First night nerves can be expected when hotels and B&Bs finally open their doors on Monday
All over the country, preparations are reaching a crescendo. Housekeeping is making up beds, front of house is dusting down computers, waiters are, appropriately, waiting, chefs are getting twitchy.
First night nerves can be expected when hotels and B&Bs finally open their doors on Monday. Demand is stronger than ever (if, for example, you want to stay in one of the Pig hotels then you’re looking at October at the earliest) and bargains may be in short supply. But, oh, the joy. Can’t wait, frankly. A fresh bar of soap; newly minted duvets; pre-dinner cocktails; daring menus; ebullient sommeliers; whispering about other guests; no washing up.
And the UK does hospitality better than almost any other country, certainly far better than France — although America gives us a run for our bed and breakfast money. ‘Standards have risen so much in the last few years,’ says Adam Raphael, editor of the Good Hotel Guide. ‘And value for money is very much on the menu in places charging £100 to £200 a night.’ Which is roughly the price point for most of my selection…
Middleton Lodge, Yorkshire
Minutes away from the A1 (M) near Scotch Corner but it feels like Provence. There’s something of a back story, too. James Allison grew up in the magnificent main Georgian house (now used for weddings) and couldn’t abide the idea of his parents selling up, so he bought it from them and, helped by his architect wife, transformed the whole caboodle. The hotel element is called The Coach House in what must have been the stables. With its pale Yorkshire stone, banks of lavender and huge arched doors leading to the restaurant and bar, you’ll feel cocooned in loveliness.
Good to know: Book the Tack Room complete with wood-burning stove.
Stay: Doubles from £240 B&B (middletonlodge.co.uk, 01325 377977).
The Mitre, Greater London
This completely transformed hotel on the Thames across the road from Hampton Court opened briefly to rave reviews last September, then had to close over Covid.
There are 36 rooms at all different prices and no expense has been spared on the décor, with de Gournay wallpaper, vibrant art, oak floors and two restaurants.
If the weather behaves, eat out on the terrace, which has a huge fireplace at one end and a Whispering Angel rose bar.
Good to know: Sit by a window at breakfast and watch the passing parade on this busy stretch of river.
Stay: Doubles from £153 B&B (mitrehamptoncourt.com, 0208 979 9988).
SAFARI ON THE DOORSTEP
The Bath Arms, Wiltshire
Mouthwatering: The Inspector said the food at The Bath Arms in Wiltshire is delicious. Pictured is a lunch board
Various management teams have come and gone at this classically beautiful 18th-century coaching inn on the Longleat estate — but the current lot know what they’re doing.
It helps when you have exquisite flagstones and mantelpieces that look as if they predate the building itself. If you’re tired of shabby chic, this will revive your interest. The rooms are unfussy, the food delicious, while the staff are unfailingly positive.
Good to know: The Longleat Safari Park has reopened (longleat.co.uk).
Stay: Doubles from £110 B&B (batharmsinn.com, 01985 844308).
UNDER STARTER’S ORDERS
The Pheasant Inn, Berkshire
Young Jack Greenall, a scion of the Greenall Whitley brewing family, bought The Pheasant four years ago and has won the plaudits of locals, including the nearby Lambourn racing crowd. There are 11 tasteful rooms and, thank goodness, rates don’t change depending on availability. The old boozer atmosphere has survived but the food is far removed from traditional pub grub.
Good to know: Spend £100 in the restaurant on Sunday evening and stay the night for free.
Stay: Doubles from £125 B&B (thepheasant-inn.co.uk, 01488 648284).
The Rose & Crown, Norfolk
Wills and Kate’s local pub, The Rose and Crown in Norfolk has a ‘relaxed atmosphere and excellent food’
William and Kate’s local. They popped in for a swift pint of cider last summer, making full use of the garden to the side of the low-slung whitewashed frontage near Snettisham beach. There has been a tavern here since the 1300s.
Rooms are not luxurious but the atmosphere is relaxed and the food excellent. Don’t leave without visiting St Mary’s Church, much admired by architectural historian Nikolaus Pevsner.
