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Historic pub twice visited by TV's Hotel Inspector put up for sale

PUBLISHED: 13:38 11 September 2019 | UPDATED: 16:39 11 September 2019

Robin Twigge owner of The Swan Hotel in Harleston which he has put up for sale. Picture: Simon Parkin

Robin Twigge owner of The Swan Hotel in Harleston which he has put up for sale. Picture: Simon Parkin

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A historic Norfolk hotel and bar that has twice featured on TV programme The Hotel Inspector has been put up for sale by its flamboyant owner.

The Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi with Robin Twigge when she visited The Swan in Harleston for the TV show in 2009. Picture: Channel 5The Hotel Inspector Alex Polizzi with Robin Twigge when she visited The Swan in Harleston for the TV show in 2009. Picture: Channel 5

Robin Twigge, who is selling the 16th century Swan Hotel in Harleston after 18 years in charge, became a hit with viewers when he first appeared on Alex Polizzi's long-running show back in 2009.

The hotel expert returned with TV cameras for a second programme aired earlier this year to see whether he had taken her advice on board.

The imposing Grade II-listed brick built former coaching inn is now on the market with an asking price of £795,000 after Mr Twigge decided to retire after 55 years in the hospitality trade, where he first started as a lowly pot washer.

Robin Twigge owner of The Swan Hotel in Harleston which he has put up for sale. Picture: Simon ParkinRobin Twigge owner of The Swan Hotel in Harleston which he has put up for sale. Picture: Simon Parkin

Having recently bought a smallholding farm, he said: "My family have encouraged me to take a back seat. They said you are 70 next March it's time to get out. They are right while I am still relatively young and still have time to do other things I want to do.

"We have bought this farm and we did look into the possibility of a glamping business, and because we have dogs looked at opening kennels, but that is also dealing with people and after all these years I've had enough of dealing with customers.

"The hotel and pub industry is changing rapidly. The expectations of customers are increasing but my patience and tolerance of people is getting less. It is typified by things like Trip Advisor and people wanting to pay less but get more."

The Swan in Harleston dates back to the 16th century and is now up for sale with as asking price of £795,000. Picture: Denise BradleyThe Swan in Harleston dates back to the 16th century and is now up for sale with as asking price of £795,000. Picture: Denise Bradley

Historic hotel's owner put to the test in The Hotel Inspector

Before taking over in Harleston, Mr Twigge, who is originally from the Lake District, spent 17 years at the Park Hotel in Diss and running The Anchor pub in Thetford.

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He said: "I started off as a pot washer so I have worked my way up from the grass roots of the business, going on to work for Trusthouse Forte, the Savoy, Hilton International, working all over Europe before going out on my own in 1991."

He said it would be a wrench to leave The Swan where down the years his innovations have included launching a music festival, developing the hotel as a wedding venue and opening a piano bar.

He said: "I love this place. It dates back to 1551 and was a coaching inn. I have always loved this one particularly of all the places I have owned. I have had some great years here.

The Swift Piano Bar one of the innovations of Robin Twigge at The Swan Hotel in Harleston. Picture: Sonya DuncanThe Swift Piano Bar one of the innovations of Robin Twigge at The Swan Hotel in Harleston. Picture: Sonya Duncan

"The asking price is nothing really compared to what it might once have been. There are a lot of overheads and it is a very old building but if the right person bought it and spent some money it could be — and people will really hate me to say this — like a baby Wetherspoons, plus there are 15 bedrooms upstairs and a nice suite which is used a lot."

Owner of The Swan Hotel in Harleston hopes piano bar hits the right note

During her first visit to The Swan in 2009 Mr Twigge crossed swords with Alex Polizzi when she slated him for ignoring the accommodation side of the Harleston business in favour of the bar.

She found an unmanned reception, no guest lounge, threadbare carpets and urine stains on the bathroom floor and was less than impressed with the oversized breakfast menu.

Robin Twigge owner of The Swan Hotel in Harleston which he has put up for sale. Picture: Simon ParkinRobin Twigge owner of The Swan Hotel in Harleston which he has put up for sale. Picture: Simon Parkin

The Hotel Inspector was more generous on her recent return, praising refurbishments and helping Mr Twigge set up a new website for the 500-year-old pub.

However he admits his two appearances on the programme were driven more by the publicity it generated than the advice he was offered.

"I did that purely for marketing purposes," he laughs.

Owner Robin Twigge at The Swan in Harleston having installed artwork spelling Paradise as part redecorations at the hotel. Picture: Sonya DuncanOwner Robin Twigge at The Swan in Harleston having installed artwork spelling Paradise as part redecorations at the hotel. Picture: Sonya Duncan

"I get on very well with her, we are friends, and she said to me 'you're taking the mick aren't you?' She could see right through me. But look at the exposure it got me and the business it brought in. We are still to this day getting people staying here based on that. They come to see if I'm real."

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