50 small and charming British hotels for under £150 a night

You wait two years for a minibreak and then two come suddenly. First, a cross-generational encounter in the Cotswolds at the Swan Inn, honey-coloured stone and set on the dreamy shores of the Windrush beside an absurdly pleasant bridge. The bartender walked us to our room, which felt like home only nicer – clawfoot tub, homemade cookies, window wide open to the whole delicious scene. In the morning, the rescue hens had laid eggs for breakfast.

The following weekend, Bristol with old friends. A chic hotel to feast on – one of the biggest in the city, now run by an international chain that will remain nameless. Ok, I’ll tell you what: it was the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel. Victorian facade, gleaming revolving doors, checkerboard marble lobby.

Impressive, but, I soon realised, unavoidably corporate, with a check-in queue, £20 parking fee, Wi-Fi for members only. The pool had closed because, they said, it “no longer made financial sense” (Marriott generated $13.86 billion in revenue last year). The window didn’t open in our stuffy, greige room (twice the price of the hostel, by the way) and there were no less than 10 plastic miniatures in the bathroom. At breakfast I asked where the anemic sausages came from. “From the kitchen,” the waitress explained softly, after a pause.

It’s not that I don’t like fancy hotels. When done right (and the luxury hotel industry is booming, more and more five-star hotels are getting more and more fabulous), they can be fantastic wonders, every aspect of life being perfectly adapted.

Yet simultaneously, accelerated by the climate crisis and pandemic-induced changes, the desire to live and travel better has fueled our appetite for small-scale staycations. A wave of coaching inns and coastal pubs are being reinvented by a new generation of savvy young hoteliers, designers and pioneering chefs to satisfy champagne tastes on a beer bottle budget. And there’s a new breed of gourmet guesthouses emerging – gems such as Coombeshead Farm in Cornwall and Glebe House in Devon, run by families with a passion for food, interiors and the planet.

They are places loved by their owners, who have slept in every room and chosen every book on the shelves and every painting on the wall, whose personal touch delights at every turn. Where the food is always seasonal and local – from the vegetable garden, perhaps, or from a nearby farm, but never, ever, just “from the kitchen”.

Here are 50 charming little hotels, from the coast to the countryside, which prove that it is possible to offer a wonderful and memorable stay at a price accessible to all.

Glebe House

Southleigh, Devon

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