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Stay In Britain

A Guide to British accommodation

(Dingley Lodge Hotel - Market Harborough)

Author Tony Lucas Produced by Reserve IT Limited 2012

Every country has its own forms of tourist accommodation and the names and standards that apply to these can be confusing for the overseas visitor. In Britain, this can be even more confusing as there are four different tourist authorities (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland), each of whom have individual ideas about how best to promote their region. In this booklet we attempt to clarify some of the accommodation types and the names used for them.

In Britain, we may not use the same name for an accommodation types that you may be used to. For example we dont use terms such as Motel, Condo or Gite and our accommodation terms may be unfamiliar outside of Britain so it may be useful to have a brief description of the terms we do use and what they mean. Booking the right accommodation for your visit is after all, an essential element in making your holiday a memorable one, for all the right reasons.

Example of England Tourist Boad sign

Tourism Standards for accommodation

There are two major organisations that provide grading schemes for accommodation available for holiday rental in the UK, the Tourist Boards and The Automobile Association.

The main one is the Tourist Board which, for some strange reason, doesnt call itself the Tourist Board anymore but goes by a variety of semi-commercial names such as Visit Britain, Visit England, Enjoy England, Visit Scotland, Enjoy Scotland, Visit Wales, Enjoy Wales, and Discover Northern Ireland. All very confusing to the visitor to our shores who just wants to know where they can find tourist information. A classic case of having a great name that everyone knew and understood and then

changing it to something that nobody outside the industry recognizes. Genius!

Example of Northern Irish Tourist Board sign

In many towns, especially in the main tourist regions, there is often a Tourist Information Office. These are usually sign posted and the staff are well informed about the local area and the accommodation available.

Example of Scottish Tourist Board sign

The other organization that grades the quality of accommodation is the Automobile Association or the AA as they are more commonly called. Both organizations have, at long last, worked out a common standard of grading that, in theory, should make it easy to know what level of quality you are getting. However, as with most quasi-governmental bodies and large organisations, nothing is that simple as the grading scheme is based on different criteria depending on the type of accommodation that has been

graded. So a three star hotel may be of better quality than a four star B&B since different factors are used to arrive at the grading level. The industry doesnt like it and the visiting public, especially from overseas, are confused by it.

Note that participation in these two schemes is voluntary and because of the high annual cost of these grading schemes and the presence now of other, internet based ways, to assess the standard of any accommodation, increasingly, properties are not participating in these grading schemes to the level that they used to. So be aware that the absence of any official accolade does not mean that the standard of accommodation is in any way less than excellent. All it indicates is that the owner is not a participant of the expensive and confusing official scheme.

Example of Automobile Association Sign

How to judge the quality of accommodation

Not as easy at it might appear. The grading scheme does give a good indication but as we have seen it isnt a mandatory scheme, a lot of very good properties (the majority) dont participate and the grades are not the same across all accommodation types.

The other way to judge the quality of any establishment is to use the social media sites (such as Facebook, Twitter or Youtube) and visitor assessment rating sites (such as Trip Advisor).

However, a word of caution. Many of these sites, (including Trip Advisor), allow comments from ANYONE without there being any evidence that the person making the comment has actually stayed at the property they are commenting on and the person making the comment can remain anonymous. It is not unknown for adverse comments to have been posted by a competitor, by someone with a personal grudge or even by a person seeking to blackmail the property owner into a discounted rate. In some cases the criticism has been about facilities that the property does not actually have. The owners right of reply or to have such malicious or inaccurate comments removed is a constant source of debate within the industry. Some sites do make sure that comments can only be posted by guests that have actually stayed at the property and in an identifiable manner, but there is no way of necessarily knowing which sites do and which

dont. Having said all that, on balance these sites do give a fair indication of quality as long as they have a sufficient volume of comments on any particular property. Use your judgment when looking at these comments and dont take them all at face value.

