When it's so much more than just a bed and some breakfast
Following stints with Reuters and the Press Association, Martin Hickman joined The Independent as a news editor in 2001. He became the Consumer Affairs Correspondent in September 2005 and has run the paper's trenchant campaigns on packaging, bank charges and factory-farmed chicken. He writes on subjects as diverse as food, finance, energy and fashion. With Tom Watson, he is author of a new book on the phone hacking scandal, Dial M for Murdoch - News Corporation and the Corruption of Britain.
Wednesday 18 January 2012
Britain's bed and breakfasts have a reputation for querulous hosts, poky, tired rooms and nylon sheets, but – please sit down – they are actually the best in the world, according to TripAdvisor.
Six of the top 10 bed and breakfasts across the globe are in England and two in Scotland, with the only serious foreign competition coming from two challengers in Tuscany and Peru, the guest review website announced, saying "the UK's B&Bs have cause to celebrate".
It used a algorithm to assess the star ratings left by guests and the quantity and recency of reviews for 23,322 B&Bs in Britain and a number from around the world, which strangely it could not quantify.
In any case, The Twenty One, in Kemp Town, Brighton, came top. Some 97 per cent of its 866 guests who reviewed it rated it excellent, describing it as "fantastic", "wonderful" or "perfect".
Second was last year's winner, the Old Manse at Invermoriston, a detached house with waterfall and mountain views near Loch Ness.
Third was the Riverside Hotel in Ambleside in the Lake District (a B&B despite its name), one of whose rooms had a four-poster bed and spa bath and another a "wet room" with underfloor heating; fourth was Casa Portagioia, a country retreat with a heated pool in Tuscany.
At The Twenty One, owners Andy Cole and Matt Fletcher said they were "absolutely amazed and stunned" by their success, which they put down to keen customer service, which includes cards for guests celebrating special occasions.
Unlike some B&B owners who accused TripAdvisor of tolerating malicious and unfounded attacks, they like the feedback and scan their competitors' reviews for tips on how to improve their establishment.
Visitors rave about the spotlessness of the rooms, the complimentary trays of tea and muffins, the hearty breakfasts and, most of all, their hosts' hospitality.
"You do get a few awkward guests and we have to go the extra mile," said Mr Cole.
Two years after taking over the "rundown" and "tired" B&B five years ago, he married his business partner in a civil ceremony.
"Absolutely none" of their guests are fazed that they are gay.
Mr Cole said: "They come to Brighton and they know what Brighton is all about.
"We actually get older guests and you talk to them at breakfast and you say: 'What did you do last night and they say: 'We saw a fabulous drag act at one of the gay bars."
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