Top 10 B&Bs by the sea
Aren't seaside guesthouses the stuff of naughty postcards? Not these fine examples, they chucked out the chintz long ago. Ian McCurrach picks the best from Antrim to Cornwall
Sunday 25 March 2007
1. Blackpool gets the wow factor
When you open the whizz-bang website of Number One Blackpool it looks like a flash five-star hotel. Except it's not. It's a three-room deluxe b&b, complete with contemporary furniture in muted tones, 42in plasma-screen TVs, DVD recorders, Sony PlayStations, bathrooms with LCD TVs, remote lighting systems - the whole upmarket shebang. This wow factor comes courtesy of hosts Mark and Claire Smith who wanted to challenge the perception that b&bs, especially in Blackpool, resemble the set of Rising Damp. And Number One has been shortlisted for Best B&B in England in the Enjoy England Awards for Excellence 2007. Sybaritic night-time snoozing is aided by Siberian goose-down pillows and king-sized beds with Egyptian bed linen. It's set two blocks back from Blackpool's South Shore, on a quiet street, and the clientele tends to be people on business looking for a more personal stay or couples seeking a romantic bolthole.
The location: In years gone by Blackpool was synonymous with Doddy, his Diddymen, donkeys and doughnuts. Today this former seaside special is trying hard to reinvent itself as a stylish resort. But can there really be enough here to keep coolhunters happy? The local tourist board is doing its darnedest to have us believe there is, with highlights including the Great Promenade Show, displaying 10 pieces of cutting-edge public art, including the first public work by Sir Peter Blake, entitled Life as a Circus.
Details: Number One, St Lukes Road, South Shore, Blackpool, Lancashire FY4 2EL (01253 343901; numberone blackpool.com).
2. A little piece of Padstow history
Mother Ivey Cottage, an isolated slate-built property a stone's throw from the Atlantic, was converted in the early 1920s from a working pilchard cellar. Hosts Antony and Phyllida Woosnam-Mills cherish the place - well, it has been in the family since the 1940s. The Cornish coastal footpath runs directly behind the property and a semi-private beach can be accessed from the house. The two twin bedrooms have dramatic sea views and the decor is simple and traditional. Guests tend to be walkers, families looking for seaside action or those who simply want some peace and quiet.
The location: Fish lovers head for Rick Stein at Padstow, less than 10 minutes away. If you want to flash it with the sailing set, take the ferry from Padstow to Rock. Or, for surfing, Constantine Bay and Boobies Bay are within walking distance.
Details: Mother Ivey Cottage, Trevose Head, Padstow, Cornwall, PL28 8SL (01841 520329; antony @trevosehead.co.uk).
3. Georgian style in Scotland
The three light and airy rooms at Glebe House, Gwen and Jake Scott's imposing former manse in North Berwick, have original Georgian period features such as fireplaces and picture windows. This 1780s property has one double bedroom with a fine sea view, one twin, which overlooks the secluded garden, and a master bedroom with a four-poster bed. The sea is only a two-minute walk and the whole of historic North Berwick is right on the doorstep.
The location: This is golfing nirvana. There are 18 courses within a short driving distance and the beaches along this stretch of coast are some of the best in Britain. In either direction you can walk for miles on yellow-sand beaches such as Dirleton and Gullane. A regular train service puts Edinburgh only 30 minutes away.
Details: Glebe House, Law Road, North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland EH39 4PL (01620 892608; glebehouse-nb.co.uk).
4. Spiritual healing in Anglesey
Cleifiog means house of healing in Welsh and this Grade II-listed property began life as a hospice for monks; see the painted Latin inscription over the front door which reads "peace to those that enter, health to those that leave". Sounds like a pretty good selling point, but if that doesn't do the trick then host Liz Bradley claims to welcome large numbers of returning guests who come from as far afield as London in search of big-chill weekends by the sea. The station at Bangor is a handy five-minute cab ride away for weekenders. There are three traditionally decorated rooms, all with antiques, (one double, and two which can be double or twin) with panoramic views of the sea or Snowdonia. Rooms are always full of flowers, and Floris toiletries in the bathrooms add a classy touch.
The location: The coastal walking here is some of the best in Wales and in summer there are plenty of swimming, sailing, fishing, windsurfing and snorkelling opportunities. Beaumaris is frequently referred to as a bijou little town, full of good restaurants, and Ye Olde Bulls Head hostelry is highly recommended in The Good Pub Guide.
Details: Cleifiog, Townsend, Beaumaris, Anglesey, Wales LL58 8BH (01248 811507; cleifiogbandb.co.uk).
5. Breath of fresh air in Suffolk
Ocean House is set right on the seafront at Aldeburgh, which is famous for its picturesque landscape of little fishing boats hauled up on to the shingle beach. There are two rooms here, both with uninterrupted sea views, offered by Phil and Juliet Brereton, who have run Ocean House for the past 15 years. The look is predominantly Victorian, with comfortable beds, Egyptian cotton linen and the sort of comfort you'd find in your own home. Guests come from far and wide to savour the fresh seaside Suffolk air.
