arthouse b&b, Kent
The arthouse, occupying an old red-brick fire station built around a lofty arched courtyard, has a superb location – it’s on Canterbury’s B&B avenue, London Road, a hop away from the ancient town centre – but very little in common with its chintzy neighbours. The name says it all – owned by artists and designers Anna and John Taylor, the house bears more resemblance to a funky gallery, or a retro magazine shoot than a guesthouse. Their quirky work fills the space with personality and style: from the moment you step in the hallway, adorned with paintings, a trio of weomn’s coats hung as art and jellybean-bright modern chandeliers, you know you’re in for a cool and intriguing experience.
Rooms from £60, breakfast included. www.arthousebandb.com
The Porch House, Shropshire
The Porch House, unmissably grand on the sloping main street of the Shropshire town of Bishop’s Castle, is a stunning example of Elizabethan domestic architecture: a stay here is a treat for history lovers or anyone with a penchant for old buildings. The huge, half-timbered house was built in 1564 and the basic structure of wattle and daub and enormous oak beams survives, along with some amazing old features such as the wonky, gleaming oak floorboards. Upstairs, the en-suite rooms are spacious, prettily furnished and full of character and interest and the town itself is a total gem with historic houses, pubs and independent shops.
Rooms from £70, breakfast included. www.theporchhouse.com
Pen y Gwyrd, Gwynedd, Wales
There is no better base for Snowdon than this. From outside, Pen y Gwyrd looks unremarkable – except for its superb location beneath Wales’s highest mountain – but inside it’s so defiantly old fashioned that it seems rather hip, and within it lies mountaineering history. A haunt of rock-hoppers since the mid 1800s, Pen y Gwyrd was the training HQ for the successful Everest expedition of 1953 and it positively creaks with its own heritage. The mountaineers (alongside famous names such as Chris Bonington) signed the ceiling downstairs and mementos of the expedition decorate a wood-panelled bar that begs for whisky and chill nights.
Rooms from £80, breakfast included. www.pyg.co.uk
Shepherd’s Hut at Crake Trees Manor, Cumbria
A romantic bolthole for two that resembles a sort of tin prairie cabin, the Sheperd’s Hut – designed to be mobile like the nineteenth century originals – is given pride of place in summer, overlooking the farm pond, meadows and barley fields at Crake Trees Manor. Clad in galvanized steel, it looks fiercely utilitarian from the outside and anything but inside, where there’s a lovely, hand-built wooden double bed, pristine white linen with a vintage crochet throw and a floor made of oak. Open the door and you step out onto a little wooden veranda, perfect for star-gazing or an early morning cuppa.
Shepherd’s Hut from £60, B&B rooms in the house from £95, breakfast included. www.craketreesmanor.co.uk
Castle Rock, Edinburgh
Locations don't get any better than this. The super-popular Castle Rock sits right beneath Scotland's most iconic fortress, Edinburgh Castle, and is within easy staggering distance of the Royal Mile. Unlike some of the Scottish capital's staid hostels, where the common rooms are quiet and dreary, the emphasis here is firmly on fun and mingling with other guests. The piéce de résistance is the beautiful lounge and reading area, with ornate baroque-style armchairs and an inky-black baby grand piano.
Dorms from £15, private rooms from £45. www.castlerockedinburgh.com
The Linen Shed, Kent
This dove-grey clapboard house, raised above the street behind a lush front garden, is not your standard B&B. The house itself, fashioned from a couple of vintage Nissen huts, has been imaginatively restored – light floods in through skylights and French windows, while bare floorboards, weathered wood, muted eau-de-nil and chalky hues create a soft, welcoming feel. This corner of Kent is foodie heaven – even the local pub is a cut above, serving good real ales and tasty meals. Save room for the host’s gourmet breakfast though, and prepare for a wrench when it’s time to leave.
Rooms from £80, breakfast included. www.thelinenshed.com
The Big Sleep, East Sussex
A Hollywood-backed designer budget hotel occupying an old Trusthouse Forte on the Eastbourne seafront? This shouldn’t work, but it does – if you can embrace the eccentricities. The faux-fur curtains and photos of John Malkovich (he’s one of the backers) might raise an eyebrow, but the spotless bathrooms, comfortable beds and big windows more than compensate. Go for a suite if you can; all have sea views, some have retro leatherette rocking chairs, one has a standalone claw-foot tub, and a few themed options, with gorgeous statement wallpaper, stray from the minimal design concept. Just strides away from Beachy Head, it’s a splendid spot for anyone looking for peace and quiet on the Sussex coast.
Rooms from £55, breakfast included. www.thebigsleephotel.com
Café Alf Resco, Devon
This great little café, B&B and apartment in beautiful Dartmouth is a real bargain. Downstairs, the buzzy café (open 7am-2pm) looks like it should be on the Left Bank; it serves Devon yoghurt, home-made granola, local sausages and excellent coffee from a Gaggia machine, as well as hosting the odd jazz night. The star of the show is upstairs though: a beautiful self-catering apartment with wooden walls and ceiling, a neat gallery kitchen, a miniature balcony with views of the River Dart and a ship’s cabin bathroom.
Rooms from £55, breakfast included. www.cafealfresco.co.uk
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