I’ve been self-employed for years now, and don’t do the traditional summer holiday with breaks at Easter and Christmas. When you’re your own boss, you work when you need to and when you feel like it, and you can also take time off when you like, which might well be midweek or out of the holiday season.
A and I both work from home, and to stay motivated and productive we find it best to get away on regular short trips. One of our favourite things is to find a good B&B for three nights – two go so fast you barely feel you’ve arrived before it’s time to go home again! We tend not to stay in hotels because so often they are bland and impersonal and much more expensive.
I must admit – modest cough – I’m pretty good at finding the best bed and breakfast, by which I mean a place that’s stylish, comfortable and great value. I’m sometimes asked how I do it and it’s very straightforward – I google it. I just type in the name of the place we want to go with B&B (eg Telford B&B) and then go through the results.
As a blogger I know that Google doesn’t necessarily throw up the best results on the first page (yes, there is more than one page!) and gems can be hidden lower down, so sometimes I have to scan down quite a few pages, but I’ve never failed yet.
What do I look for? I ignore all the big sites like Tripadvisor, the portals that list places but often have no links, the local directories. I look for the websites of individual properties and click through for a quick look at each.
What I want is an up-to-date website with plenty of photos. A friend says there’s no point going to stay somewhere that isn’t nicer than home, and he has a point. It’s interesting to stay in houses of different periods, with different styles of decor, and often we find an idea we can use back home.
I click on the Accommodation or Rooms button first, as if I don’t like those there’s no point going any further. If they are promising, and can provide the combination of bed size, bath or shower we want, I check out the breakfast – I expect to see photographs of a menu made from local produce. Living with an ex-Claridges and Savoy man means sliced white toast and plastic portions of jam isn’t going to cut it!
Then I go to Tariff or Rates. I’m hoping it’s going to cost £70 to £80 a night for the room and breakfast, depending on location, time of year and number of nights we’re staying. Much more than that and you start straying into ‘boutique’ territory, which is wonderful for a treat, but our breaks are times to kick back, read, and go walking.
With luck by now I have a shortlist of the best bed and breakfast places in the area to go through with Mr Claridges-on-a-B&B-budget.
I did this some months ago to make sure we’d have a nice place to stay in Telford in October for my niece’s wedding. I only came up with a choice of two. Partly because we wanted to be fairly near the venue and partly because Telford seems to major in corporate hotels.
The place we chose was The Old Rectory of St James in Stirchley, a quiet area about a mile and a half from the town centre. And I can safely say it was a triumph. It’s a beautiful white Georgian house, immaculate and stylishly decorated, surrounded by mature trees and a large garden in a peaceful no through road.
Adrian and Rosemary Brown, the owners, are friendly and helpful, and have thought of absolutely everything their guests might want, from thick towelling robes to preserve our modesty walking the few steps to our private bathroom, to a carafe of water, and plentiful homemade shortbread with the tea-making kit. Fresh milk is put out on the hall table in the evening so you don’t have to remember to ask if you want to make yourself a cuppa.
Plus on arrival they serve their guests a homemade afternoon tea! We had tea and coffee with scones, jam and cream, fruit cake, and Victoria sponge sandwiched with raspberries and cream.
Speaking of food, there’s an excellent choice for breakfast, from fresh fruit and compote to the usual full English and the Rector’s Breakfast with eggy bread – suggested by their grandson! Everything is made with local Shropshire produce, and Rosemary makes her own bread and jams as well as all that cake.
We stayed in the Jane room, one of their smaller ones, but still spacious, with jaunty blue and white stripes on one wall and with plenty of lamps. The bed was very comfortable, no soft mattress here, made up with crisp white linen. Inside the wardrobe door was a full-length mirror, often omitted from a room, but very welcome getting ready to attend the wedding.
And the free wifi, an essential for us to keep up with emails and social media, was quicker than at home.
All this, for £80 a night.
We didn’t have time to see much of the area, but there’s a huge choice of museums relating the history of the Industrial Revolution at nearby Coalport and Ironbridge, and pretty towns like Bridgnorth and Much Wenlock are just a few miles away.
Telford Town Park is an unexpected find just down the road from The Old Rectory. Inaccurately named, it doesn’t have the neat flowerbeds and footpaths you might expect, but industrial ruins, huge pools, and an expanse of green where you meet few other people.
Just a shame we may not be back in the area very soon as The Old Rectory is one of the best bed and breakfast places I’ve ever found. Which is why I’m very happy to recommend it here, and no, just to be absolutely clear, we haven’t been paid to do so!
We’d happily return many times. And even extend our budget to stay in the larger en-suite rooms 🙂