The personal touch

At The Good Hotel Guide we champion small, owner-run hotels. We believe that the personal touch you receive at these hotels far exceeds the glitz and glamour of huge chain hotels. When our readers send us reports about their hotel stays, we are always delighted to see recurrent mention of things like warm welcomes, home-made biscuits and freshly squeezed orange juice. 

An on-site spa and round-the-clock room service is all well and good, but it doesn’t beat someone meeting you at the door with a wee dram of whiskey and a roaring fire in your room after you’ve been lost on a coastal walk in the rain. 

Here are some of The Good Hotel Guide’s favourite small hotels in the UK and Ireland:


Inis Meáin, County Galway, Ireland

On the remotest of the three Aran Islands (population 160), this ‘stunning’ stone-and-glass building is run as a restaurant-with-rooms by returning islander Ruairí de Blacam with his wife, Marie Thérèse. The building is designed to blend into the terraced stone fields of the island; from the bedrooms and the restaurant there are panoramic views to Galway Bay and the mountains of Connemara. 

The welcome is ‘gentle and warm’. The main ingredients for the host’s menus come from the islanders: the ‘unparalleled’ lobster and crab are caught by fishermen from traditional currachs; vegetables are grown in the shelter of stone walls (‘the most delicious potatoes’).

SLa Sablonnerie

La Sablonnerie, Sark, Channel Islands

‘As wonderful as ever; eating lunch in the garden is the nearest thing I know to paradise.’ Renewed praise this year comes from a returning visitor to Elizabeth Perrée’s whitewashed 16th-century farmhouse on a charming car-free island noted for its abundant flora and fauna. 

Ms Perrée, whose parents transformed a tumbledown building into this small hotel 65 years ago, is ever present, on friendly terms with her guests. ‘Not only does she greet returning visitors by name; on departure one gets kisses plus a bottle of wine.’

Hotel Pen-y-Dyffryn

Pen-y-Dyffryn , Oswestry, Shropshire

In ‘beautiful countryside’ on the last hill in Shropshire (a stream below marks the border with Wales), this former Georgian rectory is now a small country hotel owned by Miles and Audrey Hunter. ‘Everyone from guests, to the owners and staff was smiling, which made the experience relaxed and stress free,’ one visitor found. 

Complimentary tea is given to arriving guests, on the terrace in fine weather or in front of a log fire on chillier days. Many of the ‘delightful’ bedrooms are south facing; each of the four rooms in the coach house has a stone-walled patio which opens on to the garden (useful for walkers and dog owners)

To read more about the best hotels in the UK (England, Scotland and Wales) and Ireland (Republic and Northern Ireland), just click through to The Good Hotel Guide website. We also have special offers, discounts and vouchers:

Caroline Blake, associate editor, The Good Hotel Guide