Classes of Accommodations
Hotels and Guest Houses
You will find a significant difference in both price and facilities between hotels and guest houses in the UK. Hotels usually offer breakfasts, lunches, teas, dinners, a licensed bar and a range of services and facilities to suit individuals, families and often business groups. Country house hotels will often add recreational facilities in their grounds such as golf, tennis, swimming, health spas, gyms and attended play areas for children.
Top league international hotels in London and major cities offer comprehensive amenities and services for business and holiday guests, and a choice of first class and luxury accommodation. Guest houses may not have bars or offer lunch or teas, but will have television and sitting lounges.
In England and Wales, the AA, RAC (the largest UK motoring organisations) and the English Tourist Council have come together to provide an overall star for hotels and diamond rating for guest accommodations, including bed and breakfast. Hotels have between one and five stars; guest accommodations between one and five diamonds. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, all tourist accommodations are also graded regularly to provide a clear indication of the level of facilities you can expect.
Bed and Breakfast
Bed and breakfast accommodation, advertised by the famous ‘B&B vacancies’ sign, is mostly in private homes and the emphasis is on bedrooms rather than on facilities such as a bar or restaurant. They are often the least expensive form of guest accommodation although prices vary between those in the most popular holiday locations and those offering stopovers ‘en route’.
Thousands of bed and breakfasts have been visited anonymously by tourist officers to be inspected for a diamond rating of between one and five stars. This is intended as a guide to the quality of accommodation and food on offer.
As private homes, including farmhouses and working farms, B&Bs tend to offer a very personal welcome, and an insight into British ways of life in different parts of the country. Breakfast is intended to fill you and will often include bacon, eggs, fried bread, tomatoes, even fried potatoes and local additions such as black pudding. Or you can enjoy a ‘continental’ breakfast: cereal, bread, toast, tea, coffee and juice.
There are many hostels located all over England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Hostels vary in style and amenities but they offer bedrooms with between two and six beds for young people, families and groups. They usually provide substantial breakfasts and dinners at low prices and have communal kitchen facilities if you prefer to cater for yourself.
The main hostel organisations are the Youth Hostel Association (YHA), the Scottish Youth Hostel Association (SYHA) and Hostelling International Northern Ireland (HINI). You do not have to be a ‘youth’ to stay because there is no upper age limit (in Scotland the lower age limit is 5). But you do have to be a member of the YHA or SYHA, which involves paying a small annual membership fee. There are also a variety of independent hostels offering accommodation. Staying in hostels is traditionally popular with people pursuing backpacking, walking, cycling or generally exploring outdoor pursuits. But there are also hostels in many towns and cities, which enable members to enjoy good basic accommodation on a low budget.
Youth Hostel Association London St. Pauls photo by Martin Addison