Great British Bed & Breakfasts

Farmhouse, townhouse, seaside terrace or country cottage: whatever style you fancy, Britain’s B&Bs offer everything from good value basics to affordable luxury.

The Old Rectory on the Lake boasts a breathtaking setting on the shore of Tal-y-Llyn
The Old Rectory on the Lake

Bed and Breakfasts (or B&Bs) are a great British tradition in guest accommodation. They vary greatly in style and facilities but most are small properties, usually a family home, with just one or a handful of bedrooms, that offer overnight accommodation and a good breakfast (“the full English/Scottish/Welsh…”).

B&Bs can be among the lowest priced accommodation but you can choose with confi dence by looking out for the star ratings given to a tourist board or AA inspected, quality assessed property. Bed & Breakfasts are also a good way of finding affordable luxury: choose from the four- and five-star accommodations, particularly with the gold and silver awards which mark the highest levels of quality and service.

One of the charms of Britain’s B&Bs is that
some of them are historic buildings that have had interesting former lives. Ten miles north of Norwich, for example, and one mile from Blickling Hall, the National Trust’s stunning Jacobean mansion, the five-star gold award The Old Pump House was built in 1760 and has been a farm, a boarding school and a rectory before becoming a B&B with five ensuite rooms. “It was given its current name, after the old thatched water pump in the front garden, when the vicar of Saint Michael’s church sold the house around 18 years ago,” explains Marc James, former antiques dealer who now runs the B&B with Charles Kirkman.

B&Bs are often the best places to enjoy the
Great British Breakfast, delivered with the care and personal attention of your host – impossible to achieve in a large hotel. At The Old Pump House, “All the produce we use is locally sourced, from the bacon and sausages to the Lowestoft kipper fillets,” says Marc.

The charming breakfast room of The Old Pump House
The charming breakfast room of The Old Pump House

Another B&B that prides itself on its food
is Thorney Mire Barn, also five-star with a gold award, near Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales. Simon and Jane Hudson are known for their hearty fare, using local produce – something that led them to win a place as a finalist in the Taste of Yorkshire category of the recent White Rose Awards – as well as in the Guest Accommodation of the Year category. On their breakfast menu, they feature a Pearsons of Ingleton black pudding which is industry Regional Champion 2008, and Steadmans of Sedburgh Haggis – winner of a gold award from the Guild of Q butchers.

Thorney Mire Barn is over 250 years old and
was originally the milking parlour for the farm. “We were frequent visitors to Wensleydale over 15 years and loved the area so much we decided to come and live here,” says Simon. “The rolling countryside is carefully farmed to preserve the historic landscape.”

Staying on a farm in Britain is becoming increasingly popular: as well as countryside locations they can give a real insight into life on a farm. Thistleyhaugh in Northumbria for example is a working 720-acre farm run by Henry and Enid Nelless, third generation working farmers, who now offer five-star gold B&B in their Georgian farmhouse on the banks of the River Coquet. It’s a great base from which to explore the Cheviot Hills and the Northumberland coastline.

Another former rectory turned B&B has been sitting for over 100 years on the edge of Tal-y-Llyn, on the south side of Cader Idris in Snowdonia, and its three bedrooms have stunning views of the lake. Host John Francis has turned The Old Rectory on the Lake into luxurious B&B accommodation and has won five stars from Visit Wales.

It’s the welcome from the host that makes or breaks a B&B and The Automobile Association (AA), which has been celebrating 100 years in the hospitality industry, marks the best each year in its accommodation awards. In the AA B&B Awards 2008, Margaret Frost of Diggins Farm, in Chipping Ongar, Essex was named AA Friendliest Landlady of the Year.

More recommended rest-stops

  • Eden House (4-star), nr Grantownon-Spey, Scotland – luxury organic guesthouse with stunning views. Tel: (01479) 872112.
  • Marlborough
    (4-star), Bath
    – Victorian house close
    to the centre of Bath,
    with organic foods.
    Tel: (01225) 318175.
  • Melrose House
    (4-star), London SE20
    – Nine rooms located in
    a London suburb with
    easy access to shops and
    theatres. Tel: (020) 8776
  • Roundham House
    (5-star), West Bay,Dorset – Classic
    Edwardian country
    house overlooking the
    Brit River Valley. Tel:
    (01308) 422753.
  • Thomas Luny
    , (5-star gold),
    Teignmouth, Devon
    – Georgian home of
    seascape painter for 30
    years to 1837. Tel: (01626)