Of all the guesthouses in all the world, the second best one you could ever stay in is apparently a classic English B&B in Bath – run by a German.
Athole House in Bath is the best bed and breakfast place in Britain, and only beaten to the title of the best in the world by a picturesque venue in Italy, and among the many reasons it is so good are the four different types of home-made bread baked each morning by proprietor Dr Wolfgang Herrlinger.
After morris dancing, queuing, jam and rain, there’s nothing quite as quintessentially English as a classic bed and breakfast, so to have the best in Britain run by a German might raise some eyebrows.
But it was judged the best in Britain by the thousands of people who have stayed there in the 13 years since Dr Herring and his wife Josephine opened up in 2000.
The B&B was named the best in the 2013 Travellers Choice Awards, run by Trip Advisor, the website which is based entirely on the views and reviews of guests.
Athole came fourth in the country back in 2010, and is now the best. “Naturally we are delighted with the award, which confirms we are doing something right,” said Josephine. “I suppose the key is that we are interested in people. Running a B&B can be the best job in the world when you like people – or the worst if you don’t.”
According to Wolfgang, it’s all about being upfront with guests, more than half of which are from overseas. “We try to present a completely honest view of what we offer, so when guests arrive, they know exactly what to expect,” he said. “Our website even includes scale layouts of every room as well as photos. Many B&Bs today seem to put style over substance: we combine the two, and keep our promises.
“We find it particularly satisfying that on an average day about one in five guests are returners,” he added. “It’s great that it is Trip Advisor’s award because that has come from people staying here rather than just one professional reviewer.” They are the most valuable reviews and feedback, but you only need one nasty review. There are many good B&Bs in Bath and we have been very lucky that we only seem to get nice people staying here,” he said.
Housekeeper Chris Martin has been with the Herrlingers since the beginning, and the breakfasts are legend across the world, thanks to Trip Advisor’s reviews.
“We use local and organic produce wherever possible,” said Chris. “We have never used any factory breads, for example. Wolfgang bakes a range of at least four different breads for breakfast. Sausages are made by the local butcher.”
The awards also recognised other hotels and guesthouses in the West – with the Ellenborough Park Hotel in Cheltenham named the best luxury hotel in the UK – and the fifth best in Europe. Apsley House in Bath was ranked the second best luxury hotel in the country, and the seventh best in the world, while the Lynch Country House in Somerton, Somerset, was ranked as the 14th best bargain hotel in the country.
The Byfield Hotel, in Painswick, Gloucestershire, was ranked as the sixth best B&B in Britain, while the Somerset B&B in Ilminster was ranked in the top 20 guesthouses in Europe, and Hawkins of Bath was in the top 25.
Some Athole House reviews
Amazing breakfasts - the Bircher Muesli is incredible. In fact, breakfast was the best I have had anywhere in the world - from the best 5* hotels to other B&Bs@ Tina J, Reading
The Rolls Royce of B&Bs@ Gazz, Canberra, Australia
Wolfgang could open a school for B&B hosts. Josephine quietly creates her breakfast specialities that challenge any gourmet restaurant@ E R Field, Tampa, Florida