The Good Hotel Guide has revealed its annual list of 12 César winners and the Midlands is celebrating two major wins with The Falcon at Castle Ashby securing the Best Hotel in the region gong and The Double Red Duke in Clanfield taking home the Best Pub with Rooms award. In addition, properties in the region feature heavily in the Editor’s Choice lists, including Lake Isle in Uppingham in the Hotels on a Budget category and Hartwell House in Aylesbury making the top Spa properties set.
This year, award winners include a hotel run by aristocracy with a well-being focus, a former motorway service station on the M6, a Grade I listed townhouse where the in-room coffee maker can be found in a doll’s house, a revamped 11th-century Cotswold stone inn, a 1950s Scottish youth hostel with loch views that is now a stunning hotel, and Michelin-starred properties in the heart of the British countryside with bird-watching and red squirrel spotting opportunities on the door step.
Best country hotel
Forest Side, Grasmere, Cumbria
Michelin-starred cuisine (with 90 per cent of the produce sourced from a ten-mile radius), elegant bedrooms and red squirrels in the garden are the successful recipe for this 20-room hotel.
Best city hotel
No.15 by GuestHouse, Bath, Somerset
This boutique property occupies a trio of Grade I listed town houses in a Georgian terrace that are home to eclectic rooms with a touch of whimsy such as a coffee maker in a doll’s house.
Cambridge House, Reeth, Yorkshire
A warm welcome with cake, sweeping views over Swaledale and local advice on the best walks and good places for dinner from owners Sheila and Robert Mitchell set this B&B apart.
Best pub with rooms
The Double Red Duke, Clanfield, Oxfordshire
Georgie and Sam Pearman’s 17th-century Cotswold stone inn comes with a country-chic air in its carefully designed rooms, with luxurious fabrics, hand-blocked wallpaper and wooden furniture.
Best Hotel South
The Pig in the Forest, Brockenhurst, Hampshire
This was the first of a new breed of hotels opened by Robin Hutson in 2011 and it’s still the best, having reinvented the English country hotel with a hip not hooray atmosphere.
Best Hotel South West
The Henley, Bigbury-on-Sea, Devon
Renowned for its friendliness, the nightly-changing evening meals by co-owner Martyn Scarterfield are best enjoyed in the garden room with its spectacular views over the sands to Burgh Island.
Best Hotel East Anglia
Morston Hall, Holt, Norfolk
Birdwatchers and bon vivants alike beat a path to Tracy and Galton Blackiston’s friendly and relaxed Michelin-starred restaurant-with-rooms in a flint farmhouse, right on Blakeney nature reserve’s doorstep.
Best Hotel Midlands
The Falcon, Castle Ashby, Northamptonshire
Lord Northampton (aka the Mystic Marquess) and his wife Tracy have placed well-being right at the core of their reinvented 16th-century coaching inn on the Castle Ashby estate.
Best Hotel North
Westmorland Hotel, Penrith. Cumbria
Formerly Tebay Services Hotel, this Lake District hotel on the M6 offers quiet rooms with fell views, unfussy but tasty Cumbrian food, excellent value for money and what readers describe as a feeling of ‘peace and well-being’.
Best Hotel Scotland
Eddrachilles, Scourie, Highland
A youth hostel in the 1950s, the rooms of this magical place on the water overlooking Badcall Bay have had a major refurb while many readers report that the nightly changing menu of food and breakfast is delicious.
Best Hotel Wales
Penally Abbey, Tenby, Pembrokeshire
Owner and interior designer Melanie Boissevain has created stylish, relaxing rooms filled with antiques, French market finds, blowsy wallpapers and Persian rugs in this Strawberry Hill Gothic house on the coast a five-minute drive from Tenby.
Best Hotel Ireland
The Mustard Seed at Echo Lodge, Ballingarry, County Limerick
Warm Irish hospitality and superb food are on offer at this Victorian country mansion, where the restaurant is a destination in its own right, thanks to Angel Pirev who uses produce from the kitchen garden and orchard.
Robin Hutson, Chairman of The Pig Hotels, commented: “We are all completely thrilled to be given the prestigious César Award for Best Hotel in the South. This is a real lift for our loyal team who have worked so tirelessly and with good humour during these turbulent past few years. The hotel and restaurant business has always been more akin to a 'marathon' than a 'sprint', so to still be winning an award like this after 11 years since we opened this first Pig is especially gratifying. Thank you Good Hotel Guide”.
The Good Hotel Guide (GHG) also awards Editor’s Choice certificates to properties, selected by the GHG’s editorial team based on reports from readers, in the following categories*: Seaside, Hotels with a View, Restaurants with Rooms, Foodie, Historic, Family, Romantic, Weddings, Eco, Fishing, Golf, Cities/Towns, Spa, Quirky, B&Bs, Best Hotels on a Budget, Dog-Friendly, Country House, Walking, Gardens and Pubs with Rooms.
Some of this year’s recipients are:
- Old Bank Hotel in the Hotels with a View category, as this former banking hall has rooms looking out over Oxford’s dreaming spires and Merton College.
- Ballymaloe House (one of only four properties that has appeared in every edition of the Guide since its inception) in Ireland’s Shanagarry, is a Foodie haven, thanks to its passion for locally sourced food, its cookery school and café.
- The Yan, a family-run contemporary hotel and bistro at Broadrayne in the Lake District, has impressive Eco credentials, with biomass and hydro schemes, EV charging and LED lighting, while produce is home-grown or locally sourced.
- Hazlitt’s in the Cities/Towns list is a relic of Georgian London in the heart of Soho that is a quirky but commodious jewel of a boutique hotel filled with antiques and artworks.
- Helen Browning’s Royal Oak in Bishopstone, Wiltshire, a pub with rooms set on a 1,500-acre organic farm where B&B doubles start from just £99 placing it firmly in the Budget list.
- The Felin Fach Griffin in Brecon in Wales, which is super Dog-Friendly; four-legged guests are allowed in bedrooms, bar and Tack Room, and get their own bowls, towels and biscuits, without (currently) any charge.
Established in 1978, the Good Hotel Guide is the only truly independent UK hotel guide – hotels cannot buy their entry into the print edition and neither the editors nor the inspectors accept free hospitality on their anonymous visits to hotels. Now owned by Richard Fraiman, who has been CEO since 2014, the editorial team is headed up by the former travel editor and assistant travel editor of The Times, Jane Knight and Kate Quill, respectively.
The Good Hotel Guide features 650 hotels, inns, B&Bs and guesthouses, with 414 main entries and 44 new entries (these being a combination of new properties and new entries to the Guide).
Readers play a crucial role by reporting on existing entries as well as recommending new discoveries. Unlike reader-review websites, which are open to abuse from unscrupulous hoteliers and guests with a grudge, these reports are carefully filtered. ‘Word of mouth in print’ is a good way of describing how the Good Hotel Guide works. Whenever a review of a hotel or B&B is received, the author’s name, address and other details are carefully recorded.