Our advice is to look for properties whose websites have lots of picture and video material as well as using the social sites and, if present, the recognized grading scheme. Then, if you feel it necessary, use the visitor assessment sites to further check your shortlist of properties.

Most properties are of a good quality but it is always worth checking before you book.

Example of Welsh Tourist Board sign

Prices and discounted rates

Prices can be based on two styles: per person per night (often shown as pppn) or per room per night (often shown as prpn).

Be aware of these differences as they can make a significant difference to the cost of your holiday accommodation.

Rates can also be based on other factors such as meals. For example the rate may be Room Only (or RO) where all meals are excluded from the price, it can be Bed and Breakfast (or BB) where breakfast is included but all other meals are not, it can be Dinner, Bed and Breakfast (or DBB), in other words no lunch included or Full Board (or FB) where all meals are included in the package. Make sure you know which applies to your booking as there are potential opportunities to save quite a lot of money if you chose the rate that suites you best.

Discounted rates
It is always worth asking for discounted rates when booking. Hotels want to sell at the maximum price of course but if they have spare capacity on any day or period, they are often very willing to offer a better or packaged rate if asked. This is especially true if you are booking accommodation near to your

arrival dates as they will be more anxious to make sure they are at maximum capacity.

It is always worth asking if any discounts or promotions are available for your booking and they wont be offended if you do. At the worst, they can always say there are no discounts or promotions available. Be aware that many properties, especially, hotels, bed and breakfast and Guest houses may also offer discounts for bookings for several days as they want you stay as long as possible. Some hotels have packages such as three for two where you book for three nights (usually only applies to mid-week bookings) and only pay for two nights. Many B&Bs will have a cheaper rate if your booking is for several days.

In short, Ask!

Definition of property Types

It ought to be easy in theory but given the diverse nature of property in Britain and the age and variety of styles of architecture, there exist a variety of property types within each accommodation category. Sounds confusing but once you understand the basic principles of each accommodation type, it will become clearer.

The main property types are each discussed on the following pages together with some advice on how to get the best out of their rate structures and discounts.

The accommodation types discussed are: Hotels Bed and Breakfast Guest House Inn Accommodation Self Catering Narrow boats.

Nearly all accommodation in Britain will fit one of these categories.


(Express by Holiday Inn London- Newbury Park)

Internationally, the most widely used term for accommodation is Hotel and many visitors instinctively think of an hotel when they wish to travel to the UK.

However, the term is ambiguous (and an hotel may not be the most appropriate or affordable way to stay on your holiday) nor may it be what you expected unless you understand the various types of hotel that exists. Officially, the use of the term Hotel applies to a property that has 20 rooms or more of which 75% have en-suite facilities. In practice, there are a large number of small hotels with 6 or more rooms that call themselves hotels and operate as hotels and some budget travel accommodation, usually near motorway junctions, use the term hotel but are in reality budget motels.

The Tourist Board defines Hotels into several categories: Hotel - Formal accommodation with full service. Usually of more than 20 rooms. Graded 1 to 5 stars with 5 being the highest

Country House Hotel - A Hotel with large grounds or gardens with an isolated, peaceful atmosphere. Graded on a 1 to 5 star basis

Small Hotel - Usually less than 20 rooms, owner managed but more personal than a chain hotel, usually with limited facilities. Graded on a 1 to 5 star basis

Town House Hotel - A city centre hotel of up to 50 rooms with limited facilities. Graded on a 1 to 5 star basis

Metro Hotel - a city centre hotel with no dinner service but close to food outlets. Graded on a 1 to 5 star basis

Budget Hotels - The equivalent of a Motel in the USA. Prepaid, cheap travel accommodation with very limited services. No grading is made for these properties. (You get what you pay for.)

You can already see that there are a range of options available to you within this category. Basically, the first three definitions tend to be the higher end of the spectrum and the last three the cheaper with limited facilities.

