THE Steam Yacht Gondola on Coniston Water, Ambleside's Waterhead Hotel, and Low Sizergh Barn near Kendal were among the winners at the Cumbria Tourism Awards last night.

Nearly 400 guests, the great and the good of the county's hospitality sector, descended on Cartmel Racecourse for a black-tie dinner and awards ceremony compered by comedian Justin Moorhouse.

The awards, in their 14th year, celebrate the achievements of one of the county's most important business sectors, worth £2.6bn a year, albeit one still licking its wounds in the wake of the damage inflicted by Storm Desmond last winter.

Winning businesses had to show they are providing memorable visitor experiences, an exceptional quality of product and exemplary customer service, and making a contribution to the long-term sustainability of their local community.

In addition to the regular awards, the 2016 Bernard Gooch Tourism Personality of the Year Award was awarded to Nigel Wilkinson, managing director of Windermere Lake Cruises, for the outstanding contribution he has made to Cumbria.

Ian Stephens, managing director of Cumbria Tourism, said: “Last night we celebrated the very best of what Cumbria has to offer and reinforced why the county is the nations’ favourite holiday destination.

“Everybody involved in this industry should be incredibly proud of what they have achieved and in particular I would like to thank winners and finalists for their outstanding achievement, continuous hard work and their special contribution to Cumbria’s tourism industry.”

Many of the winners will go on to represent the county at the Visit England Awards for Excellence in 2017.

Each category winner received a certificate and a trophy handcrafted by architectural and sculptural metalworkers Chris Brammall in Ulverston.

The 2016 winners are:

Large Hotel of the Year: Waterhead, Ambleside.

Small Hotel of the Year: The Leathes Head Country House Hotel, Borrowdale.

Guest Accommodation of the Year: Askham Hall, Askham.

B&B of the Year: Whitrigg House, Clifton.

Self-Catering Holiday of the Year: Waternook Lakeside Accommodation, Howtown.

Holiday Park of the Year: Park Cliffe Camping and Caravan Estate, Windermere.

Tourism Experience of the Year: Lakeland Segway, Cartmel.

Tourism Event of the Year: Lord Birkett Memorial Trophy at Ullswater Yacht Club.

Visitor Attraction of the Year: Steam Yacht Gondola, Coniston.

Large Visitor Attraction of the Year: Ullswater Steamers.

Taste Cumbria Dining Experience of the Year: The Cottage in the Wood, Whinlatter Forest.

Taste Cumbria Retailer of the Year: Low Sizergh Barn, Kendal.

Wedding Venue of the Year: Askham Hall, Askham.

Sustainable Tourism Award: FSC Blencathra Centre, Threlkeld.

The Sheila Hensman Award for Outstanding Contribution to Excellence: Hilary Hutchinson, Lakeland Chauffeurs, Windermere.

Tourism Pub of the Year: Wheatsheaf, Brigsteer.

New Tourism Business Award: Threlkeld Coffee Shop, Threlkeld.