Bristol is a city of hills, and Number Thirty Eight is perched on top of one the highest. It's a new "luxury townhouse" B&B that occupies a Georgian merchant's house on the northern edge of Clifton. The Downs, an expanse of parkland and playing fields, stretches out towards the knife-cut of the Avon Gorge to the front, and a breathtaking sweep of rooftops tumbles south to the docks out back, making this a great vantage point from which to take in the city.
And take it in you will. Every room I entered framed a window with a killer view; inside, it's impossible not to look out. Which isn't to say that the rooms aren't lovely in themselves. In fact, the 10 bedrooms are gorgeous. No two are alike, but they're all elegant and well equipped.
The two top-floor suites each have a copper or tin roll-topped bath. The bedrooms shrink further down the house, but all feel spacious, with Tardis-like bathrooms cunningly concealed behind wood panelling which runs throughout and gives the place a New England feel.
The plasma screen televisions are placed artfully enough to be as inconspicuous as the free Wi-Fi pumped through the house.
The bedrooms take up four of the building's five storeys, while downstairs there are two reception rooms, one with a wood burner and another where a mean West Country breakfast is served – signature sausages by Ruby & White, Sharpham Park muesli and other local, organic ingredients.
Adam Dorrien Smith, who designed the rooms, opened Number Thirty Eight last summer. Adam previously developed properties in London and the Cotswolds; his family also owns the island of Tresco in Isles of Scilly. Shona Smillie and Jarek Eliasz, the live-in hosts, spent four years working for Adam's father on Tresco before returning to the mainland. Their presence helps to give the place a family feel.
Number Thirty Eight has teamed up with the nearby Lido Spa (0117-933 9530; lidobristol.com) to offer guests use of the heated outdoor pool, hot tub and spa facilities. To get your pulse racing, Brunel's Clifton Suspension Bridge spans the Avon Gorge a short walk away. Go at night if you can, when it's lit up like a cobweb hung with dew.
When he set up the hotel Adam imagined most guests would be stopping over for work, but more, it turns out, are basing themselves here to explore the city. If neighbouring Bath is the region's chocolate box, Bristol is its cider-replete drinks cabinet.
Beyond the bars and restaurants guests can take in the Arnolfini modern art gallery (0117-917 2300; arnolfini.org.uk) down by the docks, go to gigs on the river aboard the Thekla (0117-929 3301; theklabristol.co.uk), and visit the nearby Bristol Zoo Gardens (0117-974 7399; www.bristolzoo. org.uk), stunning all year round.
The Pit Stop
The bars and restaurants of Clifton, Cotham and Redland are within striking distance, as are those in the city centre. The hotel "has links" with some of the best places in town. By which I mean that Adam, Shona or Jarek will point you in the direction of a good place to go if they sense you'd appreciate the tip.
Flinty Red (0117-923 8755; flintyred.co.uk) on Cotham Hill, or Rockfish (0117-973 7384; rockfishgrill.co.uk) and Aqua (0117-973 3314; aqua-restaurant.com) on Whiteladies Road in Clifton were all name-checked when I expressed an interest, and I can vouch for the excellent curry houses on nearby Chandos Road, in particular Ahmed's Curry Café (0117-946 6466; currycafebristol.com).
The Bottom Line
As Adam explained: "Number Thirty Eight is to your traditional B&B what the gastropub is to the old spit-and-sawdust local." There's an understated but chic vibe to the place. From the original David Hockney hung in the downstairs loo, a trying-without-trying sense of sleek style runs up the stately staircase, through the muted greys, duns and umbers of the wood-panelled bedrooms, and back down to the Anthony Frost canvas in the breakfast room.
Number Thirty Eight, Upper Belgrave Road, Clifton, Bristol, BS8 2XN (0117-946 6905; number38clifton.co.uk). Doubles from £100, suites from £135, B&B.