Melanie Grandidge May 4 2023

At Absolute Escapes, we’ve been arranging award-winning holidays in the UK & Ireland since 2004 and we love the personal touch that a Bed & Breakfast (B&B) or Guest House provides.

We are proud to work with a range of accommodation hosts, many of which we have developed a fantastic relationship with over many years. Our team of Travel Specialists will only book you into accommodation which meets our exacting standards, and we believe that an outstanding B&B or Guest House can make all the difference to your holiday experience.

Read on to learn what to expect when staying at a B&B establishment in the UK & Ireland, and much more.


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What is a Bed & Breakfast?

Often abbreviated to B&B (or BnB), a Bed & Breakfast is a type of accommodation in a private home. There is usually a small number of rooms and breakfast is served each morning to guests.

It is estimated that there are around 25,000 B&Bs in Britain and over 700 in Ireland. They traditionally take the form of a large family home with anything between 1 and 4 private bedrooms. The hosts often live on-site which makes it feel like you’re staying in a home away from home.


Why should I stay in a B&B?

If you’re looking to interact with locals and experience hospitality on a personal level, then a B&B might be the perfect place for you. For us, nothing makes the experience more special than the hosts themselves.

As most B&B hosts live on-site, guests are warmly welcomed and made to feel right at home. With only a small number of bedrooms, hosts can get to know their guests and carefully cater to any special requirements.

With an unrivalled knowledge of their local area, a good B&B host loves to share their local knowledge because they genuinely want you to have a fantastic experience while staying with them.


When did the term B&B originate?

The concept of B&Bs has been around for centuries. Monasteries often opened their doors to travellers to provide them with a place to stay. Prior to the 20th century, it was an informal arrangement for travellers to spend the night at a private house of a person of similar social/professional standing.

The abbreviation of Bed & Breakfast to B&B became popular in Britain when it was used on vacancy signs to make it clearer to see from the road. 

After the Second World War, there was an influx of travellers to Britain from around the world who needed a place to stay. Local residents would open their homes to visitors and provide a comfortable bed and home-cooked breakfast, and official B&Bs were born.


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What is the difference between a Hotel and a B&B?

The most obvious difference is the size. Hotels can have anything from 10 to 500 rooms, depending on the hotel. A B&B, on the other hand, usually has no more than 4 rooms.

We would recommend a B&B over a hotel to anyone who is looking to experience local hospitality in a homely atmosphere. You can enjoy a delicious homemade breakfast, chat with other guests if you wish, and get to know the hosts who are local residents and know the area like the back of their hand.

It is important to understand that a B&B will not have the 24-hour concierge, room service, bar, spa, gym and pool that hotels often have. However, if you plan to spend your days sightseeing or walking then you don’t need those added extras anyway!

For walking holidays, we often recommend staying in B&Bs over a hotel. Take our Senior Travel Specialist Daisy’s experience at Vallum Lodge on the Hadrian’s Wall Path as an example. There were several personal touches at Vallum Lodge including:

  • Location – There are few hotels located close to the trail, whereas Vallum Lodge is located just half a mile south of the most scenic part of Hadrian’s Wall.
  • Host – Samantha has been a long-distance walker for years so she knows what she’s doing. Their website says “I am addicted to long-distance walking and I have shamelessly stolen all the best elements of walker-friendly accommodation and incorporated them into the Vallum Lodge experience. I have had the privilege of working all over the world before settling in this piece of paradise.” It’s very rare to find that kind of passion from hotel staff at larger establishments.
  • Little touches for walkers – There is a foot spa and slippers in every room and each room has a hanging space in the entrance hall for poles/wet coats/boots. Samantha even provides a laundry service for guests.
  • Packed lunches – Vallum Lodge provides a help-yourself tuck shop where you can take as much or as little as you want. Daisy was so grateful for this!
  • Guest lounge for walkers – A cosy space full of maps, guidebooks, jigsaw puzzles, and an honesty bar.


What is the difference between a Guest House and a B&B?

The honest answer is very little! They’re effectively synonyms. The terms B&B and Guest House are often used interchangeably and the two are often confused. 

