A few miles from Lymington, the Manor is an Edwardian country house hotel and a relaxed base for exploring. Gardens extend into woodland, and the coast is a short drive (ask for walking or cycling routes – bikes can be delivered, too). Inside, it’s all William Morris wallpaper, antiques and wooden floorboards, and even the smallest of the 15 bedrooms is charming. The dining room has small plates (braised lamb tacos, £5) and seasonal mains (pork belly with black pudding, £16); breakfast offers a decent choice of cooked options.
• Doubles from £100 B&B, dog-friendly, themanoratsway.com
The Royal Oak Wiltshire
As a young farmer taking over Eastbrook Farm, Helen Browning was frowned upon for insisting on going organic. Thirty years on, she has an OBE, is chief executive of the Soil Association, and heads a successful organic meat firm. She and partner Tim also run Bishopstone village pub the Royal Oak (for Arkell’s brewery) and last year added 12 characterful bedrooms. There’s great walking where the downs roll up to the ancient Ridgeway. Guests can join a “pig safari” around the farm, and breakfast on super-tasty bacon next day.
• Doubles from £70 B&B, two dog-friendly rooms, one accessible room, helenbrowningsorganic.co.uk
Abbot’s Court Dorset
This grand Victorian farmhouse in Winterborne Kingston is now a boutique retreat with five acres of gardens and woodland. The seven rooms have fantastic views, and the restaurant makes the most of the walled kitchen garden and home-reared chickens and pigs – joint head chef Alex Naik has been named Dorset chef of the year. The hotel runs vegan cooking and yoga workshops and Catch It, Cook It days; plans for next summer include glamping in the grounds and a smokery. The cosy bar is perfect for a local gin around the log fire.
• Doubles from £90 B&B, one dog-friendly room but well-behaved dogs permitted in other rooms at owner’s discretion, one accessible room, abbots-court.co.uk
The Pig at Combe Devon
The fifth Pig hotel is the grandest: a Tudor manor on a big estate near Honiton. The style is glamorous but relaxed – with cocktail bar rather than boring lobby, and 30 rooms. Food is sourced from three walled gardens and suppliers within a 25-mile radius, such as Lyme Bay hake with Teign mussels and shore veg (£16). A garden folly is now an informal bar-diner, cosy sitting rooms have open fires and two potting sheds are treatment rooms. Three new Pig hotels will open in 2019: near Canterbury,, and in Arundel and Padstow.
• Doubles from £145 room-only, accessible rooms, thepighotel.com
Whitehouse Country House Scottish Borders
Amid rolling countryside, with views of the Tweed and the Cheviot Hills, this B&B near Melrose is a romantic place to unwind. The 19th-century house, built for the Duchess of Sutherland, is grand yet welcoming, with three spacious en suite rooms. Hosts Angela and Roger Tyrer serve substantial breakfasts (expect up to 10 daily specials) using in-season Borders produce – and have plenty of local tips. The drawing room with open fire is cosy on winter evenings.
• Doubles from £140 B&B, one dog-friendly room, whitehousecountryhouse.com
There are plenty of lovely places to stay in the Cotswolds, but this thatched 16th-century former pub in South Leigh stands out for its bold, arty decor and quaint features. In this latest Artist Residence venture (after Brighton, London and Penzance; Bristol to follow), neon signs by Andy Doig sit by inglenook fireplaces, and there’s upcycled furniture and freestanding baths in bedrooms. There’s great all-day dining in the cosy pub (braised brisket with mash, £17), good walking on the doorstep and Oxford 10 miles away.
• Doubles from £120 B&B, dog-friendly, accessible rooms, artistresidence.co.uk
Brownber Hall Yorkshire Dales
On the northern edge of the Howgill Fells in the Dales national park, this fine Georgian residence offers a modern take on the country house hotel. Owners Peter Jaques and Amanda Walker left London to renovate the Grade II-listed building in Newbiggin-on-Lune – and the interiors are bright and smart with upholstered vintage furniture. The restaurant opened this year, serving sourdough pizza, stonebaked by Peter himself. It’s surrounded by trees, hills and superb walking (look out for red squirrels), particularly along the disused railway over magnificent Smardale viaduct.