The location: The Suffolk coastal path passes by the house. Twitchers have a field day at nearby Minsmere. Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears both lived on the outskirts of the town and the concerts at nearby Snape Maltings are a major attraction.
Details: Ocean House, 25 Crag Path, Aldeburgh, Suffolk IP15 5BS (01728 452094; jbreroh @aol.com).
6. Adults only in Sussex
Hosts Marilyn and Robert Craine claim that Baron's Hall, the Normandy-style thatched cottage annexed to their pretty Grade II-listed Georgian house, is strictly for grown-ups and is infinitely suitable as a lovers' hideaway. Guests have their own entrance and large walled private garden for added seclusion and rural Climping Beach with its sand dunes is just a short walk along the lane. The style of the cottage is traditional: open-plan bedroom-cum-sitting area, brass bed, crisp white linen, comfortable armchairs and an open stove. The property is surrounded by fields and there are uninterrupted views across farmland.
The location: One of the big draws is the nearby Black Horse, a pub/ restaurant which serves upmarket fare. Torches are supplied for walking back along the lane on winter nights. The nearby harbour of Littlehampton is close by, with its wide beach, and for culture lovers a cinema and theatre. River trips to historic Arundel are on offer, and Chichester, with its cathedral and Festival Theatre, is 30 minutes away by car.
Cost: £95. Two-night minimum stay.
Details: Baron's Hall, Climping Street, Climping, West Sussex BN17 5RQ (01903 713314; baronshall.co.uk).
7. On the riverbank in Devon
Each public room and the four bedrooms in Nonsuch House, an Edwardian villa, has spectacular views out to sea and over the busy river Dart to Dartmouth. A two-year refurbishment has introduced furnishings that are colourful, comfortable and modern. Yet traditional values have not been lost. Hosts Penny and Kit Noble cosset guests and believe pampering is paramount. Kit is head chef and produces modern English fare using local and, where possible, organic produce. Breakfasts have won AA awards in the past. The guest make-up includes professional townies and those searching for a peaceful retreat on the South Devon coast.
The location: Blackpool Sands, Slapton Sands and other beaches accessible only by boat are a short distance away. Bigbury and Salcombe (think Fulham-by-the-Sea) are a drive away. And just a two-mile walk will take you to Agatha Christie's former home, Greenway, and Coleton Fishacre, once home to the D'Oyly Carte family - both owned by the National Trust.
Details: Nonsuch House, Church Hill, Kingswear, Devon, TQ6 0BX (01803 752829; nonsuch-house.co.uk).
8. A sea breeze in Northern Ireland
Whitepark House, a well-established b&b, sits on the prettiest part of the North Antrim coast, above Whitepark Bay between the Giant's Causeway and the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge. It's currently being refurbished but is about to reopen and is now taking bookings for Easter and beyond. Dating back to the early 18th century, this historic house has three rooms (one twin and two doubles) two of which have sea views. The furniture includes a four-poster and a six-foot, leather sleigh bed. Added to the mix are artwork and wooden carvings gathered by hosts Bob and Siobhan Isles during their jaunts overseas. Bathrooms feature separate baths and power showers and there is a full-length conservatory where Bob, who is still the only male to have won the AA's Landlady of the Year award, serves homemade tea and biscuits on arrival.
The location: Whitepark Bay beach is a 10-minute walk and offers views over the sea to Scotland. The Royal Portrush Golf Club is one of numerous links and courses nearby. Other highlights include the famous Old Bushmills Distillery, Dunluce Castle and the Glens of Antrim.
Details: Whitepark House, Whitepark Bay, County Antrim BT54 6NH (028 2073 1482; whiteparkhouse.com).
Further information: enjoyengland.com, visitwales.co.uk, visitscotland.com, discovernorthern ireland.com. Prices are per room per night and are based on double occupancy. They include full cooked breakfast and are subject to availability
9. The best modern living
In a world of flowery wallpaper, stylish, contemporary Church House comes as a breath of fresh air. Situated in Kewstoke village, next to a Norman church, it's only two miles from the centre of Weston-super-Mare. The house is mainly Georgian with Norman origins. Cost: £75 per room per night including cooked breakfast. Church House, 27 Kewstoke Road, Kewstoke, Weston-super-Mare BS22 9YD (01934 633185; churchhousekewstoke.co.uk).
10. The best elegant lodgings
Stroll away from Scarborough's South Bay and its elegant Esplanade and within minutes you will be atCrown House, a fine Grade II-listed Victorian townhouse. Guests enjoy full use of the house, so are free to wind down with a good book or watch films when the weather isn't at its best. Cost: £70 per room per night including cooked breakfast. Crown House, 6 Crown Terrace, Scarborough YO11 2BL (01723 375401; crownhousescarborough.co.uk).
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