Generally speaking, B&Bs are usually slightly smaller than Guest Houses. A B&B usually has between 1 and 4 guest bedrooms, whereas a guest house can have anywhere from 4 to 16 rooms. 

Guest Houses are occasionally in buildings purpose-built as accommodation, while B&Bs are almost always hosted in somebody’s family home. Because of this, you’re more likely to get a home-away-from-home feel in a B&B, but it depends on the scale of the accommodation and how individual hosts run it.

In a B&B, there isn’t usually a formal reception area or restaurant, but there is always a dining area for breakfast. B&Bs are usually run by the owners themselves, whereas Guest Houses often employ a small team of staff. This allows Guest Houses to cater to more guests and potentially run a small restaurant or licensed bar.


What should I expect while staying at a B&B?

The amenities provided by B&Bs can vary but in most cases, you can expect complimentary tea and coffee, a hairdryer, a TV, fresh towels, and basic toiletries like shampoo and soap.

A good B&B is all about the personal touches. You should receive a genuinely warm welcome, local recommendations, and individually-decorated rooms. Some hosts will even provide tea and cake upon arrival or homemade bread.

It’s a common misconception about B&Bs that you are thrown together with other guests and forced to socialise. However, a good B&B does not make the guest any more social than they want to be.


What will I get for breakfast?

A fully cooked breakfast is included in the price of your accommodation. This will usually include bacon, sausages, eggs, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms and toast, as well as a beverage such as coffee or tea. However, every establishment has its own signature style and regional variants, so you might find yourself sampling the local haggis or homemade black pudding, enjoying a fresh fruit buffet, or tucking into a Welsh laverbread.

Many establishments will also offer an alternative to the full cooked breakfast, such as porridge or smoked salmon with scrambled eggs.

With regards to gluten-free food or other intolerances, all of our accommodation providers offer gluten-free breakfasts or suitable alternatives if requested in advance.


Can I get free Wi-Fi at a B&B?

Most accommodations will have free Wi-Fi available to guests. In remote locations, the internet connection can be very slow, so patience may be required. If Wi-Fi is unavailable, most hosts will allow you to connect via their own broadband line.


What size are the beds in a B&B?

Most establishments in the UK will have a double bed as standard (75” x 54”), which is equivalent to a double bed in North America. 

However, you may find that the UK and North America have slightly different measurements in regard to larger bed sizes. A king-sized double bed in the UK is only regarded as a queen-sized bed in North America, whereas a UK super-king would be the equivalent of a North American king-sized bed.

A ‘twin room’ in the UK consists of two separate single beds in the same bedroom (i.e. 2 x beds for 2 x people). This is not to be confused with a ‘twin bed’ in North America which is 1 x bed for 1 person.


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Are there laundry facilities at a B&B?

There normally won’t be guest laundry facilities available at a B&B or Guest House. However, the owners are usually happy to do a small load of washing for you should you require it, for which there is likely to be a small charge. 

If your accommodation is unable to offer any laundry services, your hosts will be able to advise you where the closest laundromat is.


Will my B&B have adaptors for electrical sockets?

Electrical plugs in the UK have three rectangular pins, so if you are visiting from abroad you will need to bring an adaptor in order to use any electrical equipment you bring with you. 

Adaptors usually won’t be available at your B&B, however, it’s usually possible to buy an international adapter in your own country before you depart. Alternatively, you can purchase these at the airport.


Will we have our own en-suite bathroom in a B&B?

You will almost always have a bedroom with en-suite facilities. This will include a toilet, sink and bath and/or shower. 

Of the thousands of B&Bs and guest houses we work with, only a handful have shared bathroom facilities, and we indicate these rare exceptions when you book.

The exception to this is our Budget long-distance walking trail packages, where you may have a shared bathroom at some accommodation during your walk.


Can I spend the whole day in my room in a B&B?

If you need a rest day during your holiday, you could stay in your room during the day as long as you give your hosts proper notice. It’s best to discuss this with one of our Travel Specialists at the time of booking so that we can let the hosts know.

Additionally, many B&Bs and guest houses have a communal area or living room which you could use to relax. Alternatively, you could ask your hosts for recommendations for the best places to relax in the area.