• Doubles from £90 B&B, two dog-friendly rooms, brownberhall.co.uk
Five Acre Barn Suffolk
Surrounded by wood and pretty gardens (watch out for rabbits and pheasants), this stylish B&B in Aldringham village is a chic alternative to Suffolk’s many chintzy B&Bs. A 19th-century barn has been transformed and extended into a modern bolthole, with light-filled rooms, polished concrete floors and striking artwork. Generous breakfasts are served in a communal dining room – the perfect start to a day exploring nature reserves like wildlife-filled Dunwich Heath, RSPB Minsmere or a host of pretty villages nearby.
• Doubles from £100 B&B, dog-friendly, no under-12s unless booking whole B&B, fiveacrebarn.co.uk
Just off the A84 near Loch Voil and Lochearnhead, MHOR84 has a remote feel and beautiful grounds. Part pub, part motel, it’s the youngest in the Lewis family’s foodie stable (alongside the original Monachyle Mhor hotel and restaurant, a bakery, gift shop, posh fish and chip shop and food-centred festival). Inside it’s decked out in Scandi-Scottish style (white walls, antlers, woollen throws, mismatched wooden furniture) with rooms ranging from doubles to a two-bedroom cottage. Work up an appetite in the great outdoors (swim in the loch or bag one of five nearby Munros) and then feast on mains such as blade of beef with mustard potatoes, slow-roast carrot greens and red wine jus (£16) or more simple fare such as a gourmet burger (£11).
• Doubles from £90 room-only, dog-friendly, accessible rooms, mhor84.net
On the Daugleddau estuary, Slebech offers full nature immersion a few miles from Haverfordwest. There’s great walking on the 650-acre estate, while an 18th-century Grade II-listed coach house is at the heart of the hotel. Rooms vary from small and simple to luxurious suites, with fine Welsh fare served in the dining room overlooking the river (much of the produce comes from the organic kitchen gardens). Slebech was once an important religious house and meeting place for pilgrims heading to St Davids.
• Doubles from £75 B&B, dog-friendly, accessible rooms, slebech.co.uk
TEN BEST BEST FOODIE HOTELS
This restaurant with rooms was opened in March by Roger and Marta Brook, former head chef and restaurant manager respectively at the Michelin-starred Walnut Tree Inn, near Abergavenny. It is just around a bend in the Wye from Tintern Abbey, and the quality of the cooking makes it an indulgent but affordable winter hideaway. Dinner (served Wednesday to Sunday, two courses £34) is never the same two nights running (loin of venison with prune and almond tagine, say, followed by blackberry jelly with quince, pear and lemon verbena ice-cream). And if the farmhouse’s eight bedrooms are a little dated, it’s surely more reason to jump out of bed and enjoy a languorous breakfast.
• Doubles from £90 B&B, parvafarmhouse.co.uk
The Mash Inn Bucks
This cosy, characterful pub in the village of Radnage dates from 1745, but its restaurant is up to the minute. The open kitchen has a huge wood-fired grill and serves home-grown or foraged ingredients, including lots of pickled, cured and fermented foods. Lunch (Wed-Fri) is good value at £25 for three courses, and a new Sunday lunch menu features Radnage pheasant with bread sauce (£60 for four courses). For special occasions, the tasting menu is unbeatable: autumn dishes may include burrata and pumpkin, sea urchins, or burnt leeks with “bog butter” (£80 for 10 courses). The wine list includes six English sparklers. There are four rooms above the restaurant and two garden rooms; the decor is pared-back but luxurious where it counts (king size beds, freestanding baths, L:A Bruket toiletries).
• Doubles from £110 B&B, two accessible rooms, no under-16s, themashinn.com
A dose of restrained, elegant cool in the centre of Bath, this restaurant with rooms opened in August with an idiosyncratic pitch: eight bedrooms, and eight medium-sized plates on the dinner menu (choose two or three from a selection that might include saffron monkfish velouté with mussels and red mullet, £13.75; confit pork cheeks with crushed potatoes, baby leeks, apple jelly and sultana chutney, £12.95; or millefeuille of cheese-infused polenta with pan-fried chestnuts, mushrooms, spinach and sage beurre blanc, £10.50). Run by a husband-and-wife team who earned their stripes running a hotel in Aix-en-Provence, Eight is at the epicentre of the city’s caramel-stone streets, between Sally Lunn’s famous bun shop and upmarket vegetarian restaurant Acorn. Throw in a candlelit bar with emerald, navy and glinting copper and you have the perfect glamorous urban retreat.
