Quirky B&Bs: 8 unique bed and breakfasts in Kent
PUBLISHED: 14:02 19 February 2016 | UPDATED: 14:07 19 February 2016
Manu Palomeque 07977074797
A new breed of boutique accommodation is inviting us to escape to somewhere homely, luxurious and individual. If you're expecting lace doilies and a queue for the bathroom, you're in for a surprise
Opened last year, stylish, sophisticated Shepherd House in Faversham is an elegant Georgian townhouse in the heart of town. With three large en-suite rooms up and running and an emphasis on what owners Clare Weston and her husband Simon describe as an ‘anti-hotel experience,’ it’s a relaxed, comfortable place to unwind. Clare and Simon bought the property in 2013, held their wedding there in 2014 and then spent a year renovating it to offer what will be four floors for guests to enjoy. With its individually styled rooms, designer bathrooms, late check-out and breakfast or brunch served at your leisure (complementary Bloody Marys and Mimosas, no less), it is sheer indulgence. Clare says: “We discovered Faversham by chance and fell in love with the place. What struck us was the lack of quality accommodation, in keeping with what we were used to in London. We found Shepherd House and decided to go for it, opening in September last year.” If the luxurious bedrooms weren’t enough, Shepherd House also boasts a huge lounge and dining room for guests to enjoy, with a roaring log burner in winter, a selection of whiskies to help yourself to, and the Sunday papers. The dining room leads onto a patio and a secluded walled garden for the summer months.
Shepherd House, 56 Preston Street, Faversham ME13 8PG. 01795 538835.
The 12th-century Thurnham Castle, near Maidstone, may be in ruins but Thurnham Keep, the Arts and Crafts country house built on its estate in 1910, has been lovingly maintained by owner Amanda Lane and her family. Bought by her father in the 1970s, Amanda spent her youth at the house before moving away to have a family of her own. Eventually, however, it called her back and having spent a few years refurbishing the house, a very interesting business plan dawned on her. Amanda says: “Friends first suggested I do B&B as I had renovated the house and our two eldest children were going away to university. They thought I would get bored and knew how much I always enjoyed having friends to stay. “My husband agreed but said to give it up the moment I didn’t enjoy it anymore; 11 years later and I still do. “It was a wonderful place to grow up in and nothing much has changed locally, being in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The grounds are fantastic, laid out in Edwardian times, and are complete with a tennis court, croquet lawn and a swimming pool. “We get some wonderful reviews and at least 50 per cent of our guests are returning ones, even from America and beyond. It makes all the hard work worthwhile.” Each of the three, spacious rooms is individually furnished and enjoy amazing views across the lawns and countryside beyond. The large en-suite bathrooms boast huge baths, two having their original Edwardian porcelain tubs big enough for two and ideal for a soak after a walk along the Downs or a game of tennis.
Thurnham Keep, Castle Hill, Thurnham, Maidstone ME14 3LE. 01622 734149.
Godwin House, the oldest oast house in England, graced the cover of Kent Life’s September cover last year. A 16th-century agricultural building, set right in the heart of the Weald, it still operated until 1923. It’s one of the outbuildings to a larger Elizabethan farmhouse owned by Seán Holden and his wife Corinna, who bought it in 2005 and have done a great deal of research on the property. Dating back to the 1500s, the old oast house was in a state of disrepair when they bought it, and was being used as a car port with one of the walls cut out. Seán says: “We decided to renovate what we knew then to be the oldest oast house in England and we replaced the wall, adding the door and replacing the missing lath and lime and horsehair plaster interiors. “We have put in oak flooring and revived the whole building. It served as hobby rooms and an office until 2011, when we started our B&B business, and we added a bathroom and turned the former cooling room into a bedroom. “We’ve designed the interior to be enfolding and welcoming, with Persian carpets on the walls in a Mughal style and with medieval art and Roman-style paintings to rhyme with the antiquity. “The usual reaction of guests is astonishment when they come in through the low door. When they come to sleep in the oast house and to have breakfast in the main house, with its great inglenook fireplace, they do have a sense of getting right into the long story of Kent and its countryside and people.”
Godwin House, Tenterden Road, Cranbrook TN17 3PA. 01580 714880.
If it’s getting off the beaten track that you’re after, then luxury farmhouse B&B Alkham Court is the place for you. Set in the heart of the beautiful Alkham Valley, near Dover, it offers award-winning accommodation with far-reaching views over the Kent Downs. The pretty farmhouse is popular with walkers, with a network of footpaths nearby, and owner Wendy Burrows is always on hand to lend you a map or even to prepare a picnic for you. Locally sourced food is high on the agenda and the B&B is famed for its farmhouse breakfasts served in a breakfast room with simply unbeatable views. It also boasts a hot tub and sauna for guests to use. There is also much to explore nearby. A day spent at Dover Castle or shopping and dining in Folkestone is a great way to earn yourself that evening soak in the hot tub. Robes, slippers and towels are all provided. Wendy says: “We think the combination of great hospitality, our luxury bedrooms, delicious farmhouse breakfasts, countryside views and a complimentary hot tub and sauna truly makes Alkham Court a five-star experience.” Wendy and her husband Neil are launching a luxury glamping experience this summer. A fully resorted Victorian shepherd’s hut will offer guests a closer to nature experience with the benefit of all the B&B’s luxuries.
Alkham Court, Meggett Lane, South Alkham, nr Dover CT15 7DG. 01303 892056.
