Wolsey Lodges B&Bs for UK literary breaks
- Travel Guide
There’s nothing like curling up with a good book to make the most of a winter evening. But this is also a…Read More
It’s not easy to define what makes a Wolsey Lodge B&B. They’re as varied and distinctive as the owners themselves. As an association of leading B&Bs that is owned by its members – and vetted by its members – the Wolsey Lodge formula rests on ‘Timeless Hospitality’. You can’t even say they’re even expensive: rates are invariably competitive for their region, and all charge far less than any equivalent hotel – while offering far more.
What makes a Wolsey Lodge is subtle, and most easily demonstrated through a sample of member lodges. Here goes.
Accommodation in London is dominated by hotels. All the international hotel groups have their flagship properties here. They cluster round the prime city-centre sites and offer overblown luxury. Prices are astronomical, and for most of us are not relevant options for overnight stays. Rather they’re just oversized buildings that take ages to walk past. Smaller hotels offer subdivided cells where you’re lucky to get a window – and everything costs extra.
A hotel is no way to experience London. London has an excellent public transport network that links the many ‘villages’ that give Britain’s capital its character. A traditional B&B is the way to go. One example is 113 Pepys Road. Here there are two guest bedrooms, beautifully furnished and very comfortable, with a book-lined drawing room on the ground floor. On one side you have your own private garden, wonderfully laid out around two magnificent magnolia trees. On the other there’s the open expanse of Telegraph Hill, a large park with wonderful city views. There’s a great Saturday Farmer’s Market and you get all the quiet of a residential area – parking, for example, is free – while still being within easy reach of the city. It’s a ten-minute walk to New Cross station, from where underground and overground trains take five minutes to Liverpool Street.
Say ‘Beach’ to those who live in the south of England and their minds will flip to queues of traffic and parking problems. That’s nothing like the deserted sandy strands that fringe the grounds of Blervie House. Despite being on Scotland’s northern coast a touch of the Gulf Stream means it has a sunny microclimate and is one of the sunniest regions in the UK.
It’s a wonderful place for a summer break but equally welcoming through the rest of the year. Downstairs you can scatter around five guest sitting rooms, one of which has a full-sized billiard table, and the grounds are wonderful, 272 acres of formal gardens and woodlands.
Getting there is easy. It’s a fairly epic – though thoroughly worthwhile – drive to get to Blervie House, but it’s within easy reach of Inverness Airport.
If you’re driving up to Scotland then Dowfold House would be a great place to break your journey, though it’s also a great base from which to explore the North Pennines and more. The property was built by a local mine-owner who went on to become the UK’s first Quaker MP, and every room retains the elegance of the property’s Victorian era.
Despite being at the heart of a working Yorkshire Farm, guests at Firs Farm B&B have a huge degree of privacy. The three guest bedrooms are tucked away with their own entrance, a private log-stoved sitting room and a dining room all to themselves. While everyone gets up early for farm work – especially in March when lambing takes over – you’re free to relax and make your own schedule. Firs Farm is right in the middle of the Nidderdale AONB: there are walks on every side.
There’s a real sense of space at Glebe House, a former Rectory in the Vale of Belvoir. Formerly a rectory, the property has associations with Lord Byron and the poet George Crabbe, and it’s easy to see how it inspires and delights. Views are of Belvoir Castle, there are extensive grounds, and public areas include a music room with a grand piano. Right on the border between Lincolnshire, Leicestershire and Nottinghamshire, it’s the perfect base to explore an unspoiled part of rural England.
Set in the Glenrothes region, Greenhead Farm is a wonderful B&B midway between Edinburgh and Dundee. The house itself is warm and welcoming, with three guest bedrooms and several guest sitting areas, well stocked with books and games. It has a wonderful setting on the southern slopes of the Lomond Hills, with magnificent views across the Firth of Forth.
On every side is open country: it’s at the heart of a 600-acre farm, with extensive grounds including a croquet lawn, a highly productive vegetable garden and a reservoir stocked with trout.