Choose the hotel type that suites your needs and budget but be aware of the distinction that exists between these various hotel types. Choosing the wrong one could ruin your holiday or end up costing a lot more than you thought. Also bear in mind that a small, family run hotel may give a more personalized service than one of the large chain hotels, although they may not be able to provide the same range of facilities.

Bed and Breakfast (or B&B)

(Staunton House Leominster)

We are on safer ground here as the definition explains exactly what you can expect as a minimum a bed for the night and a breakfast in the morning. Officially a bed and breakfast is defined as an owner operated property with no more than 6 guests. In reality that may be a very loose definition as we will see below and the term Bed and Breakfast is becoming the more popular definition.

A bed and breakfast is an owner run enterprise and you will be living in a room in the owners house (or sometimes a property attached to, or in the grounds of, the owners house). You can expect a reasonably personal level of service and the freedom to come and go as you please. Breakfast falls into two basic categories: cooked, usually consisting of bacon, eggs, sausage, beans, toast etc. often referred to as Full English (or a national

variation on that theme, such as traditional Scottish, traditional Welsh etc), or a breakfast that consists of cereals and uncooked elements (often termed Continental). Some properties will do one type or the other and many will offer both so check before you book. Additionally, some properties may provide evening meals, a sandwich making facility or other meals but as a minimum, you will get a breakfast and the meal is normally included in the price.

As with hotels, prices can be based on two styles: Per Person per night (often shown as pppn) or Per room per night (often shown as prpn). Be aware of these differences as they can make a significant difference to the cost of your holiday accommodation.

Guest House

(Glenhill Guest House in Worthing)

To all intents and purposes, a Guest House and a Bed and Breakfast is the same thing despite any official definitions. Officially, any bed and breakfast property with capacity for more than 6 guests is a Guest House but, unless the owner is participating in the Tourist Board grading scheme, the terms are in reality used interchangeably depending on the whim of the owner. Again, officially, a Guest House is a more commercial business than a bed and breakfast, with the possible provision of an evening meal at additional charge but a B&B is also a commercial undertaking and may also provide an evening meal. The designations are in practice meaningless so you may judge either by the same criteria.

Inn (or Pub) Accommodation

(Fauconberg Arms Inn accommodation in Coxwold, Yorkshire)

This is accommodation that is provided on the same basis as any Bed and Breakfast (or Guest House if you prefer) but which is provided in a Pub (short for Public House) or former coaching Inn and this form of accommodation usually has the advantage that you can get other meals and drinks during licensed opening hours. The accommodation is usually above the bar/restaurant area or in converted buildings in the grounds of the pub, often old stables or store rooms.

The same rules and precautions apply as those outlined in Bed and Breakfast above. Be careful that you know the meal arrangements and the breakfast types on offer and check the basis of the rate rate per room (prpn) or rate per person per night (pppn).

Inns and pubs that offer accommodation can be found in most towns and villages and sometimes in quite remote country locations. They vary from small country pubs to large former coaching inns that were built to accommodate travelers using the old stage coaches.

If the idea of staying at a typical British pub is your idea of heaven, then is the accommodation to choose.


(Bath YMCA)

A very affordable form of basic accommodation for the backpacker, student or touring traveler on a budget. These hostels can be found right across the British Isles and are an affordable form of accommodation for those that wish to travel around the UK. They vary from basic accommodation in student dormitories on a university or a college campus during the vacations, hostels that are in the YHA (Youth Hostel Association), to a private hostel in a city centre. They are a very popular for those travelling around the UK on a budget. They can take the form of those that offer a communal bunk house, some that offer individual sleeping facilities and some that are just a space in a barn where you can put your sleeping bag and cook on your own equipment. Certain protocols are expected at all Hostels: each group cooks for themselves using their own equipment and all utensils are cleaned and returned and no litter or other mess is left behind. It

is expected that each resident has respect for the other guests at all times and that there is no anti-social behavior or loud music during the evening or night.