• Doubles from £125 B&B, no under-eights, eightinbath.co.uk
When chef Chris Staines left Bath’s Abbey Hotel, people wondered what his next move would be. The answer was reinventing this 13th-century hotel in honey-hued Beaminster with his partner Silvana Bandini (formerly of Bath’s The Pig hotel). Walk along the Jurassic Coast to work up an appetite for Chris’s pitch-perfect mains (try the poached bream with Chinese spinach, shimeji mushrooms, salted plums and Thai-spiced mussel broth, £23), or small plates such as wild mushroom and black truffle arancini (£5); there’s also a dedicated vegan menu. Then retire to one of the 13 chic, understated bedrooms.
• Tiny double from £120 B&B, double from £130, one accessible room, dog-friendly, theollerod.co.uk
The Ginger Peanut Devon
With a restaurant headed by local chef Peter Mundy and five comfortably modern bedrooms (neutral furnishings pepped up by jewel-coloured velvet cushions), this new bolthole in the town of Bampton is fast becoming a foodie must-visit, serving dinners of sea trout on black lentils, liquorice crust and torched grapefruit with citrus dressing (£15.95), or butternut squash and saffron risotto with roasted beetroot and balsamic glaze (£13.95). Guests staying overnight can also help themselves to tea, coffee, crisps and homemade biscuits from the shared pantry.
• Doubles from £80 room-only, dogs by arrangement, gingerpeanut.co.uk
In 2016, Chris Rowley left a day job in Edinburgh – and his supper club, Charlie and Evelyn’s Table – to retrain at Leith’s Cookery School and move to the Perthshire countryside. He and wife Rachel, plus his wine buff brother Andrew, opened a foodie B&B, Ballintaggart Farm, offering cookery courses and feast nights as well as overnight stays. It only has two bedrooms, however, so this September they expanded, reopening the nearby eight-bedroom Grandtully Hotel. In its 30-cover restaurant, enjoy a dinner of honeyed Sutherland sausages with baby spinach, and Ballintaggart apple, blackberry and caraway slaw (two courses £18) then nip to the bar for a Honey Auld Fashioned, a mix of Dewar’s 12, Strathtay honey and whisky barrel-aged bitters.
• Doubles from £125 B&B, ballintaggart.com
The Pentonbridge Inn opened in the hamlet of Penton a year ago, pairing nine slate-trimmed, tweed-edged bedrooms with grub a good few steps more sophisticated than your average pub menu, some of it supplied from a kitchen garden on the Netherby Hall Estate (under the same ownership). Though the launch kitchen team has since left, new head chef Gary McDermott is continuing the format: choose between evening tasting menus (£55) in the restaurant – think stone bass, celeriac, sorrel and smoked mussels – or pub classics (mains from £14) in the bar.
• Doubles from £100 B&B, dog-friendly, three accessible rooms, pentonbridgeinn.co.uk
The kitchen staff, the menu and the ingredients are all verace Italian at this newly-converted pub in the small town of West Malling near Maidstone. Head chef Fabio Moschini – with roots in Rome and Venice – spent a year planning dishes and searching out the best producers of risotto rice, cured meats, olive oil and pasta flour. In a specially dug pasta cellar, that flour is made every day into perfectly textured pappardelle and tagliolini (mains, such as pollo alla pizzaiola from £15, two courses £16 at lunchtime). Upstairs are four smart but restful en suite rooms, with big comfy beds, great linen, Bluetooth radios and posh tea and coffee things.
• Doubles from £120 B&B, amanorestaurant.co.uk
The Star & Garter Cornwall
This Falmouth harbourside dining pub ihas stripped-back wooden floors, teal-coloured woodwork and a bar stocked with whiskies and rums. Upstairs are three stylish apartments sleeping two to four – order a breakfast patisserie basket or pop down for brunch on Saturday – the new Lebanese-inspired menu includes shakshuka (spicy eggs) and bottomless bloody marys. The restaurant takes a nose-to-tail approach, and sources fish from local boats and meat from local farms for dishes such as pork belly with caldo verde (£19) and crispy mixed fish with fennel, aioli and duck salt chips (£17).
