In Defence of English B & Bs

Do our English Bed & Breakfasts really compare so poorly to French chambres d’hôtes?

Mais non, says Sophie Campbell of the Daily Telegraph in an impassioned argument in favour of the British version.  After all, wherever you are in the world there is dross to be had if you pay peanuts, even in lovely old France. Sophie riffles through her own Gallic memories and comes up with the dank gloom of a pebbledash house in a Pyrenean valley, so deep that the sun only hit it when she was out at midday; the ‘sofa bed’ somewhere in the Loft that turned out to be a sofa and when she put the cushions on the floor, it became a bed. The (jolly cheap) room in a dark flat in a Paris banlieue that felt like being an extra in La Haine.  But her issues are not with the standards in French chambres d’hȏtes but she merely wishes to spring to the defence of our British B & Bs.

I have rarely stayed in Bed & Breakfasts, mainly when I was a boy, but I know some friends who stay in them all the time, often for work, but mainly for family events or weddings or jaunts with mates. It is true that they expect to pay anything between £40 and £60 per person per night, depending on where they are and whether they are sharing a room, and perhaps that is much more expensive than its French equivalent.

From research carried out by The Telegraph, they suggest The Old Rectory at Wheathill (01746 787209,; B & B doubles from £85 -below), perched in the hills above the 'foodie' capital of the Midlands, Ludlow. It’s a fine, solid, Georgian family house with gorgeous grounds and delicious food – bring your dog (£10 per night) or horse (£15 per night).

Or the Wickham Manor Farm (below) (01797 226216, ;B & B doubles from £85), a house rambling across several centuries just outside the little town of Winchelsea, East Sussex. It’s run by working farmers.

Try St Anne’s (01452 812879, ; B & B doubles from £72.50), a former wool merchant’s house in pretty little Painswick in Gloucestershire, where Sophie Campbell slept in one of the children’s old bedrooms and was greeted, footsore from the Cotswold Way, with cracking tea and cake, a newspaper and somewhere to dry her boots by its cheery owners, Iris and Greg.

Also try John and Eluned Rowlands’ magical home Y Goeden Eirin (01286 830942, ;from £80) in Snowdonia, where they keep Welsh-language books lining one of the rooms – both are academics – despite the disapproval of one hotel inspector, and provide wonderful food and a fine welcome (below).

Finally, Sophie Campbell's been writing in The Telegraph recently  about the town of Hastings in Sussex, and over a few visits has stayed in four or five wonderful B & Bs: a suburban house, an old rectory with a sprawling garden, a light-filled townhouse with gulls whirling outside and a fabulous converted newspaper building. She got used to homemade bread, local meat and produce, decent fruit for breakfast. Owners were friendly and full of local recommendations. Yes, every so often you get a grease-bomb Full English (and your problem is?) or a surly owner, but not often, not nowadays. And one look at a website usually tells all, from the spelling to pictures of the rooms. Beware the site that fails to show rooms or an exterior of the house. And price: once you get below £60 per room in the southeast of the UK you could be in trouble, but it’s normal in many other parts of Britain.

Overall, a massive improvement, with only the odd bad apple! C’est la vie.



Popular Posts