So, a few weeks back I told you that I was working with Dorset Cereals and their very first Dorset Cereals B&B Awards in association with Sawdays. Well, a week later, my husband Steve and I were packing up a weekend bag for our stay at The Duchy Rag House B&B in Leigh, Wiltshire, both very excited to be getting away from it all for a couple of days! Sadly, the weather was NOT playing fair, and it rained from the moment we left our house in Essex, all the way through until we pulled up outside The Duchy Rag House… 5 hours later! A journey that should have taken us, around 3 hours tops, took an extra two hours. Due to the rain, due to traffic, due to it being a Friday.. who knows? All I know is that we very grateful of the cuppa that our hosts – Richard and Karen offered to us when we rung the door bell!
What makes a good B&B? No.1: Welcoming hosts
Now, because of the pouring rain, I wasn’t able to go outside and take a photograph of the B&B – which was gorgeous, both inside and out. But below, you’ll see one that I took the next day, when the sun came out with his hat on – hip hip hip hooray! A huge white country house, set along a country lane, with nothing else around but fields, farmland and horses. It was so peaceful and quiet, and a lovely rural location.
What makes a good B&B? No.2: Location, location, location!
We were served tea and coffee – Karen, the lady of the house used to work in the coffee industry – in the drawing room… sitting room… whichever it was, it was delightful, and BIG. I had some serious house envy after staying at The Duchy Rag House! What I loved about this B&B is that it was an extension of the owners home, so there were photographs of the family dotted around, which we sat and talked about, there were books to read and games to play if we so wished. This room was available for us to use at any time, so gave a great home from home feeling.
There were so many wonderful knick-knacks and curios around the house too, it was almost like a little museum – we loved it! I did ask what the history of the name was, and Karen said to ask Richard about it, as he knew the full story… but we forgot in the end! Oh well, we’ll just have to go back and find out!
What makes a good B&B? No.3: An additional living space so you are not confined to just your bedroom.
After our cuppa and chat with our hosts – who gave a list of recommended local restaurants and pubs, and some ideas of places to visit – we retreated up to our room. Now, normally, whenever we stay at a B&B, a hotel, or wherever, I always say “don’t put anything down until I take photographs!” This is usually because I’m going to be blogging about it, and want a decluttered room. However, I was so shattered from 5 hours driving, that I just wanted to lie on the bed… which is what I did, and then remembered photos!! So, the bed is a bit crumpled, and my bag and camera are there too… too tired to even move them as I shot with my iPhone, so that I could Instagram the place as well.
The natural light, by now, was fairly grim, what with the non-stop rain and all! But I took photographs the next day too. The room was of a great size – bigger than some hotels we have stayed in. When the sun shone the next day, there was lots of light beaming in from the door windows – which may have been a small balcony at one time. Not sure, I forgot to ask!
The decor was modern, yet classic at the same time, with some pieces of dark wood furniture. The wardrobe was large and spacious, with drawers underneath, and there was also a writing bureaux with some magazines on top to flick through, and a television. There was also a rack for our suitcase to sit upon, which was very handy.
The tea/coffee tray (always important!) was well stocked with tea, coffee, hot chocolate, sugar and delicious homemade flapjacks (a nice touch!), as well as a kettle, mugs and two cafetieres. Karen provided us with fresh milk in an insulated jug each day.
The bathroom was HUGE! Impeccably clean, with fluffy white towels (and bathrobes in the wardrobe too). I wasn’t sure whether to expect towels, as this isn’t a hotel, so had brought my own – but no need to! There was hand wash and hand cream, as well as shower gel and bubble bath. There was also a cute stack of crates, acting as shelves, with other helpful essentials, like a shower cap, a box of tissues, spare loo roll and air freshener.
The bath, wow, I fell in love with the shape and size of it, and it also had a shower cubicle within it – so a choice of either a shower or bath was great. I had several baths – not because I’m grimy, but because the bath was so luxurious!
What makes a good B&B? No.4: A well thought out, well stocked room.
When I spoke to Karen later in the evening (or it may have been the next day!), and said how gorgeous the room was, and it went above our expectations of a B&B (we’ve stayed in a rather shady couple of B&Bs in Brighton before!), she said how she provided the things she would expect to find when staying in one. She provided well!
Since it was starting to get late, we decided to head to a local pub called Vale of the White Horse Inn, in Minety – just a few minutes drive down the road. The rain was still coming down, and so we had to sit inside, rather than outside on the big verandah, which was a shame. It didn’t feel like one of those pubs… you know the type, the one where you walk in, and all heads swing round with the look of “are you a local?” written across their face! We sat down at a table, Steve ordered a couple of drinks, and we checked out the menu, which was your usual pub grub fayre.
We shared a stick of garlic bread, with scampi and chips for me (my fave at a pub!) and a burger and chips for him. The local beer was from the Otter Brewery, and I loved the artwork they had advertising it on the walls! They made me chuckle. I also loved the reading nook, but a fire place with a book borrowing service. I grew up in a pub so love these sorts of touches – much nicer than the modern pubs we have these days!
