By Adam Raphael
The Good Hotel Guide 2022 will be published next week—our 45th edition. It contains 670 selected hotels, inns and B&Bs. Among those singled out for a César, our premier award, is an Irish hotel which serves the identical nine-course meal served on the Titanic, the night she sank. From the gloriously eccentric to glamorous spa hotels and great-value B&Bs and inns, the Guide selects the best.
As this is my last newsletter, I thought it would be good to look back on how the Guide has evolved over the past four decades from a tiny, cyclo-styled publication produced on multiple sheets of carbon paper to what it has become today, an Internet cloud-based business driven by multiple online and offline databases with a glossy website, reviewers from all over the world and editors and staff writers dotted around the UK. We even have an editor working out of Paris.
Hilary Rubinstein, who launched the Guide in 1976 was a noted literary agent, who persuaded many of his distinguished novelists, playwrights and actors, among them Jan Morris, Claire Bloom, and Frederick Raphael (no relation), to contribute reviews. The Guide as a result had a distinct literary flavour. It also promoted debates ranging from hotel food to value for money. The Guide has continued to campaign on issues ranging from save the kipper and discretionary service charges to the high cost of commissions, paid to online travel agencies, and the advantages to guests of direct booking.
One long-runnning battle for which I and my wife Caroline, who has worked for the Guide since it was first published, are proud to have received recognition is from Pipedown. In its latest newsletter, it says: ‘In recognition of their long battle against muzac, Caroline and Adam are jointly named “Pipedowners of the Year.” That coming from a body whose patrons include Alfred Brendel, Tom Conti, Stephen Fry, Julian Lloyd-Webber, Simon Rattle and Prunella Scales is praise indeed.
When I am asked what sort of people read the Guide, I tend to reply in the absence of proper market research: ‘At the last count we had one duke, one duchess, one viscount, one countess (Italian), five dames, nine lords, 31 Ladies, 46 knights and roughly 20,000 odds and sods.’ These numbers may no longer be accurate—aristocrats kick the bucket from time to time—but the fact is that the Guide appeals to all sorts, from those want to stay in a humble B&B to those whose tastes and depth of pockets lead them to grand country houses.
I would like to think that we are needed more than ever. Publishing an independent hotel guide in the middle of a pandemic is not for the fainthearted. But despite forecasts of mass closures, most of our selected hotels, inns and B&Bs have not only survived but have enjoyed record numbers of guests over the summer. The enthusiasm of readers as they once again experience the joys of staying away, has encouraged us in our role of sorting out the exceptional from the ordinary.
In my introduction to the new edition, it says: ‘As Caroline and I are well into our ninth decade, it is time for us to go. Richard Fraiman, who has worked closely with us over the past few years, will take on the responsibility for publishing the best and most trusted independent Guide on the market with the help of the Guide’s excellent, long-serving team. We are confident that it has a great future because he will professionalise the Guide and strengthen its reputation as a trusted source of information about the best places to stay without fear or favour. We have much enjoyed our many years at the helm. Thanks also to the many thousands of readers who have encouraged and supported us with reviews and criticism. We could not do without you because the GHG is, and always will be, a guide for readers. There are more than 50,000 hotels and B&Bs in the UK and Ireland. We have space for only a fraction, which is why the selections are revised every year. The ultimate judges of which places get an entry are you, dear GHG readers. So please keep writing to us.