• From £90 for two, adults only, starandgarter.squarespace.com
The Gunton Arms Norfolk
There are few better places to hole up on an autumn evening than the Elk restaurant at this pub with rooms outside Thorpe Market. Named for the vast elk skull and antlers above the fireplace (on which local beef and venison are roasted), the dining room’s cosy feel and pretty outlook (once a royal hunting lodge, the building is surrounded by a deer park) make for a romantic setting. Typical dishes fromex-Hix chef Stuart Tattersall include venison stew with herb-baked dumplings, £16; and pan-fried sea trout with seashore vegetables and Kings Lynn brown shrimp, £18. Pause to admire the owner’s impressive collection of modern art before heading upstairs to one of 16 country house-style bedrooms.
• Doubles from £95 B&B, dog-friendly, accessible rooms, theguntonarms.co.uk
TEN BEST COASTAL HOTELS
Opened this summer, the Castle Inn is a picturesque base for exploring the Dorset coast (Lulworth Cove 15 minutes’ walk from the front door) and the Isle of Purbeck’s back roads and pubs. The 16th-century thatched pub now has 12 bedrooms (all named after Jurassic coast landmarks) – and six of them are dog-friendly. There’s a laid-back bar and all-day restaurant that makes the most of local seafood and farm-fresh meats, plus a pizza menu and Sunday roasts. An open fire warms up the winter months – perfect after a bracing seaside walk.
• Doubles from £107 B&B, two accessible rooms, dog-friendly, castleinn-lulworth.co.uk
The Lord Crewe Bamburgh, Northumberland
For castle views and coastal walks the Lord Crewe is well placed. This pub-with-rooms is opposite Bamburgh’s mighty castle, a five-minute walk from the three-mile, dune-backed beach. Two of Northumberland’s other best beaches, Beadnell and Ross Back Sands, are a short drive away, and the Farne Islands can be reached by boat from nearby Seahouses. The pub, which dates back to the 1600s, is Grade II-listed and retains some original features.It serves beer from the local Anarchy and Alnwick breweries, and comfort food such as beer-battered fish finger sandwiches (£6) or belly pork with crackling and black pudding mash (£13). The seven rooms are simple, with solid wood furniture and splashes of tartan, and window seats for those cracking views.
• Doubles from £60 room-only, no under-12s, lord-crewe.co.uk
The Townhouse Beaumaris, Anglesey
This 17th-century townhouse has been given a modern makeover and is now a vibrant 13-room hotel in the seaside town of Beaumaris. Rooms are named after colours and decorated accordingly, from calming Sky to dramatic Ebony; Silver is a shiny loft space, Pearl has views of Beaumaris Castle and Clementine is fully accessible. The style is slightly 70s retro, aimed at a younger crowd than its sister hotel next door, The Bull. Guests share the bar and two restaurants at the Bull, a historic coaching inn. The town’s small sandy beach is on the doorstep, and it’s a good base for exploring Anglesey’s 125 miles of coastline.
• Doubles from £96 room-only, one accessible room, bullsheadinn.co.uk
The Rose Deal, Kent
One of the most exciting seaside openings this year (May), The Rose is a characterful restaurant and bar with rooms, in historic, arty Deal, moments from the beach. What was a run-down pub has been given a new lease of life, marrying original features like wood panelling in the dining room with cool contemporary and vintage finds. There’s no scrimping on colour or comfort in the eight bedrooms (think yellow velvet headboards, purple free-standing baths, organic toiletries and great beds), and the same mix of quality and imagination is found in the kitchen. Menus offer a twist on British classics using local produce, with prettily presented dishes like roast lamb chops, lentils, purple-sprouting broccoli and anchovy (£13), or violet artichokes, white beans and dandelion and goat’s curd (£10).
• Doubles from £95 B&B, dog-friendly, therosedeal.com
Burrastow House Shetland
On its own sheltered bay on the western tip of Mainland, Shetland, 18th-century Burrastow House stands in splendid isolation, two miles from Walls, the nearest village. The scenery is spectacular, with views over Vaila Sound; otters and seals may be spied from the windows and there are wild walks aplenty. Inside, the vibe is more family home than hotel, with an emphasis on traditional comfort – log fires, big duvets and hearty meals. Generous breakfasts include porridge, black pudding and kippers; evening meals change according to what’s available (local fish and lamb are likely). There’s no bar, but the living room has a well-stocked drinks cabinet for cosy evenings. Open April to October.
