Shepherd House, Faversham

I had never considered visiting Faversham, that is until I discovered Shepherd House. Clare Weston and her husband Simon have recently bought this beautiful Georgian property and have decorated the period house into what is now Kent’s most stylish b&b.

The boutique accommodation is minutes away from Faversham station, where a fast train takes just 1 hour to get to London King’s Cross, making it the perfect weekend escape. We arrived on a sunny Wednesday afternoon, greeted by the lovely smiley Clare. I fell instantly in love with the house and felt like Clare was an old friend welcoming us into her home. Downstairs, we admired the vibrant green and yellow living room, which embraces the Georgian features while adding a contemporary personality and sense of fun with modern artwork, fresh flowers and patterned rugs. Vintage jazz music was playing and a small spirit collection is left out for guests who wish to relax with an evening aperitif.

Currently there are three bedrooms of varying sizes, though work is underway to open a few more soon. We quickly settled into the ‘Very, very large double’ bedroom, our home for the night. Clare has a real talent for interiors – each of the rooms has a subtle colour theme with vintage and modern touches that are carefully balanced to create a sophisticated but relaxing environment to spend time in. All of the bedrooms feature indulgent bathtubs, ours was a freestanding masterpiece from Albion Bath Co. The room was decorated in a palate of pinks and greys with the original floorboards, fireplaces and grand windows still intact. Appealing coffee table books and seasonal flowers adorned every surface and the king size bed was topped with a soft duvet and cushions.

The bathroom was my favourite part, with luxurious his-and/hers rain showers, expensive Kiehl’s toiletries and views overlooking the town. Shiny grey and black tiles contrast with the dusty pink paint and give a glamorous retro feel.

We spent as much time as possible in our bedroom, flicking through the books, listening to music from the retro Roberts radio and making good use of the coffee facilities… the Tanzanian Garage Coffee was the best I’ve ever tasted in a hotel room. I slept for much longer than I normally would, my body relishing the opportunity to truly unwind. In the morning the large windows let in bursts of sunlight, it was bliss.

Guests are encouraged to enjoy the whole property and the spacious garden at the back is particularly lovely on sunnier days. Breakfast in the morning is served in the living room and Clare cooked up a feast for us to devour, it was as delicious as it looks. Fresh juice and coffee, fruit salad, yoghurt and pastries arrived first. We picked at things while catching up on emails and reading the days’ news. Then came the main event, hot dishes from the lavish brunch menu. The full breakfast and French toast with blueberries and bacon were both delicious, so good in fact that I wondered if Clare had thought of opening up as a brunch parlour for outside guests too.

Nearby, guests may choose to visit picturesque Whitstable for fresh oysters or hip Margate where the new Dreamland and Turner Contemporary gallery are boosting tourism. Foodies will delight at the opportunity to visit Britain’s no.1 gastropub, The Sportsman in Seasalter. Needless to say there is more than enough to keep you busy for a weekend minibreak, though I wouldn’t blame you if you barely ventured out, Shepherd House is pretty difficult to say goodbye to.

More information and book a room at Shepherd House here.

Chapel House, Penzance

If I owned a hotel I would want it to look like Chapel House. This beautiful, restored townhouse is on the corner of Chapel Street, one of Penzance’s most picturesque roads. With views overlooking the sea and St Michael’s Mount it is in an enviable position, but after years of neglect the building had fallen into disrepair. Previously the home of the Penzance Arts Club, new owner Susan Stuart saw an opportunity to renovate and refresh this grand historic building.

I have been visiting Cornwall frequently since I was a child and have always felt disappointed that the accommodation options don’t match the appeal of the destination, but Chapel House has changed the hospitality offering dramatically. Susan arrived in Cornwall in 2013 hoping for a change of lifestyle and profession. Almost by accident she came across this wondrous building and with her ambitious vision, a big budget and a team of local craftsmen she transformed the place.

After a scenic five hour ride on the blissfully easy Great Western Railway train from London Paddington we arrived at the last stop, Penzance, just a short walk away from Chapel House. The boutique luxury hotel has six double bedrooms to choose from, each one is light and thoughtfully designed; a mix of modern luxuries and characterful original details. We were in room six, on the top floor, with lovely views of the town. The bespoke beds were handmade locally, a unique elevated platform made from smooth soft oak wood. Reclaimed 1930s office lamps add vintage charm to the bedsides and fresh flowers add a fresh pop of colour. For convenience, each room comes with its own mini iPad, which guests can use to FaceTime for service or to look up tips on local things to do. Of the other rooms, room two was my favourite, with an Ashton & Bentley bath tub in the main room and lovely antique furniture.