We drove back to The Duchy Rag House, and fell into bed. I have mentioned several times that we were shattered, and was so pleased to have such a comfortable bed to sleep in! Haven’t slept this well in ages, and even asked the hosts what type of mattress they had, because I NEED that in my own bedroom! The pillows were comfy, the bedding was cosy. It was a lush bed!
What makes a good B&B? No.5: A comfortable bed!
After a great nights sleep, we wandered down for breakfast the next day, into the large, bright and airy breakfast room. Karen had already taken our order the day before, asking what we would like on our full English (we had a choice of the different elements), or if we preferred a continental breakfast. As far as we’re concerned, when staying away from home, a full English is the way to go! Of course, there were some Dorset Cereals to tuck into, which, like you tend to do when staying overnight in a B&B or hotel, you have breakfast starters, and main course, and sometimes dessert too! It really is the only time you do it isn’t it?!
Breakfast was delicious, with local sausages, bacon, black pudding, mushrooms, tomatoes and a sunny side up egg – everything was hot too. A huge cafetiere, with coffee made from locally roasted beans (which we then went and bought later in the day), and homemade bread and jam. Just perfect.
What makes a good B&B? No.6: A delicious breakfast – with options!
We were all glad to see that the sun was out, and Karen mentioned that she normally stays home to let guests in, but was going out for the afternoon to celebrate a friend’s birthday. We said we were aiming to come “home” late afternoon, and that was all fine, she’d be there to let us in. We took ourselves off into Cirencester, visited the parish church – St. John Baptist, bought some bits for a picnic lunch from the local farmers market, and then drove to the Cotswold Water Park and Beach to just chill out and enjoy the sunshine. I’m going to write all about our day in another post.
On the drive back to The Duchy Rag House B&B, Steve noticed a very random jumbo jet sitting in a field. As we approached, we realised it was an airfield. Upon consulting Mr. Google, we found out it was an aeroplane graveyard – along with being an active runway for light aircraft! This is one of those serendipitous moments, when you discover something really random when on a road trip. And the reason why we like doing them! Again, more in another post.
Back at the B&B, we found that we were home first, and since it was a lovely day, we let ourselves into the back garden through the gate, and basked in the sunshine. Karen rushed in about 10 minutes later apologising profusely for being late, but it was not needed. We are quite laid back, and were fine sitting out, enjoying the sunshine, and eating the strawberries we’d bought at the farmers market.
We were presented with another tray of tea and coffee – loved this personal attention to detail, and had a good natter with Karen. Steve wandered around the garden – sadly the hammock was still a bit wet from the rain the day before, but I loved that it was there. The owner’s dog, Cosmo, was such a friendly fella, and took a liking to Steve, following him around the garden! Sitting in the huge garden in sunshine gave me garden envy (after the home envy earlier!) I just loved the home from home feeling about The Duchy Rag House.
What makes a good B&B? No.7: A home from home feeling – to help you relax!
We tried to make reservations at a local restaurant – only to find it was completely booked… as were all the others that were recommended. This was such a shame! My tip would be to research dining locations before you go and book in advance. We were able to get a table at The Lakeside Brasserie, back at the Cotswold Water Park – which is just a 10 minute or so drive away. It was starting to turn chilly, but we insisted on a table out on the deck, so we could watch the watersports that were still going on in the early evening. Again, I’ll write about this in another post, but the food was great, the location had that “on holiday” feel about it, looking out onto the water with the sun setting in the distance…
Another great nights sleep followed, and when we were getting ready the next morning, the power went out! We went down for breakfast, and Karen was having a mild panic about not being able to provide a full cooked breakfast, whilst Richard was trying to get the generator working for some backup power. We stressed that it was absolutely fine – that we were still quite stuffed from the night before, and it didn’t matter if she couldn’t cook everything. Some things are just out of ones control, and this power cut was one of them.
We still enjoyed some cereal, and some homemade bread and jam. Steve had actually ordered a continental brekkie, and Karen had managed to bake off the pastries, and just eeked out the last of the heat on the Aga to fry an egg. She apologised several times, but there was really no need… as I said to her, and I’ll say again, these things happen. I grew up and worked in the catering and hospitality industry, so I know when it is time to complain, and when it is time not to complain. This was the latter.
We had the most wonderful stay at The Duchy Rag B&B. Our hosts were so friendly and welcoming, the room was gorgeous, and the bed was so comfortable. Breakfast was fab – even the cobbled together one that Karen made during a power cut, and we would not hesitate to come back to this bed and breakfast. Thank you to our hosts, Karen, Richard and Cosmo (the dog!) for having us stay in your beautiful home!
Our aim is to do a lot more travelling around England, and I’m putting all of our adventures on my own map, which you can see below, and includes the locations of the places we visited in this blog post.
Disclosure: Collaborative post in association with Dorset Cereals.