Self Catering

(Cyffdy Farm Cottages Bala)

This is a very broad category with many types of property but essentially it is what is says: You hire the accommodation for a period of time (usually by the week rather than the day) and you cook for yourself or eat out. You can reasonably expect the property to therefore provide a well equipped kitchen, cooking and eating utensils and table and chairs and usually a lot more besides. This is a very popular form of holiday accommodation and the standard is usually very high.

For a stay of a week or more in a particular place, a self catering property is often the best option if you dont mind cooking your own meals and cleaning. Be careful that you know what is provided in the letting and what you may have to bring with you. For example, some properties will not provide bed linen or

towels (especially beach and bath towels). If you have a young child you may want to know if a cot or highchair is available, if you have a pet you wish to bring, you need to make sure that the property owner will permit pets.

If internet and mobile phone connection is important to you during your stay, check that it is available (and if there is a good signal in some remote areas of Britain). Coverage is not yet universally available in all areas.

Self catering properties range from that idyllic thatched cottage deep in the countryside, a remote hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands, to a fully equipped self service apartment in the city centre. They come in all shapes and sizes and styles, in all localities and with prices to match. If you are travelling as a party, then a self catering property that can accommodate a group can be a very affordable form of accommodation during your holiday.

Some interesting self catering concepts have arisen in recent years and these include wooden lodges set in woodlands or lakeside areas, wigwams, tipis, old railway carriages and Mongolian Yurts in rural locations, to name but a few. The range

on offer is many and varied and there will be something to suite everyone and every budget.

Camping & Caravans

(Castlerigg Farm Campsite in Keswick)

There are facilities for camping and caravanning in every part of Britain and it is a very popular form of holiday. Always check what any site offers as the quality of these varies from a space in a private field to specially designed and high facility sites. Many sites will accommodate both tents and touring vans but some may specialize in one or the other only.

On site facilities will also vary, although almost all established sites will provide toilet and shower blocks, washing facilities, some will provide electric hook up and have on site shopping. It is worth checking what is provided on site before you book and also to check where off site facilities are located. If you have to travel miles to find the nearest shop, you may want to bring a certain amount of provision with you. If the shop is a few hundred yards away you may decide not to.

Camping and caravan sites may be available without prior reservation but it is advisable, especially during the British School holiday season (July to September), to pre-book the sites you want to visit.

Narrow Boats

(Canal Cruising Co Ltd Stoke on Trent)

Britain, especially England, is blessed with an extensive network of waterways and canals that were originally built to take goods from one industrial production centre to a point of distribution or market. They feature ingenious methods of moving boats through waterways at different levels and putting canals through hillsides using long tunnels. Some of the engineering involved in these projects is incredible given the technology available at that time.

With the advent of the railway, most of these were abandoned for commercial purposes but over the last 50 years many have been restored as recreational and environmental facilities and the use of Narrow Boats on the canals is now very popular. The craft are easy to handle and basic training is provided.

These craft range from a basic craft with sleeping and cooking facilities to luxury craft with whirlpool baths and luxury cabins. Narrow boats can be hired by the week. This is a lovely and leisurely way to see the British countryside and to visit many out of the way villages and pubs that lie along the route of these waterways and many companies exist that will hire out narrow boats for both daily and weekly periods.

What accommodation is right for my holiday in Britain?

For many visitors, the first instinct is to book a hotel for their stay and this may be the most appropriate form of accommodation for many people, especially for a short stay or if it is necessary to be in a city centre location. Everything is taken care of for you. Meals can be taken in-house if you are reluctant to eat out. You know more or less what your costs are going to be and you are part of a group of visitors in the same environment as you are. It feels secure. However, is it the best value for money? Possibly not.

If you are a little more adventurous or if you want to see more of Britain than just London or any of the main cities, then there are other ways to stay during your visit. A Bed and Breakfast or Guest House will very often be less expensive than its Hotel counterpart and because it is owner run, may also be a much more personal service and provide a better experience of the British people. These properties exist in almost every city, town or village so they are easy to find on the internet and easy to book directly with the owners. If you are staying more than a couple of nights, ask about discounted rates.