The hours in the middle of the day are vital for hosts to complete all of the required tasks to keep guests feeling comfortable or fulfil any other job or family-related commitments.


What time can I check in?

The check-in time is usually from mid-afternoon (15.00) onwards, and your room may not be ready before this time.

If you are arriving outside standard check-in times, we recommend checking in advance with your accommodation providers directly to confirm they are available. Please ensure that you check in by 19.00, or phone ahead to let your hosts know you will be late.


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Which B&Bs do you recommend? What are some of your favourites?

We know that an outstanding place to stay makes all the difference to a holiday, and that’s why all of the accommodation we select is hand-picked using our first-hand knowledge of the best places to stay. 

We regularly send our team on research trips so all of our recommendations are tried and tested. Here are some of our favourite B&Bs that we regularly book for clients:

  • Craik Na Dav B&B, Invermoriston, Scottish Highlands
    If a genuinely warm welcome and whisky upon arrival is your idea of heaven, you’ll love Craik Na Dav B&B. Sisters Lyndsey and Manda provide warm hospitality in a professional manner. Its location by the Great Glen Way makes it one of our most convenient choices for our clients walking this famous trail through the Scottish Highlands. Situated in front of lush woodland, Craik Na Dav is a great choice for nature lovers who may be lucky enough to spot red squirrels and a variety of birds in the garden.
  • Rosebank House B&B, Strathyre, Scottish Highlands
    Our Operations Manager, Katia, stayed here whilst researching the Rob Roy Way. Sharon and Davide really look after their guests, providing spacious rooms and 3-course evening meals for walkers. They even make their own jam and homemade bread for guests!
  • Roraima House B&B, Staithes, Yorkshire
    Our Senior Travel Specialist, Sine, stayed here whilst researching the Cleveland Way. Her hosts, Jane and John, were very knowledgeable and welcoming. The rooms were very spacious, the breakfast was excellent, and walkers are very welcome here. Sine’s favourite aspect was the fresh homemade banana bread and tea on arrival.
  • The Dower House in Newtonmore, Scottish Highlands
    Set in a beautiful old country house on lovely grounds, the Dower House is a delightful place to stay when walking the East Highland Way. Hosts Eric and Lynda are incredibly knowledgeable about the local area and the best walks nearby. There is a cosy lounge with a log-burning stove and Eric & Lynda also offer exceptional evening meals.
  • Vallum Lodge, Once Brewed, Northumberland
    When our Senior Travel Specialist, Daisy walked the Hadrian’s Wall Path last year, she found Vallum Lodge to be the epitome of why we recommend choosing B&Bs on a walking trail. Through all the personal touches, you can see how the host, Samantha, has really put a lot of effort into making her B&B the perfect rest stop for walkers.


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Which Guest Houses do you recommend?

  • Allt-na-Leven in Kinlochleven, Scottish Highlands
    Perennially one of our client’s favourite places to stay on the West Highland Way, Pauline and Wullie are very thoughtful hosts and their guest house is full of lovely touches. When our Operations Manager, Katia, stayed here she said it was “the comfiest bed I’ve ever slept in!” She also recommends the smoked haddock with eggs for breakfast.
  • Distant Hills Spean Bridge, near Fort William, Scottish Highlands
    Dani and Cameron are fantastic hosts and even won Channel 4’s Four in a Bed TV show! The rooms are spacious and tastefully decorated, and the property benefits from a gorgeous open lounge, garden, residents bar and a brand new hot tub.


How can I stay in the best B&Bs?

Choosing outstanding accommodation in a perfectly-paced itinerary is truly a fine art. Getting it right can make all the difference to your holiday experience.

If the B&B experience sounds just like your cup of tea, you can find accommodation by searching on tourist board websites such as VisitScotland and Visit England.

Alternatively, let us use our local knowledge to find the best ones for your next holiday.


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Discover the UK & Ireland with Absolute Escapes

Our award-winning walking holidays and self-drive tours incorporate the best accommodation into unforgettable itineraries.

If you’d rather leave the tricky logistics to local experts, get in touch today. One of our friendly Travel Specialists would be delighted to discuss your ideal holiday experience with you.

Melanie Grandidge

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