Number 7 Longport
Just outside Canterbury’s historic city gates is a Georgian townhouse with a secret. If you go to stay at Number 7 Longport, you will be led through the beautiful home of owners Ursula and Christopher Wacher and out into their pretty courtyard garden, where you will find your very own 15th-century cottage. Traditionally, many city centre homes in Canterbury had what they called a ‘backhouse’, where much of the household work was carried out. Without losing the character of the ancient little building, the boutique-style accommodation comprises a cosy ground floor sitting room with a log burner, a stylish wet room and, up a steep flight of stairs, a large bedroom. The award-winning breakfasts are served in the main house, or in the courtyard on sunny days, with produce sourced from local suppliers and from the couple’s own allotment. They even have an in-house chef available to cater for special events. Ursula says: “10 years ago we decided to move from our previous home outside Canterbury into the city centre. “The Georgian townhouse we found had a charming 15th-century cottage in the courtyard which we decided to renovate to accommodate occasional visits for our family, and the B&B was born. “From there, things just grew and we now also have two three-bedroom holiday cottages nearby as well. Long ago I trained as a lawyer and never imagined I would end up running a B&B, but I love it – particularly the interesting conversations over a leisurely breakfast with people I would otherwise never have a chance to meet.”
7, Longport, Canterbury CT1 1PE. 01227 455367.
The Astor Wing and The Anne Boleyn Wing, Hever Castle
You might be surprised to hear that Hever Castle now offers 28 luxury bedrooms. The accommodation is neatly housed in the two Edwardian wings that William Waldorf Astor had designed to blend in with the Tudor castle, the Astor Wing and the Anne Boleyn Wing. Nine of the rooms in the Anne Boleyn Wing were only opened last year and all bedrooms are en-suite and individually styled, some offering four- poster beds, roll-top baths or walk-in showers. With a fine panelled lounge and billiards room in the Astor Wing, and a pretty breakfast room in the Anne Boleyn Wing, both have been awarded a prestigious VisitEngland Five Star Gold award. Guests also benefit from a pass to visit the 13th-century castle and have free access to much of the award-winning gardens, lake and parkland during times when they are closed to the public. Coming soon is an outdoor courtyard for guests to relax in, with seating and seasonal planting. Sales manager Kate Rowbottom, says: “We have built up a steady flow of returning guests who delight in experiencing a different stay each visit, given the uniqueness of every bedroom. There is also much excitement with regards to the outdoor courtyard currently in the planning process”
Hever Castle, Hever, Edenbridge TN8 7NG. 01732 861800.
The Reading Rooms
The Reading Rooms is a luxurious boutique B&B in a restored Georgian townhouse in Margate. Having starred in an episode of Ruth Watson’s Hotel Rescue in 2009, which saw owners Louise Oldfield and Liam Nabb struggle to launch their high-end B&B during the recession, it has gained a reputation as one of the finest places to stay in Kent. Where else can you have a whole floor to yourself and breakfast served in your bedroom? The house has three expansive guest rooms, each encompassing a floor of the house, with huge beds, en-suite bathrooms bigger than most double bedrooms and a table and chairs arranged by the window for breakfast. Less than five minutes’ walk to the sea and to the historic Old Town cultural quarter, it’s popular with people visiting the fashionable Kent resort from London. Louise says: “We ended up with it by accident really. We bought it as a second property because we saw it on the market and we kind of wanted to save it. We thought we would probably do a restoration on it and sell it, but then the crash happened. “By then we’d lived in Margate a couple of years and we looked around and thought what was needed here was more quality guest beds. What Ruth Watson gave us was the confidence to do something completely niche and be a destination B&B ourselves. “We find that our guests want a break away from normal life; a real treat. They’re interested in the really good food and unique shopping in Margate but also they come because they’re interested in the building itself. We carried out the restoration ourselves and designed the interior. We’ve peeled back the layers to show the history of the house and we get a lot of guests who are also renovating old properties and are fascinated by the work we’ve done.”
The Reading Rooms, 31 Hawley Square, Margate CT9 1PH. 01843 225166.
Stable Courtyard, Leeds Castle
There are few B&Bs that can boast of being set in 500 acres of parkland, but Stable Courtyard just happens to be part of the Leeds Castle estate. Comprising five buildings, once stables and Victorian servants’ quarters, and arranged around a central courtyard, it is no surprise that the accommodation offers complimentary entry to the castle and its magnificent grounds. Popular with history buffs and a perfect spot for a romantic night away, the guest rooms are only a 15-minute stroll from the castle itself. Debbie Matthews, the head of hospitality at Leeds Castle, says: “Opening the Stable Courtyard for bed and breakfast guests was one of my first tasks when I joined Leeds Castle five years ago. I never tire of the delight and amazement of guests when they see where they are staying for the first time. Having the estate to themselves once the day visitors have left makes it a magical experience. “Peace and tranquillity are often words used on our feedback forms, however the element that is most frequently commented on is our staff. “As residential guests are around early morning, when many of our staff are starting their day, they get the chance to ask questions and learn more about the estate, which is a personal touch our guests love.” The bedrooms differ in size and layout with views of the parkland, lake and castle island. The 17th-century Fairfax Hall, a Kentish timber-framed barn also adjacent to the courtyard, is where breakfast and dinner is served and it enjoys stunning views of the castle across the moat.
Stable Courtyard, Leeds Castle, Broomfield Road, Leeds, nr Maidstone ME17 1PL. 01622 767823.