If you plan to be in a location for a week or two, it may be worth considering a self catering property. You will have to shop locally for provisions and cook your own meals (or eat out) but you will have a base that is yours for the duration of the stay, where you can come and go as you please and where you can feel at home. At first glance, self catering may appear to be an expensive option but in fact for a family or party, the cost can actually be a lot less than a hotel or bed and breakfast where you may have to book more than one room to accommodate your family or party.

We would recommend that wherever possible, you book accommodation well in advance of your visit to avoid any disappointment, especially in the peak holiday season from July to early September.

Whatever you choose, we hope you have a wonderful time in the British Isles and that you find this booklet helpful.

About this publication

This booklet has been produced by Tony Lucas, a Director of Reserve IT Limited, a company which specializes in tourism within the UK and has produced a number of websites for visitors to Britain. Their sites include which contains details of over 40,000 places to stay and a wealth of information about Britain. The website makes no charge for bookings made through it service and has been used by visitors since 1999. For further information contact us on: Email: Telephone: +44 (0)1730 999101 Postal Address: Ground Floor Unit 7 Rotherbrook Court Bedford Road Petersfield Hampshire GU32 3QG Website:

Appendix The Star rating scheme

Accommodation standards are now rated by the Automobile Associate (The AA) and by Visit Britain (The Tourist Board) to a common set of standards using stars. This should help visitors to feel more confident about the level of service any rated accommodation provides. The following descriptions can be used as a general guide to what you can expect: 1 star: Simple, practical, no frills 2 star: Well presented and well run 3 star: Good level of quality and comfort 4 star: Excellent standard throughout 5 star: Exceptional with a degree of luxury However, just to confuse everyone, the ratings can also have different meanings when applied to Hotels and other Guest accommodation, so the same rating can mean different things and be applied differently depending on accommodation type. This means that a high quality property in one category can show a lower star rating than a poorer quality property in another category. The AA descriptions are simpler to understand and have been used for the purposes of this booklet.

Accommodation standards Star ratings descriptions (taken from the AA) One Star Hotel - Courteous staff provide an informal yet competent service. The majority of rooms are en suite, and a designated eating area serves breakfast daily and dinner most evenings. Guest accommodation - Minimum quality requirements for cleanliness, maintenance, hospitality, facilities and services. A cooked or substantial continental breakfast is served in a dining room or eating area, or bedroom only. Two Star Hotels - All rooms are en suite or have private facilities. A restaurant or dining room serves breakfast daily and dinner most evenings. Guest accommodation - Courteous service, well-maintained beds, and breakfast prepared with a good level of care. Three Star Hotels - Staff are smartly and professionally presented. All rooms are en suite, and the restaurant or dining room is open to residents and non-residents.

Guest accommodation - Friendly welcome, and good-quality, well-presented beds and furniture. A choice of good-quality, freshly cooked food is available at breakfast. Four Star Hotels - Professional, uniformed staff respond to your needs or requests, and there usually are well-appointed public areas. The restaurant or dining room is open to residents and non-residents, and lunch is available in a designated eating area. Guest accommodation - Attentive, more personalized service. At least half of the bedrooms are en suite or have private bathrooms. Very good beds and high quality furniture. Breakfast offers a greater choice, and fresh ingredients are cooked and presented with a high level of care. Five Star Hotels - Luxurious accommodation and public areas, with a range of extra facilities and a multilingual service available. Guests are greeted at the hotel entrance. High quality menu and wine list. Guest accommodation - Awareness of each guest's needs with nothing being too much trouble. All bedrooms are en suite or have a private bathroom. Excellent quality beds and furnishings. Breakfast includes specials/home-made items, high quality ingredients, and fresh local produce.

This edition first published in Great Britain 2012 Copyright Reserve IT Limited 2012

The right of Tony Lucas to be identified as author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Design and Patents Act 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the copyright owner.

ISBN: 978-1-4716-5821-1