The historic hostelries staging a comeback - Hotels - Travel - The Independent

The historic hostelries staging a comeback

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

These traditional coaching inns once provided a rest stop for weary travellers. Now their crackling fires and ales are complemented by gourmet menus and hotel-style bedrooms, says Aoife O’Riordain

Seaside sleeps

As children, Hugh and Steve Ridgway, the new owners of The Royal Oak Inn (01548 810 313;, enjoyed their first bottle of ginger beer and ready salted crisps at this traditional Devon hostelry. So when the opportunity arose, the local boys jumped at the chance to take over this inn in the village of Bigbury. Also the proprietors of the successful St Moritz hotel in Cornwall, the Ridgways have used their expertise to restore this newly reopened inn. The inviting bar and restaurant serves traditional favourites – Welsh rarebit and beer-battered fish and chips – while the four rooms have been done in a light, contemporary style with a nostalgic thread that extends to retro board games and BTC bedside lamps. Doubles start at £60, B&B.

What's the attraction?

Once a place where horse-drawn travellers could break their journey and bed down – with the added bonus of dinner and a pint of ale – the British inn has come a long way. Damp walls and a Ploughman's no longer set the standard. Around the country, historic hostelries are becoming destinations in their own right, luring a new generation of guests with the promise of award-winning food and Farrow & Ball colour schemes. Retaining their charm and sense of history, these quintessential inns have an informal atmosphere, but the attention to detail is high. Cosy up by a crackling log fire, enjoy a dinner of locally sourced ingredients and slip between Egyptian cotton sheets for a restful night's sleep.

Urban stopovers

London's chi-chi Marylebone Village may seem like an unlikely location for an inn, but here you'll find the smart and urban Grazing Goat (020-7724 7243; The bar menu features contemporary pub fare, while upstairs there are eight stylish bedrooms with luxurious marble bathrooms. Doubles start at £195, including breakfast.

Within 20 minutes' drive of the centre of Edinburgh, The Sun Inn (0131 663 2456; is an old coaching inn at Lothianbridge. It now has five rooms done with statement wallpaper and handmade beds. Its popular dining room makes the most of abundant local produce. Doubles start at £95, B&B.

Gourmet getaways

Celebrating its first anniversary this month, The Gunton Arms (01263 832 010; thegunton near Cromer in north Norfolk is an understated but sophisticated country farmhouse (above) in the middle of a 1,000-acre park roamed by herds of deer. Head chef, Stuart Tattersall, used to work with Mark Hix and the eight antique-strewn bedrooms are the work of veteran interior decorator Robert Kime. Doubles starts at £95, B&B.

This year, The Pipe and Glass Inn (01430 810 246; in East Yorkshire was awarded the highest honour in the "2012 Michelin Eating Out in Pubs Guide" for its cooking. It also has two charming suites from £160, B&B.

Stylish slumbers

Ilse Crawford's design talents are usually associated with high-profile projects such as Babington House and the Soho House chain. But she has also turned her attentions to renovating The Crown (01494 721541;, a Grade II-listed coaching inn in the heart of Amersham (right), easily reached on the Metropolitan line from central London. Oozing period charm, this inn dates from the Elizabethan era and has 37 rooms scattered throughout three buildings, some reached across the cobbled inner courtyard. The Chophouse restaurant offers simply cooked dishes, with an emphasis on grilled meats. Doubles start at £85, including breakfast.

Inn fashion

Gloucestershire has no shortage of charming places to stay. Completely refurbished last year, The Wheatsheaf Inn (01451 860 244; in the picturesque Cotswolds village of Northleach has become the latest place to park your Hunter wellies (right). Given a new lease of life by a husband-and-wife team, Sam and Georgina Pearman, the 17th-century inn combines relaxed country chic (a dining room lined with oil paintings) with a menu of classic comfort food. The 14 rooms are a study of understated tones, dotted with period features and antiques. There's also a small treatment room in the garden for massages and manicures. Doubles start at £130, B&B.

Who said that?

"There is no private house in which people can enjoy themselves so well as at a capital tavern. No, Sir; there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn." – Samuel Johnson

"Take the old-established Bull's Head with its... old-established four-post bedsteads... its old-established cookery." – Charles Dickens, writing about Ye Olde Bull's Head Inn, Anglesey in The Uncommercial Traveller

"The incognito of an inn is one of its striking privileges." – William Hazlitt

Shrop til you drop

You can huddle up with a pint of Shropshire Gold ale in the inviting surroundings of the Inglenook bar that forms part of The Lion and Pheasant (01743 770 345;, a coaching inn that dates from Tudor times in the centre Shrewsbury. During its early days, the inn served as stopping-off point on the arduous route between London and Ireland. These days, it's more of a destination in its own right. There are 22 guestrooms spanning eight historic houses, all done in a lightly Scandinavian-chic style, complemented by wonky staircases, nooks and wood-beamed ceilings. There's also a restaurant offering traditionally inspired dishes with a twist. Doubles start at £95, B&B.

Autumnal rambles

As well as superior food and six stylish bedrooms, The Swan (01934 710337; in the pretty village of Wedmore, is right beside the Somerset Levels with Cheddar Gorge and The Mendip Hills also nearby. B&B doubles start at £85.

The Beckford Arms (01747 870385; is a stylish eight-room inn with delicious food that sits on the edge of the sprawling 10,000-acre Fonthill Estate in Wiltshire. It's close to a popular two-hour walk that wends its way through rolling parkland and past the estate's 18th-century Gothic folly. B&B doubles start at £95.

The Plough at Lupton (01539 567700; is a recently renovated inn on the edge of the Lake District, that dates from the 1850s and now has five luxurious rooms. B&B doubles start at £115.

Tucked into a picturesque corner of Wales in between the stunning wilderness of the Brecon Beacons and The Black Mountains, The Felin Fach Griffin (01874 620111; was one of the first exponents of the updated inn when it opened in 2000 and its charm endures. B&B doubles start at £120.

The three rooms at the 300-year-old Cross Keys (01786 870293; in the small Scottish village of Kippen, Stirlingshire are simple, stylish and comfortable. But you are more likely to be drawn to the crackling fire downstairs after a walk amid the magnificent scenery of the nearby Trossachs. B&B doubles start at £60.

Insider Information

"Slowly but surely we are seeing a surge in the transformation of traditional coaching inns. The Wheatsheaf Inn in the Cotswolds and The Olde Bell in Berkshire are two of the smartest newcomers to embrace this concept with every detail spot-on, from the food and service to the roll-top baths, fixtures and fittings." Lulu Townsend, managing director, Chic Retreats (020-3397 0085;

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week