers and dog owners, with so many things to see and do nearby. We are proud of our personal approach to customer service and looking after our guests and the whole team are knowledgeable, friendly and helpful – real Dorset diamonds as we call them!
Martin’s Bar & Restaurant is a popular facility on the park for both local residents and holiday guests. It is truly unique due to a collection of fire engine memorabilia Martin has built up over the last three decades, with his background working as a Retained Firefighter for 31 years. This includes a magnificently restored 1936 Leyland fire engine and a 1902 Merryweather horse-drawn steam engine.
4. What is life as a park owner like?
I am sure many people think owning a park is like one long holiday as you are living and working on a holiday park. However, anyone who has worked in hospitality will tell you that it is definitely not the case. Daily life is far from a holiday and there is no such thing as work-life balance; particularly when the ethos of your family business is to try and please as many customers as possible!
We are constantly looking back at the experiences of the previous year, managing the current year, and at the same time planning ahead for the next three years with the balancing of finances, the development of projects and the challenge of predicting and meeting customer expectations.
However, there is a high level of job satisfaction and the impact of Covid-19 has shown the importance of tourism to our rural and coastal community and equally how our visitors value the time spent with us.
This was very true before Covid-19 and my most memorable reminder of this was a few years ago, when I walked to the top of Thorncombe Beacon early one morning and was sitting on the bench admiring the view when a couple walked up from the direction of our park. During a short conversation they told me that they had arrived yesterday on the park and had been waiting 51 weeks since their last visit to walk to the bench and see our Dorset coastline. They never knew the significance of their conversation with a stranger on the clifftop but it made me very proud of our achievements and the service we offer. That is what an owner should feel like….
5. What makes Highlands End a 5 star experience?
From our very positive guest feedback, there are a number of reasons that make Highlands End a high-quality destination, including the spectacular location, the friendly and relaxed atmosphere, clean and modern accommodation and the excellent facilities.
We believe that memorable holidays and experiences are as much, if not more, about the local area and what you can see and do while on holiday and in this respect the Jurassic Coast has no equal in our opinion and the opinion of many of our guests!
We have many examples of guests who have been visiting the park for many years, including one who visited as a child in 1955 and still returns to this day with his great grandchildren, as well as holiday home owners who have had a caravan on the park for over 60 years, even before we were here! It’s things like this that make us realise the impact Highlands End has had in their lives and the memories they have made with friends and family over the years.
6. What awards have you won?
We have been lucky enough to win many awards at Highlands End, including a Holiday Park of the Year Gold Award at the Dorset Tourism Awards, a Holiday Park of the Year Silver Award at the South West Tourism Awards, Tripadvisor Certificates of Excellence, an AA 5 star platinum award and 20 consecutive years winning the David Bellamy Conservation Gold Award.
7. What local attractions would you suggest your visitors experience while staying with you?
Our website and upcoming app has a ‘Holiday Planner,’ which is a really useful resource for our guests with over 150 beaches, attractions, activities, places to visit and places to eat that we as a team recommend and work with in the local area.
Some of the most popular with our guests include a guided fossil walk on Charmouth Beach with Jurassic Coast Guides, an orchard walk with some adorable alpacas at Little Orchards Alpacas, a trip on a steam engine past Corfe Castle, with Swanage Railway and stargazing from the park or along the coast.
8. How have you made Highlands End a Covid-secure environment?
We are lucky as a holiday park to have plenty of open space and fresh sea air, with well-spaced holiday homes and pitches – great for privacy, as well as being Covid-secure. Martin’s Bar & Restaurant is one of the most spacious venues around and we have invested in tasteful and themed screening between tables, which will now be a permanent feature.
Regular and thorough cleaning and the safety of our guests continues to be our top priority and over the course of 2020, our guests ranked us 9.5 out of 10 for our response to Covid and the measures we had put in place.
We also put in place a Covid guarantee, offering guests a refund, date change or credit note in a variety of Covid-related circumstances, giving guests peace of mind to book, knowing their money was safe.
As a team, we are looking forward to seeing what the 2021 season brings and hope we can get back to some sort of normality and more guests than ever can enjoy staycations in the UK and see more of the beauty this country has to offer.
Thank you very much to Highlands End for taking part in our 'Meet The Owners' series and congratulations on your 50th anniversary of family ownership! To view more about the park and check availability, please click here.