• Doubles from £100 B&B, two accessible rooms, dog-friendly, burrastowhouse.co.uk
Gara Rock Near Salcombe, Devon
This clifftop hotel in East Portlemouth, near Salcombe, reopened with much fanfare in August after a complete transformation by new owners. Accommodation now includes loft rooms, suites, five cottages and 12 apartments, all with sea views and a balcony or a garden. They are gorgeous, with muted sea tones, panelled walls, rolltop baths and rain showers. The hotel has its own beach, indoor and heated outdoor pools, a spa and cinema with three screenings a day. The glass-sided restaurant specialises in seafood, including Porthilly oysters, and the old coastguards’ lookout is now the bar: the perfect spot for a sundowner. All this luxury comes at a price, however – one to save for seriously special celebrations.
• Doubles from £150 B&B, dog-friendly, gararock.com
The Gallivant Near Rye, East Sussex
The resort of Camber, with its tired-looking Pontins and giant caravan park, has seen better days, but its eponymous sands are a glory of the south coast – wide, golden, dune-backed and patrolled by lifeguards in summer. The Gallivant, which opened in 2011 opposite the dunes, has lifted accommodation options to a new level – and now the Californian motel-style restaurant with (20) rooms has had a major rejig, with new terrace, remodelled bar and snug. In the restaurant the contrast with Camber’s fish and chips is stark: here local Dungeness cod is roasted, with foraged sea vegetables and pickled tomato (£18). Rooms range from garden suites to cabins lined with salvaged wood that evoke the best kind of beach hut.
• Doubles from £95 B&B, dog-friendly, thegallivant.co.uk
Old Town Hall House Cley next the Sea, Norfolk
Escapees from London, James and Jennie Walker opened their B&B on the north Norfolk coast four years ago. Scandi-style decor (Jennie is Swedish) is bright and airy, and two of the four bedrooms have sunset views over marshland to the sea. The pair already had a handy way to stand out in a crowded market: James also happens to be a top chef, having worked at the Ritz in London and Michelin-starred Lucas Carton in Paris. He offers guests a two-course dinner, plus nibbles and homemade truffles (£30) twice a week, and guests have priority for his Friday-night supper club, which is also popular with non-residents.
• Doubles from £110 B&B, no dogs, oldtownhallhouse.com
The Beach Hotel Minehead, Somerset
Overlooking vast, sandy Minehead beach, with views across the Bristol Channel to Wales, The Beach Hotel has 15 bright bedrooms with a nautical theme. The restaurant has won awards for its field-to-fork British and European menu (there’s even a map of your meal’s origin), served from an open kitchen. What sets this place apart, though, is that it’s a social enterprise, owned by the YMCA. The staff are largely young people in need who have been taken on as apprentices and trained for the roles – not that it shows in the levels of professionalism. A great base for exploring Exmoor and the beautiful south-west coast.
• Doubles from £85, dog-friendly, thebeachhotel.org
Whitepark House Ballintoy, County Antrim
A pristine white beach is all yours, a skip across the road from Whitepark House. Enjoy the sea air and digging your feet into the sand on a walk before breakfast – you’ll need it, because what an Irish breakfast it is at this B&B, run by ebullient owner Bob Isles. It has three en suite rooms in an 18th-century house, furnishings from Asian travels, and afternoon tea by the peat fire – everything a B&B should be and more. A perfect base for exploring the fine scenery on the Causeway Coastal Route, with plentiful seafood stops along the way.
• Doubles from £130 B&B, no under-10s, whiteparkhouse.com
TEN BEST CITY HOTELS
Opened last month in Bethnal Green, just up the road from the site of Mother Kelly’s Doorstep (subject of the popular musical hall song), this 161-room hotel with stylish cafe-bar is a great base from which to explore central London (City five minutes by tube, West End 15), the entertainment hub of Shoreditch (a 20-minute walk) and newly buzzing Bethnal Green itself, with contemporary restaurants and more cocktail bars than you could shake a swizzle stick at. Rooms are well-equipped if diminutive (several are windowless), but no one comes to an area like this to stay inside.
