A POPULAR country hotel has closed after 40 years of service.

The Lovelady Shield Country House Hotel, near Alston, hosted a celebratory final weekend this month as it closed its doors for the final time.

Owners Peter and Marie Haynes decided to call it a day after a previous potential sale fell through and no other buyer could be found.

Reflecting on the 23 years of ownership, Peter said: “It’s been a pleasure. The important thing about the Lovelady is that it was a unique hotel.

“It’s a living, breathing old-fashioned country house that provided a top class all-round experience to every guest that came here.”

All 12 staff at the hotel were informed at the start of October that they would be made redundant, but all agreed to work until the final service.

“We could have let every one go but we wanted everyone to stay until the end,” Mr Haynes said.

“All the staff that worked here are part of a large family, and the guests are part of that family too. For people to stay with us for 20 years is really special and very emotional.”

To mark the success of the hotel, the owners extended the opening times for an extra week to host a celebratory final weekend. All 14 rooms and four self-catering lodges at the 3.5-acre site were sold out over the weekend, with guests travelling from as far as Hong Kong to mark the final weekend.

The hotel was often booked throughout the spring and summer, but Mr Haynes said disruptive weather in the winter months meant the hotel struggled for business at times.

“We couldn’t really face another struggle over the winter,” he added.

Barclays Bank have now taken ownership of the hotel while it remains for sale in two parts. The main Georgian hotel is for sale at £975,000 and six holiday cottages are separately on offer at £1,250,000.