A few weeks ago we took a little mid week trip to Winchester to treat ourselves to a night of rest and relaxation amidst a busy autumn of moving house, growing a human and crazy work commitments. It might sound rather indulgent to take off on a Thursday afternoon for a night away (and well, it probably is) but now that GB and I are both freelance, weekends together aren’t always a given and we’re learning to grab any coinciding free time we both have and run with it. GB had just returned from a week working in Birmingham and was due to jet off again a few days later for a three week stint abroad (not entirely sure whether he’d make it back in time for our wedding anniversary) so actually, a little indulgence was entirely justified.
It was our first time visiting Winchester, and despite the fact we didn’t see quite as much of it as we would have liked due to two days of torrential rain and cold winds which made sightseeing challenging, what we did see told us it was a lovely little town. Quaint, historic and charming with a country appeal – think cosy pubs and restaurants – alongside a booming centre full of shops, cafes and cobbled streets. It’s definitely a top spot for a short UK staycation, with lots of choice for eating, drinking and wandering. If you need more proof, just take a look at Monica (from The Elgin Avenue)’s Instagram and you’ll soon be wishing you too lived near this quaint place full of pastel pink walls and adorable coffee shops.
Anyway the reason for our stay was to visit one of the Bed and Breakfast nominations in the Dorset Cereals 2016 B&B Awards. Customers can vote throughout the year for their favourite UK B&B destination and the winners overall were recently announced (you can find them here). The rain only served to enhance our enjoyment of the roaring fire, roll top bath and cosy home comforts on offer at our abode for the night – Hannah’s B&B (which was the June winner of the award). Now reading the title of this post you might have mistaken ‘staying at Hannah’s’ as a a trip to see and stay with a friend, rather than a Bed and Breakfast. But you wouldn’t be that far wrong if so, as within a few minutes of meeting owner Hannah and exploring the gorgeous three roomed cottage she hosted us in, we certainly felt just as comfortable as we might have staying with an old friend.
If you’re in need of a central stay, then Hannah’s couldn’t be easier for getting around Winchester. A mere 5 minute walk from the centre of town, and nestled down the cutest street full of blogworthy walls (why oh why did it have to be raining?), we pulled into the drive and immediately spotted the old mini adorned with the B&B’s logo before parking up outside the most glorious little outdoor decked garden and spotting Hannah herself emerge from the giant barn door to greet us. It’s safe to say I was already pretty smitten with the place, and the personal greeting and immediate offer of homemade cakes only served to re-enforce this.
Now before I continue, I should probably point out that over our years together GB and I have stayed in a lot of places – from going to weddings across the country, to me doing reviews in a freelance capacity, to travelling and visiting friends and family, we’ve found ourselves lucky enough to experience a wide array of hotels, B&B’s, hostels, houses and everything in between. We’ve been privy to both the budget and the luxury end of the scale and the homely to the corporate. Each has its merits and each has provided in different ways.
But, I can honestly say that I’ve never been quite so taken with a place as I was at Hannah’s.
From the moment we stepped inside the warm front room, saw the grand piano sitting in the corner and marvelled at the attention to detail behind every step of decor, I was unashamedly gushing to Hannah about how in love with her home I was, and unashamedly making a mental note of how everything was styled so I could steal all her ideas once we got home. By the end of the trip I was asking her to write a list of where she sourced all of her furniture and knick knacks so that I could get some for myself!
The B&B has been open around 3 years and the buildings history is an interesting one. Before Hannah stumbled across the property while in search of a home to do up, it had once been a livery, a dancing hall and finally an abandoned and ramshackle old building. Hannah immediately saw an opportunity and switched her goal of a doer -upper home for a Bed and Breakfast. And what an incredible job she did! While there we had some time to browse through a book chronicling the renovations and the work that went in to turn this empty and worn out shell into the stylish cosy location it now is, is a true a testament to Hannah’s determination and creativity. Personally, I was totally blown away and as I mentioned the interior style was so close to my own taste that I wanted to recreate it all in our new house once we got back.
The house is decorated with the perfect mix of rustic touches and stylish additions, teaming those undone vintage accents with gorgeous lighting, comfy sofas and pretty furnishings. To give you an idea of what I mean, think rustic copper pipe as a running theme in the bathrooms (with huge overhead pipe shower and old fashioned taps hanging over the roll top bath) and large reclaimed timber doors which slide back and forth to open, sitting alongside modern and luxe dark blue walls, organic toiletries and ornate mirrors. Beds were made up in the most gorgeous, soft and fluffy bedding while sitting atop stripped back wooden floors with industrial style lights hanging overhead and the most adorable vintage furniture (such as rocking chairs, stools and handmade wooden headboards) claiming the spaces. Every inch of the house has that same creative attention to detail, with not a thing out of place. It’s been designed so well that it’s hard to imagine the space was ever anything other than what Hannah has made it. And that makes staying there a pretty special experience that you don’t often get in the humble B&B.
The fact that this B&B is small only adds to its charm and three rooms seems like the perfect amount to maintain that home from home experience. Not to mention making it a great place to hire out in full should there be a group of you, or even as a bridal getting ready space ahead of a wedding! We had the luxury of being the only guests that night, which not only meant that we had the place to ourselves and got the full attention of our lovely host, but also gave me the green light to be nosy and take a peek in each of the rooms with a camera in hand.
We stayed in Number 41, a delightful open and well lit room decorated in fresh whites and soft green accents. A giant double and comfy double bed sat in the centre, with the gorgeous and ornate bathroom to the right. I’m not ashamed to say that I would have been just as happy if Hannah had told me this bathroom was my room for the night – I mean have you ever seen a better looking loo than this? The gilted gold full length mirror, the walk in shower space, the copper pipe towel rail and the free standing bucket sink – so much interior envy.