• Doubles from £85 room-only, accessible rooms, theeastlondonhotel.com
The Flint opened this summer on Howard Street, aimed at young travellers who want a central location, stylish design, fast wifi and not much else. There is no restaurant: each of the 55 suites has a small kitchen, and the hotel is surrounded by places to eat. There are plans for a rooftop bar. Interiors are by Portadown-based Terry Design, and most of the furniture was made in Northern Ireland. Brothers Ben and Peter Ringland also own the city’s Crescent Townhouse (soon to be rebranded the 1852) and the Town Square restaurant.
• Doubles from £70 room-only, accessible rooms, theflinthotel.com
The Hotel Indigo Dundee opened this summer, in time to welcome visitors to the city’s new V&A museum, which launched in September. The 102-room hotel is a £23m conversion of a 200-year-old jute mill with a striking bell tower, which had stood empty for 45 years. The industrial-style design – polished cement, cast iron – is strikingly modern yet in keeping with the building’s heritage; original features such as the vaulted brickwork ceilings have been restored. Themed rooms nod to Dundee industries such as comics and computer games, while the restaurant, Daisy Tasker, is named after a local weaver.
• Doubles from £51 room-only, accessible rooms, ihg.com
Cardiff’s spectacular Coal Exchange building – where the world’s first million-pound deal was done in 1901 – had lain derelict for three years when it was rescued in 2016. Now it is being restored as a luxurious hotel. It opened in May 2017 and there are 61 rooms so far; eventually there will be 196 (the estimated completion date is late summer 2019). A new restaurant (R P Culley & Co, named after the local philanthropist ) will open soon, serving food sourced from the Valleys; afternoon tea can be taken in the opulent Grand Hall, where trading once took place. Next month, work starts on a new spa.
• Doubles from £80 room-only, accessible rooms, exchangehotelcardiff.co.uk
Hope Street Hotel Liverpool
This was one of the city’s first independent boutique hotels when it opened in 2003, and it is still a great place to stay. Now it is expanding into the former School for the Blind next door, adding 73 rooms (taking the total to 162), including 14 with terraces/balconies; a cinema with a weekly film nights and special screenings; a club room with a private members’ vibe; and a spa with indoor and outdoor pools. The design will remain simple: lots of pink Cheshire brick, solid wood and white linen. The project is due to be finished by March 2019.
• Doubles from £92 room-only, accessible rooms, hopestreethotel.co.uk
A new wing in this art deco boutique hotel takes its total bedrooms from six to 20 (opening from 20 November). Large monochrome rooms have high ceilings, sash windows and freestanding baths. There are three cocktail lounges with inventive cocktail lists (the Who Wants to Go to Mordor Anyway? pays tribute to JRR Tolkien, who lived locally). On sunny evenings, drinks are served on the champagne terrace, recently doubled in size. The focus is on booze, but there is a simple food menu and a popular afternoon tea.
• Doubles from £125 B&B, babies welcome in owners’ bassinets otherwise no children, theedgbaston.co.uk
This 16-bed conversion of a Northern Quarter textile warehouse makes good use of the building’s industrial heritage. Exposed brick and metal staircases are softened with artworks, neo-Moorish tiling and interesting decorative objects. Bedrooms come with REN toiletries, high-quality Bluetooth speakers and free Netflix. Guests are served complimentary prosecco and nibbles each evening, and milk and cookies before bed. Cow Hollow does not have a restaurant (try Go Falafel, Rudy’s Pizza, Bundobust or Mackie Mayor), but there are cocktails and decent glasses of wine in its tiny, glamorous bar.
• Doubles from £98 B&B, cowhollow.co.uk
This historic hotel, with views of the Clifton suspension bridge, opened in 1898 as the Grand Clifton Spa & Hydropathic Institution. When water treatments fell out of fashion, the spa closed and it became the Avon Gorge Hotel, frequented by Cary Grant on returns to his home town. Now, it has had a multimillion-pound revamp by Hotel du Vin. Renovations uncovered a hidden marble staircase, stained-glass windows and the original Turkish baths, now a wine cellar. There are 78 contemporary rooms in shades of grey, navy and teal, a smokehouse restaurant and a bar with a large terrace.