The bathrooms are state of the art; contemporary and minimalist. Wherever possible Susan has installed an indulgent bathtub, or in the smaller room a walk-in rain shower. Natural light is given priority, and in our rooftop room the entire slanting bathroom roof opened to offer the option of a semi-outdoor bath. Toiletries are provided by Penzance beauty brand, Pure Nuff Stuff.

In the communal areas Susan displays artwork from the nearby Newlyn School of Art. It is a reminder of the building’s previous use, and adds colour and style to the crisp white walls.

Susan is an illustrious, thoughtful and hard-working host and when she’s not welcoming guests or locals through the door, she is found in the kitchen whipping up a seasonal dinner. The beautiful basement kitchen and communal dining table offers a homely place to eat. Susan concentrates her culinary talents on the finest local fish and seafood, picking up produce at the market that day for the evening meal. For just £22 you can enjoy a three course meal with an aperitif – I recommend the Cornish gin with tonic.

Our lazy Sunday breakfast was glorious, sitting in the sun-drenched kitchen, sipping caffetiere coffee and quaffing butcher bacon and eggs, whilst chatting away to the other guests. I could have sat there with a newspaper for a lot longer than we did, but the whole of Penzance was waiting to be seen.

Chapel House is reason alone to visit Penzance, the perfect place to escape London for a few blissful days by the sea.

More information and book a stay at Chapel House here.

Advance single fares between Paddington and Penzance are available from £29 each way. For the best tickets and offers buy before you board at or telephone 03457 000125.

***My new travel book, CORNWALL by Weekend Journals is available to order here. Use the code TMM10 to get 10% off.***

Minaret Lodge, Wanaka

After a few days exploring the very wet West Coast I was pleased to arrive in picturesque Wanaka, a sunnier town in one of New Zealand’s most famous wine regions. Driving in past the wondrous sapphire-blue Lake Hawea, you can see why this area is a favourite with tourists year round. In summer, visitors flock to taste wine and hike in the sunshine, whilst the winter brings regular snowfall for keen skiers. Queenstown is just one-hour drive away and the popular Siberia experience is also nearby.

Minaret Lodge is a charming bed and breakfast on the outskirts of Wanaka town. It is owned and run by Gary and Fran, a hospitable couple who transformed their holiday home in 2001 to accommodate travellers looking for a little luxury on their trip. Without the formalities of a hotel, this boutique option will make you feel immediately relaxed and at home.

minaret lodge

There are just six chalet suites, located in the garden, each with one or two bedrooms, a living area, kitchenette and bathroom. They are cosy and well designed with every amenity you could need. For Lord of the Rings fans, the Barliman’s room (which opened in 2002) is a unique option. The cabin has been carefully designed inside and out to pay homage to the iconic New Zealand films, and features oversized furniture, Lord of the Rings books and memorabilia and quirky round doorframes just like the homes in Hobbiton.

I enjoyed a stay in the Wilkin room, named after one of the rivers that run into Lake Wanaka. The room had a farmhouse chic feel, with plenty of natural light and lavish soft furnishings. I loved the bed, which was particularly wonderful, with plenty of plump pillows and an indulgently warm blanket. The petite bathroom was kitted out with a powerful modern shower and Koha Spa toiletries were provided.

The main house is used for complimentary canapés & wine tasting each evening and in the morning guests are invited in to enjoy a communal gourmet breakfast, prepared by Gary. It was all delicious… roasted vegetable frittata, freshly baked bread, juice and coffee.

Sadly I only spent one night at Minaret Lodge so couldn’t take advantage of all the included extras. With each stay guests are offered complimentary laundry, mountain bike hire and use of the wood fire sauna and spa jet pool. For additional cost Gary and Fran can arrange a massage with an experienced masseuse or a three-course dinner including local wine pairing. I was pleased, however, to accept the kind free pick-up and drop-off service to town.

Minaret Lodge is a relaxing haven in a beautiful part of the country, and it was the personal touches that make a stay at this luxury bed and breakfast so memorable.

More information and book a stay at Minaret Lodge here.