This space in itself would have had me squealing with joy, but then I realised there was an upstairs to our room (and in fact all of the rooms) and the stylish rustic wooden steps led up to a decked landing and a freestanding roll top bath. I could hardly contain my excitement for it to be past 9pm so I could throw on my towelling robe, draw a warm bath and fall asleep amongst those giant pillows.
The other two rooms are just as adorable, with Number 19 being slightly more modern in accents of lavender and grey, and the largest space, Number 98 being a cosy combination of dark wood, plush navy accents and elegant floral bedding (with yet another amazing bathroom).
Hairdryers were stored in box shelves hanging on the wall (an idea I am most definitely stealing for my own hair styling needs), mirrors were perfectly placed, lighting ensured an ambient and cosy feel and all rooms were filled with mismatched vases and pretty blooms – we immediately felt relaxed upon dumping our bags and jumping on the bed.
One of the plus points of choosing a B&B over hotel has to be that home from home experience and the promise of a great home cooked brekkie. Home made food is actually one of the things Hannah prides herself on, and what helps to set this place apart and make it more on the luxury end of the B&B scale.
After dumping our bags and settling in (i.e. me taking a million photos of every room and ooh-ing and aah-ing at every new corner I spotted), we made our way downstairs to the cosy living room where the fire was roaring and Hannah had put on a spread of tea, coffee, homemade scones and banana loaf. The rain had just started to get heavier outside which made getting comfy on a navy velvet sofa in front of a real log fire feel all the more appropriate on that cold autumn afternoon. The lights from the outdoor seating area twinkling away, we dug into those delicious home baked favourites, drank coffee from stylish copper cafetieres and said hello to the permanent resident Leyla the cat who curled up on the sofa next to us.
We took advice from Hannah on where to venture for dinner that night, and she kindly gave us a list of her favourite pubs and restaurants in the area. We decided upon the trendy yet unpretentious cafe, restaurant and bar that is The Corner House. Conveniently we found it to be a two minute walk from the B&B and just on the corner (of course) of Parchment Street where Hannah’s is also situated. They’re open for breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as drinks beyond, and the place gets described as a bit of a Central Perk vibe from Friends. We heard good things about the afternoon cake selection so we were hopeful of a tasty dinner too and we weren’t disappointed. The restaurant has a two or three course menu (2 for £24.95 and 3 for £29.95) which changes seasonally and the meals were amazing quality for the price.
On a cold dark night, the location was also perfect – warm, candlelit, full of rustic tables and upcycled chairs and a friendly service. We’d definitely return!
Polkadot pyjamas – Boden (c/o)
After dinner and a few drinks, we retreated back to the B&B, mainly because I couldn’t stop talking about that roll top bath. First thing I did upon returning was get in my robe and slippers and turn on those copper pipe taps. With a fragrant rose bath bomb at the ready, a bath that was thankfully large enough to keep me and bump covered and happy, and a book left to read, I was in full relaxation mode. GB, similarly was quite as happy watching TV from bed just below me.
After a blissful sleep, we enjoyed a lazy morning before heading downstairs for a home cooked breakfast. Starting with homemade granola, fruit and yoghurt (as well as a freshly squeezed apple juice), I then opted for the spelt pancakes with bacon and maple syrup (light, fluffy AND good for you – I’m sold) while GB went for a full English (again full marks given).
We spent a bit more time chatting with Hannah (me quizzing her about the design process and where she found X or Y, GB interested in the piano) and taking more photos in the daylight, before arming ourselves with Hannah’s recommendations for Winchester and setting off in the rain for a bit of exploring.
Unfortunately that’s about where my photos end, as just as we arrived in the centre of town, map in hand to do some sightseeing, the rain got heavier and before we knew it we were braving gale force winds and dark gloomy skies, which didn’t make for the prettiest of snaps, or for the happiest of bloggers. Freezing our butts off and getting steadily more and more lost amidst the grey skies, we found the nearest coffee shop to dry off with a mug of hot chocolate and the worlds thickest brownie, and that’s pretty much where we remained for the next hour or so until it was about time for us to pack up our rented motor again and head back to Kent.
Hannah’s B&B was nominated for an award in the Dorset Cereals B&B awards for 2016 and its easy to see why – as far as B&B’s go, Hannah’s abode is true luxury and the type of personal welcome you won’t often get these days. The fact that the home is small means that Hannah herself is at the forefront of everything and will be your point of call during your stay, making it much more like staying with a friend than that anonymous feeling you can often get in hotels. I honestly can’t recommend staying with Hannah more – she was the perfect host, giving us all the help and friendly attention we needed while still leaving us to do our own thing and not feel like we were intruding on someone else’s home life. Plus a visit is a must for the decor alone! If you like the quaint and pretty atmosphere of Winchester and are looking for a place to stay that matches this vibe, then Hannah is your girl. Enjoy home made cakes, interesting conversation, a gorgeous home and a relaxed vibe that will have you leaving your worries and stresses behind in an instant and settling into pure contentment (while wondering just how long you can justify photographing the bathroom before it becomes weird).
A huge thanks to Hannah for having us on that rainy midweek evening, we can’t wait to visit again soon!
P.S if you’re in Winchester in December, Hannah is hosting a Christmas evening on the 6th complete with festive nibbles, mulled wine and a selection of stalls for all your gift shopping needs!
*We were guests at Hannah’s courtesy of Dorset Cereals, who I was doing a review for ahead of their 2016 awards, but as always all words photos, and extreme gushing my own.*