• Doubles from £89 room-only, dog friendly, accessible rooms, hotelduvin.com
There’s always a cluster of budget accommodation in the streets around a major train station, but this 73-room hotel in Paddington, converted a year ago from four early 19th-century townhouses (and deliberately missing the second i), offers more than most. Carefully restored period details and reclaimed fittings contribute to a stylish feel, and though bedrooms are short on space they’re long on luxury touches. Chef Sara Lewis’s all-day menu of small plates is very tempting – charred broccoli with shallot, pecorino and capers, say – as are the well-travelled cocktails.
• Doubles from £99 room-only, thepilgrm.com
42 The Calls Leeds
This 41-room riverside hotel was converted from an 18th-century flour mill in the early 1990s, retaining original features such as beamed ceilings and wooden shutters. It was for a time one of the most prestigious places to stay in Leeds, but its glory days seemed to be over when it went into administration in February, It has been rescued by a local entrepreneur, Simon Pollard, who is funding a multimillion-pound refurbishment. The hotel will remain open during the refit next year, which will add luxury suites, a cafe-bar, waterfront restaurant and champagne terrace. Guests travelling by train are in for a treat: they will be met by the concierge and taken to the hotel by boat.
• Doubles from £58 room-only, one accessible room, 42thecallshotel.com
TEN BEST QUIRKY HOTELS
A real one-off, Jean Urquhart’s hotel, cafe/restaurant, bookshop, art gallery, music venue and social hub occupies a row of whitewashed cottages in Ullapool on Loch Broom. It began life in the 1970s as a cafe in a boat shed, run by Jean’s late husband, actor Robert Urquhart, where musicians could sing for their supper. The atmosphere is still faintly bohemian, with bantering bar staff, visiting bands, solo artists and stand-up comedy. All-day menus include locally caught fish, haggis in a pot and good veggie and vegan options (they use herbs from the garden). The simple bedrooms are comfortable, and shoestring travellers can bunk down in the Clubhouse.
• Bunks from £24, doubles from £155 B&B, theceilidhplace.com
Gladstone’s Library Flintshire
For writing retreats or overnight stays, the literary-minded will enjoy Gladstone’s residential library in Hawarden, which houses over 150,000 printed items, including many theological and philosophical works. The serene reading rooms are open 9am-10pm, and modern bedrooms are equipped with desks and Roberts radios (but no TVs). Meals are locally sourced and homemade, and there’s an honesty bar for a fireside drink in the evening. The annual Writers in Residence programme is taking applications for 2020. There are also creative writing masterclasses. An estimated 590 books have been written or researched here since 2000.
• Doubles from £90 B&B, two accessible bedrooms, gladstoneslibrary.org
The Dial House Norfolk
Behind the front door of this redbrick Georgian house in the small market town of Reepham are exuberant bedrooms on a Grand Tour theme – from Parisian Garret to Italian Palace – with every ornament and oddity carefully chosen. In Natural History, the bathroom is reached through a cabinet of curiosities; China is a riot of blue and white ceramics; Orient a fantasy of porcelain and lacquerware and chinoiserie wallpaper. New owners, Norwich restaurateurs Andrew Jones and Hannah Springham, are taking the food up a notch, with farm-to-fork menus of Norfolk produce. In ground-floor retail rooms, everything is for sale. It’s pricier than some places – but what a trip!
• Doubles from £135 room-only or £145 B&B, no under-10s, thedialhouse.org.uk
This Brighton stalwart in Regency Square, right on the seafront, is famed for its up- for-it party vibe. The 19 themed rooms are a riot, ranging from the kitsch gold and black Pin-Up Parlour, dedicated to Diana Dors, to the pop-art Mod-themed Modrophenia, with parka bed cover and scooter bedside the table. The bar – all bonkers wallpaper and vintage furniture – hosts live music and DJs, with breakfast also served here or in the lounge. Bathrooms have just been updated and a new room is being revealed next year (theme to be announced).