Breakfast is served in the dining room, but evening meals are something of a highlight here: three or four-course feasts using ingredients fresh from the farm and garden, supplemented by specialist products from local outlets. Call ahead as every element of your meal will be planned to suit your taste.
Beautifully set in the rural Dorset countryside, Manor Barn B&B guests enjoy a great deal of privacy. The two main guest bedrooms are set in a converted barn where they share a large sitting/dining rooms, simply but elegantly furnished and ultimately comfortable. There’s even a basic kitchen for making snacks or even meals. Parking is right by the door and everything – right down to the walk-in showers – is all on one level, making it a very accessible property.
Manor Barn is set right on the edge of the Blackmore Vale AONB, with an acre of grounds and walks from the door. The village of Child Okeford is five minutes walk away, with two good pubs, a village shop and even an art gallery. If you have a car the area has plenty to offer, with Stonehenge on one side and the south coast on the other, but for many it’s the chance to explore the immediate area that is this B&B.s greatest strength. This is Hardy Country at its best, the landscapes of Dorset and Wiltshire rolling on every side in a network of hidden lanes and charming villages.
It’s all-suite accommodation at Parkhead House B&B in South Queensferry: there’s a two-bedroom suite and a single, both with their own drawing/breakfast rooms. There are gardens on every side: there are seating areas all over the place and a barbeque area with great sunset views. The property adjoins a deer park and there are countless walks from the door.
This part of Scotland will be instantly familiar to anyone who has watched the ‘Outlander’ series on TV. Three of its iconic locations – Lallybroch, Blackness Castle and Hopetoun House – are within walking distance, while there are others a few minutes’ drive away: Parkhead House can arrange guided tours if required. There’s a good pub close by and the B&B is also close to a tram station, providing easy and quick access to Edinburgh.
Northumberland as a county is often overlooked by travellers hurtling north or south, but in the village of Belford, just off the A1, is well worth stopping at, if for no other reason than the chance to stay at Post Office House.
As one of the few good things to come out of the closure of rural post offices, this B&B has been lovingly developed within a Grade II listed building, with a decor reflecting its Victorian heritage. The three guest bedrooms are beautifully appointed, with Krups Nespresso coffee machines, armchairs and flat-screen TVs setting a sumptuous tone. All have walk-in power showers, fluffy bathrobes and Scottish Fine Soap Company toiletries.
There’s lots to do in the immediate area. Bamburgh Castle is a very short drive away, as are the sandy unspoiled beaches that line this stretch of coast. Inland you have the Cheviots while Lindisfarne is just offshore: you can reach it by causeway if the tide is low.
There are so many attractions that your host here has written a guide: read Claire Jarmain’s roundup of North Northumberland Highlights here.
Grandly set on the River Eden, Warwick Hall is a stately house two miles off the M6 near Newcastle that offers accommodation and food of the highest standard. This has made it a firm stopover for travellers who frequently make the drive to and from Scotland, though actually it would reward a much longer stay.
Guests here may feel they know Warwick Hall already. It was warmly reviewed by Alex Polizzi on Channel 5’s Hotel Inspector some years ago. Since then they’ve subcontracted the restaurant to Carlisle’s finest chefs: breakfasts are superb and the evening meals offer a choice and quality hard to find in even the best restaurant. Once-tired rooms now range from the comfortable to the spectacular. Everything is super-clean and it’s a sign of the attention to detail and the sense of freedom that in those bedrooms with open fireplaces the fire is laid and ready to light. Warwick Hall has come a long way from its former self, as seen by the Hotel Inspector. Now the whole establishment hums with a calm efficiency.
More importantly, as with all B&Bs, the tone is set by your hosts. Val and Nick Marriner run Warwick Hall with charm and delicacy.
And perhaps that’s the secret of what makes a Wolsey Lodge B&B. That all Wolsey Lodges are top-rated by TripAdvisor may be true but misses the point. The secret of Wolsey Lodges lies with our individual lodge owners.