We chose Cloth Hall Oast b&b from Alastair Sawday's guide 'Special Places to Stay' for our Valentine's weekend away, 11 & 12 February. We booked the room with the 4 poster bed on the ground floor.
Due to bad Friday night traffic, we arrived later than planned & so concerned about inconveniencing Katherine, we rang her ahead of time to forewarn her. No problem at all, she even offered to have some home made stew ready for us which we graciously declined as we wanted to go into the town . We arrived just after 9.00pm, greeted by Katherine at the door and told we could select our room as the two other parties had cancelled. We had specifically booked the room with the 4 poster which we had confirmed in writing and so were a little anxious to think what would have happened had the other guests not cancelled & turned up before we had!
We went out straight away and although we didn't plan to be late, we suggested to Katherine that we might take a door key. She told us that she would be up when we returned but gave us the key anyway. We drove a mile into the very pretty small town of Cranbrook. The only place we found still serving food at that time was Mumtaz Mahal, a good if not pricey Indian Restaurant with very attentive service in pleasant surroundings.
To reach Cloth Hall, a drive off the main road takes you past other buildings, including an Independent School and a magnificent house & estate dating back to the 1400s which had been visited by Elizabeth 1 that Katherine has previously owned. She had lived there for 40 years before selling and converting the Oast House which she also owned on the same land in its derelict state.
The conversion has been lovingly and tastefully done with great attention to detail. Beautiful antique furniture & silver, paintings & ornaments, photographs everywhere of her family and toys for her grandchildren. Constant reminders that first and foremost this is a home and then a b&b.
There are no locks to the b&b bedrooms and you are not as a matter of course given a front door key to let yourself in & out. Our room was spacious and beautifully furnished. One aspect we did not like was the fact that the bathroom (with bath, bidet, toilet & basin) which faces you as you enter the bedroom has no door. Although there is a cloakroom outside the bedroom, we did not want to use this in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning. Also there were no tea & coffee making facilities. Katherine did offer several times to make drinks and although the lounge was lovely, when we are in a b&b we like to spend time on our own relaxing in the room. We found this hard to do.
There were plenty of old guide books & newspaper cuttings in the room and very out-of-date magazines - some 15 years old from IKEA to Vogue!
The bathroom was roomy, with varied toiletries from hotels that Katherine had collected from her travels, perhaps something nearer to home & matching - Yardley or Bronnley would have been more in keeping. There was a rather manky nail brush & loofah which should pehaps be removed.
The bed was comfortable but the heated blanket wire was in the way, we eventually unplugged it. The pillows were very flat and by her own admission Katherine told us they were old and that she needed to buy new ones.
Breakfast was in Katherine's dining room. There was a good selection of cereals and jams all beautifully laid out. Shame though that the orange juice was 'economy', watery & tasteless. Katherine sat down and ate her breakfast with us on the Saturday morning. She was extremely helpful & knowledgeable about all there was to see. She also very kindly gave us free tickets to Leeds Castle (45 minutes away by car).
She is rather a formidable & forthright lady and fascinating to listen to - having worked at Number 10 and met many interesting people. She is clearly very kind & attentive, she likes the company and takes great pride in her home which was spotlessly clean.
We did give her feedback on the bedroom which she took well; she had wanted to keep it open plan, hence the lack of bathroom door - but she will reconsider. The drink making facilities, she is concerned that a spillage will occur and spoil the carpet. She told us others had made the same points.
We walked around the gardens which were spectacular even on a dull, rainy Wintery day. She has an outdoor pool for guests to use in the Summer and there is plenty of space to sit outside.
There is alot to see nearby; Leeds Castle was well worth a visit as were the Pantiles in Tunbridge Wells.
On the Saturday night we ate in the much acclaimed Apicius Restaurant which has a well deserved One Michelin Star - people travel there from all over the country so you need to book well in advance. It is run by a husband & wife team with very attentive service given to the 8 tables. A good menu and very reasonably priced at £31.00 for two courses. We would certainly return.
We enjoyed our weekend and with a few minor changes Cloth Hall would have been perfect.
- Also Known As:
- Cloth Hall Oast B&B Cranbrook, Kent, England