Good to know: The church’s spire is so tall that it serves as a beacon for sailors.
Stay: Doubles from £140 B&B (roseandcrownsnettisham.co.uk, 01485 541382).
Monachyle Mhor, Perthshire
Top-notch: Monachyle Mhor is a family-run hotel that looks out across Loch Voil in Perthshire
A perfect excuse, if needed, to cross the border into Scotland, where this charming and enterprising family-run hotel looks out across Loch Voil, miles off the beaten track. Rooms have a Scandi feel and the food is top-notch. There are various self-catering cabins and wagons in the grounds.
Good to know: Pop into the Mhor shop back down the single-track road.
Stay: Doubles from £250 B&B (monachylemhor.net, 01877 384622).
The New Inn, Gloucestershire
Twentysomething schoolfriends Baz and Fred have taken over this honey-coloured, 16th-century hostelry in the quintessential Cotswold village of Coln St Aldwyns. It’s just the sort of place that made Bill Bryson fall in love with Britain all those years ago. There are 14 rooms; a trendy bar and various nooks and crannies to eat posh burgers and bruschetta with anchovies draped over them. It only opened in September, which was something of a false start, but is raring to go now.
Good to know: The local paper shop is still in 1950s mode.
Stay: Doubles from £109 B&B (thenewinncoln.co.uk, 01285 708080).
REMEMBER HOW TO BEHAVE…
- It’s been a while since many of us stayed in a hotel — here are a few tips for the rusty:
- That piece of plastic you’ve been given is not some kind of new Covid vaccination card . . . it’s your room key.
- Inside the room, you’ll find a perfectly made bed — don’t worry, you have not entered someone else’s house.
- Once you have settled in and are feeling peckish, you do not have to order a Deliveroo.
- In the bathroom, the little plastic bottles have not been left by another guest. They are toiletries. Use them freely.
- You will still get annoyed if required to enter a code for the wi-fi.
- Don’t forget to use the Do Not Disturb sign, or you may be caught partially dressed by a cleaner coming to put a chocolate on your pillow.
- The mini-bar will be as pricey as ever. Avoid if you can.
- You may be tearful. Perfectly understandable. Lockdown is coming to an end. There is much to cry about — both happy and sad.
A MANOR OF SPEAKING
Hampton Manor, West Midlands
Tudor Gothic-style might be an acquired taste but there’s no question about the sense of style at this stately pile, built in 1855, near Birmingham. Peel’s has a Michelin Star but the nosh is still wonderfully unfussy. The drawing room has William Morris wallpaper and the art is inspired.
Good to know: Perfect for a treat before flying off from nearby Birmingham airport.
Stay: Two-night dinner B&B stays from £790 (hamptonmanor.com, 01675 446080).
BLING IT ON
The Seven Hotel, Essex
This 37-room spot on the Southend seafront used to be a Jewish old people’s home. Now it’s a spanking new and wonderfully brash place to make merry, with lots of gold on taps — and on the lobes of men with muscles and women with plunging cleavages. It’s fun. The restaurant gets booked up at weekends.
Good to know: Book the ‘honeymoon suite’ for views of the world’s longest pleasure pier.
Stay: Doubles from £106 (thesevenhotel.co.uk, 01702 900010).
RAISE A DRAM
The Machrie, Isle of Islay
Secretly you’ll hope that the clouds roll in and you are forced to stay an extra night at this glorious outpost on one of Scotland’s finest islands. The hotel sits on its own links golf course, with the Atlantic rumbling near by. There are more than 270 species of bird on Islay and almost as many distilleries.
Good to know: Head north to Kildalton Chapel and its 1,300-year-old cross.
Stay: Doubles from £156 B&B (campbellgrayhotels.com, 01496 302310).
The Cat Inn, West Sussex
There are only four rooms here in the village of West Hoathly and they are nothing special. But there are no fewer than eight chefs working under talented Alex Jacquemin, and it also helps that the owner used to be the manager of nearby Michelin-starred Gravetye Manor.
