A night on a bean bag

By Adam Raphael

Earlier this year The Guide decided to inspect a luxury boutique hotel with prices to match. Bed and breakfast cost more than £200 per room. When our anonymous inspector telephoned, saying she was bringing a friend and requesting twin beds, she was told that the only option was an extra bed at an additional charge. The bed turned out to be ‘a curl-up-into-me marshmallowy whatsit’, in other words a bean bag.

Fortunately, our inspector is petite so the night was not a disaster. But she was irritated to find when paying the bill that she had been charged £25 as ‘a child supplement’. When she complained, the hotel refunded the charge. Sadly, this is not untypical. The lot of any singleton or anyone staying in a hotel, who does not wish to share a bed, is full of woe. Typical is this lament: ‘I am becoming increasingly exasperated by being treated as a second-class citizen…we are given the smallest bedrooms, or those with the tattiest décor.’

When I last wrote about this problem, I got a variety of responses, some more helpful than others. ‘I have the solution,’ proclaimed one misplaced wit, ‘always travel with your catamite’. Equally dubious: ‘I think singles should have their own hotel. They tend to drink water whilst they slowly masticate their food staring at a book casting a pall—even the aspidistras wilt.’ Or this from a Cornish hotelier: ‘My horror is when I get a single person from a discount site and they are the only person staying that night. And then they want dinner too.’

But there were also some more constructive replies. One reader pointed out that trying to find somewhere that offers twin beds except in the worst rooms should not be difficult. ‘All hoteliers have to do is buy zip-and-link beds and extra linen, and they could happily convert any double into a twin.’ Another pleaded: ‘What can you do to persuade hotels to think more about the single traveller? Having been recently widowed, I find that it is just too daunting a thought to have dinner by oneself.’

All credit then to those hotels who make an effort to attract single travellers. GLIFFAES, Crickhowell, Wales, recently organised a break whereby a group of singles could sit together at dinner with the owners hosting the table. Great idea. Why do not more places try imaginative ways to attract singles? One such place is HEACHAM HOUSE, a delightful Norfolk B&B, whose owner Rebecca Bradley goes out of her way to make singles feel welcome. She offers a twin room with private bathroom as a single for £65 per night, £20 cheaper than the shared rate. She writes: ‘Single guests who stay love the place and want to come back, as we treat them as valued guests.’ Another example is HAZEL BANK, Borrowdale, Cumbria which has many regular customers who are lone walkers. For a recent GHG visitor, it discounted the cost of a dinner from his D,B&B, rate and gave him a king size twin room at a single room rate.

Hotels are businesses who have to make a profit. A singleton booking may not always be commercially attractive. But I am sure that there is a big market out there for those places with a reputation for being friendly and wanting to attract all types of guest, not just your bog-standard married couple.