• Doubles from £80 B&B, one accessible single room, hotelpelirocco.co.uk
Darwin’s Townhouse Shropshire
The 20 bedrooms at this large Georgian B&B, which opened a couple of years ago, are all on a tastefully Darwinian theme, a nod to the fact that the man himself was born and brought up in Shrewsbury. (It’s a short walk through the pretty Quarry park to St Chad’s Church, where Darwin was baptised, or to the library, once Darwin’s school, with its commemorative statue.) Dragonflies shimmer from cushions, wooden boards display ancient mariners’ maps, vintage suitcases serve as bedside tables and walls are papered with exotic birds. Also under the same ownership are two local bars and restaurants, The Loopy Shrew and Darwin’s Kitchen, each with bedrooms.
• Doubles from £125 B&B, four accessible rooms, one with full wetroom, darwinstownhouse.com
Lumley Castle County Durham
A 600-year-old castle in Chester-le-Street, between Durham and Newcastle, this hotel has 73 rooms, some with four-poster beds, red and gold furnishings and Narnia-esque bathrooms behind wardrobe doors. Food is traditional British fare, served in a candlelit, vaulted dining room, and there’s afternoon tea in the library bar. Some believe it to be haunted: tales tell of a lady of the manor who was thrown down the well in the castle grounds by two priests – even the Aussie cricket team reported ghost sightings in 2005. It’s also dog-friendly, so the nervous could bring a pooch for company.
• Doubles from £89 B&B, three accessible rooms, lumleycastle.com
In the shadow of the Black Mountains, in the precincts of a ruined Augustinian abbey immortalised by JMW Turner, Victoria and Geoff Neal’s highly unusual hotel partly occupies an ivy-clad, Grade I-listed medieval tower. A stay at this hotel, between Hereford and Abergavenny, is a step back in time – no television, no wifi, no mobile phone signal, no en suite bathrooms (shower rooms are reached via a spiral staircase) – but the atmosphere more than makes up for the lack of amenities. Some rooms have a four-poster or half-tester bed. On cold days a log fire warms the vaulted crypt, the setting for old-fashioned dinners of, say, abbot’s beef casserole, lamb de Lacy or, for vegetarians, nut roast or spicy bean goulash.
• Doubles from £95 B&B, no under-10s, llanthonyprioryhotel.co.uk
Langar Hall Nottinghamshire
Thirty years ago, the late Imogen Skirving opened her apricot-washed Georgian mansion in Langar to paying guests, and little by little transformed it into a popular hotel and restaurant. Her charismatic personality still infuses the place, which retains its idiosyncratic style (traditional English with splashes of India). Now her granddaughter Lila Arora runs it in the same warm spirit that won devotees including Jools Holland, Paul Smith and Dame Barbara Cartland (one of the rooms is named after her).
It’s approached via an avenue of lime trees, through sheep-grazed pastures, and its public rooms are filled with books, antiques and quaint knick-knacks. Bedrooms have very personal touches – a rocking chair, say, or pair of china Staffordshire dogs. There’s also a chalet for two on the croquet lawn. Chef Gary Booth’s menus are appealing, from Belvoir game to kale fritters.
• Chalet £125 B&B, doubles from £140 B&B, langarhall.com
St Cuthbert’s House Northumberland
When Jeff and Jill Sutheran bought this manse in Seahouses, on the wild Northumbrian coast, a semi-derelict church came as part of the package. Today they run the church as an award-winning B&B, with bedrooms named after Celtic saints. Aidan, Columba, Brigid and Hild are reached via a landing with “pulpit” viewing gallery. The original wood panels, pillars and harmonium are preserved in the Sanctuary, now the lounge and breakfast room. Jill is a musician: ask for a blast on her Northumbrian pipes, or come for a live music night. Breakfast offerings include kippers from the local smokery.
• Doubles £130 B&B, one accessible room, adults only, stcuthbertshouse.com
Old Railway Station West Sussex
The novelty begins when you check in at the former parcels office at Petworth, one of the prettiest railway stations in Britain, built so the Prince of Wales, the future Edward VII, could take the train to Goodwood races. Owners Gudmund Olafsson and Catherine Stormont cherish the place, which they run as a B&B. Bedrooms are in the station house or in one of two beautiful Pullman carriages with Edwardian fittings. Breakfast is served in the old waiting room, filled with period furnishings and paraphernalia, or under parasols on the platform when the sun shines. Residents and drop-ins can enjoy a cream tea.
• Doubles from £120 B&B, no under 10s, old-station.co.uk
Some of the quirky hotels are edited extracts from the Good Hotel Guide 2019, written by Rose Shepherd
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