The building dates back to 1450, hence the wonky ceilings, sloping floors and open fires. At breakast your table has its own buffet with fresh orange juice.
Good to know: On a clear day you can see Brighton from the churchyard across the road.
Stay: Doubles from £150 B&B (catinn.co.uk, 01342 810369).
MIX AND MATCH
Talland Bay Hotel, Cornwall
Old-fashioned on one hand, wacky on the other. That means crisp white tablecloths and pelmets but chaos on the walls, with metal fairies, a Lego board and grandfather clock with the face of, well, a grandfather. Alice in Wonderland highchairs stand in the garden, with views of the sea. You won’t find the Soho House crowd here but that probably suits regulars perfectly.
Good to know: Talland Bay is a ten-minute walk down the lane.
Stay: Doubles from £270 B&B (tallandbayhotel.co.uk, 01503 272667).
THE BIG SPEND
Beaverbrook in Surrey is a fantastic option if you’re prepared to splash some cash. It has a huge new spa and outstanding art
… AND HERE ARE SOME NEW HOTELS OPENING THIS SUMMER
Olga Polizzi’s Star, East Sussex, left, opens June 14 (thepolizzicollection.com).
Harbour Beach Club Hotel in Salcombe, Devon, July 19 (harbourhotels.co.uk).
The Pig, South Downs, September (thepighotel.com).
Gleneagles Townhouse, Edinburgh, this autumn (gleneagles.com).
Callow Hall, Dove Valley, August 1 (wildhive.uk).
Harper Hotel, Langham, Norfolk, Monday (theharper.co.uk).
Fairmont Windsor Park, August 1 (fairmont-windsorpark.com).
Tawny Hotel, Staffordshire, July 8 (thetawny.co.uk).
Bradley Hare, Maiden Bradley, Wilts, June (thebradleyhare.co.uk).
Dilly Hotel, London, Monday (thedillylondon.com).
The Lost Poet hotel, London, end of June (thelostpoet.co.uk).
Montcalm East, London, Monday (montcalmeast.com)
There’s no getting round it. This is pricey and cries out for a big celebration, especially now the huge spa is up and running.
There are 18 rooms in the main house (Press baron Lord Beaverbrook’s Victorian villa overlooking the Surrey Hills) and a further 11 up the drive in the Garden House. Either will do you proud. The art is outstanding and it’s a treat to have an a la carte breakfast.
Good to know: Everyone from Churchill to Elizabeth Taylor and Rudyard Kipling stayed here as guests of his lordship.
Stay: Doubles from £525 (beaverbrook.co.uk, 01372 571300).
The Standard, London
Imported from New York, The Standard occupies a brutally ugly building (former Camden Town Hall annexe) near King’s Cross.
But inside, everything works perfectly. Rooms are quirky, with retro drinks trolleys and canteen-style tables like those in 1960s Wimpy Bars. The main space downstairs is fashioned like a public library and there’s a proper pub on the west flank.
A big selling point is the roof terrace bar, practically in touching distance of St Pancras station.
Good to know: Go for the ‘artichoke hash’ for breakfast.
Stay: Doubles from £233 (standardhotels.com, 0203 981 8888).
George and Dragon, Cumbria
The village of Clifton is lucky to have this friendly hotel. Or is it a restaurant? Or pub? All of the above, with slate floors, duck-egg blue tongue-and-groove panelling, rolltop bars, killen rugs and staff who answer to owner Charles Lowther, younger son of the 7th Earl of Lonsdale (whose ancestor gave boxing its famous belt).
Good to know: Clifton is where the last battle on English soil took place in 1745.
Stay: Doubles from £100 B&B (georgeanddragonclifton.co.uk, 01768 865 381).
Castle House Hotel, Hereford
A tad old-fashioned but this is a well-run hotel in central Hereford. There can be few better spots for dinner than the terrace by the river and the full English is awesome.
Good to know: Hereford Cathedral is home to the Mappa Mundi.
Stay: Doubles from £155 B&B (castlehse.co.uk, 01432 356321).