Bed and Breakfast accommodation, affectionately known as B&B, is a British institution. Seaside postcards affectionately portray B&B landladies as harridans, who are sticklers for rules, but this is not the modern reality. B&BS have changed dramatically and now are a great alternative to formulaic hotels with their identical rooms and services. B&Bs are all unique, they can be farmhouses or cottages and, best of all, they are all over the United Kingdom, in seaside resorts, cities, towns, and the most beautiful countryside all over the kingdom. A B&B is properly rooms in a private house, accommodating no more than six people, let by the owner, who provides breakfast. Anything larger is a guest house, but, as some B&Bs call themselves guest houses and some guest houses call themselves B&Bs, the hospitality industry groups them together under the guest accommodation category. There are rating systems to guide visitors as to minimum expected standards, but many B&B owners exceed these and travelers can find excellent places to stay at reasonable rates.
The rating systems are being harmonized into one overall system the star rating approved by the Automobile Association, AA, and Visit Britain the Tourist Board. However, this harmonization is rather new and some accommodation may still be rated by the older AA diamond system. The criteria for the number of stars is quite clear and these are the minimum standards that visitors can expect and B&B owners often provide more than the expected standard.
Travellers should also remember that a B&B is not a hotel and does not provide the facilities that a superior hotel would provide, such as room service. Some B&BS provide evening meals, by special arrangement with the owner, others do not, but owners can usually suggest suitable local restaurants, or pubs, where an evening meal is available. Although many B&Bs now offer en suite bathrooms, not all do and guests may have to leave the room to use a bathroom, shared between guests.
A cooked breakfast in the UK usually means back bacon, poached, or fried, eggs, fried or grilled tomato, and sausages, fried bread and other items may be included such as mushrooms, hash browns, or baked beans. There may also be regional variations and additions, such as black pudding in the Midlands, oatcakes in Scotland, or soda bread In Northern Ireland. There may be also fruit juice or cereal, to begin with, and toast and preserves, or marmalade, to finish, a full English breakfast served by a generous B&B owner will set the visitor up for the day, he, or she, will need nothing further until evening. Breakfast is usually served with tea or coffee.
The star rating criteria for one star B&B accommodation, is that the owner offers a clean establishment with minimal service, which includes a full cooked, or a substantial continental, breakfast. The two star rating denotes that the owner provides the one star requirement plus a courteous, helpful service, more comfortable bedrooms, and a very carefully prepared breakfast. A three star B&B offers all the above standards plus well-appointed, comfortable bedrooms, good quality breakfast ingredients and a higher customer service standard. Four star B&Bs provide rather more, and a better room standard with high quality furnishings. Five star B&B guests should be made to feel as though they are at home. A five star B&B offers guests extra services, including a high quality breakfast using fresh, local, seasonal ingredients. Bedrooms should be comfortable with top quality furnishings. Some five star establishments offer considerable luxury.
In Northern Ireland, B&Bs may have star ratings or the following designations. De Luxe accommodation is very high quality, and may often have extra furniture or Jacuzzis in the bathrooms. The En suite standard means that each room has its own private bathroom, within the bedroom, which always contains a lavatory, washbasin, and bath or shower or both. Standard means the bathroom is on the corridor and shared with other guests although there is usually a washbasin in the bedroom.
The older AA diamond system worked in a similar way to the star system. Visitors can find detailed descriptions of the criteria used for this system. Remember that all star ratings described above are minimum standards and B&Bs often offer more than their rating would indicate.
Staying in United Kingdom B&B can be an excellent way to experience the country and its people. When you stay in a hotel, you can feel a little isolated, as though you are missing the real world. B&Bs are usually more intimate, and often are in family homes. B&B owners are generally very knowledgeable about their local area, and can advise visitors about good places to visit.
Finding the best B&Bs could not be easier as there are many on-line guides, search facilities by area, also visit Britain the official tourist-information service web page has recommended B&Bs, as does The Northern Ireland tourist service. B&Bs are an excellent way to experience UK life, and they are so diverse, you may stay in a 17th century cottage, a Victorian house, a farmhouse, or a suburban house, but you will enjoy the experience and it will be much more memorable than staying in a formulaic bland hotel room.