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Rules at B&B's?

I need a little help... This is our first trip to Ireland/Scotland, and we're looking at B&B's for the first time ever -- in any country. I guess I need some help understanding what this "arrangement" will be. Although I'm looking forward to very personable hospitality and more homey accomodations, I'm wondering about the downsides... On Tripadvisor, one person complained that the owner of one B&B was downright intrusive. I guess my main concerns are these: is there a curfew or time when it is locked? On the weekends, we'll probably go out to pubs or a club, and probably won't come home until the middle of the night. Do they give you a key to the B&B? Also, do we have to tell them the day before if we plan on coming down for breakfast? What if we decide to sleep late one day? I guess I'm afraid that I'll feel like we're children living with our parents. Will they come knocking on our door if we don't come down? Most days, we'll be up and at 'em early to go sightseeing, but I want a little freedom since we will be on vacation. Can someone tell me their experiences at B&B's so I understand what to expect? I've just never stayed in anyone's home that was a stranger to me and I can't understand how this works!Thanks!

Posted by
4740 posts

Based on my limited experiences, I have found the following:

1) There usually is a lock up time. Most B&B's will provide a key if you are returning after hours. Always ask about this.

2) Many have asked for breakfast info the night before. Some have asked for a time frame, some have even asked me to choose the night before what I wanted to eat.

Some B&Bs don't seem much different from small hotels. But in others you truly feel like you are in someone's home. Best advice is to read the reviews. Also keep in mind where you are staying. Unless you are in a city, you are unlikely to find pubs open past midnight.

Posted by
932 posts

Okay, this is great info. Thanks. Keep the responses coming! :)

Posted by
864 posts

We've stayed in alot of B&Bs and love them. We've always been given a key for after hours access. Just remember you are in someone's home so be QUIET if you return late at night. As to breakfast, well it'd be a shame to miss one in Scotland or Ireland (it isn't just plain old bacon and eggs my man) but if you know you're planning a night out on the town let them know and ask if they can just leave out coffee, cereal and fruit in the breakfast room. The Irish are VERY friendly and this could be construed as invasive by some. We thought it was delightful.

Posted by
1014 posts

The b&B in Ireland at in Doolin -Emohruo- had an open door policy -open all night. One I stayed at in N. Ireland closed the doors at 12:00. You need to ask ahead of time or look at their web page and see what the conditions are before you rent. One email can save a lot of trouble.

Posted by
9363 posts

Every B&B I've stayed in has given me a key to the outside door in addition to my room key if I planned to be out in the evening. And every one has asked the night before about the time I would like breakfast.

Posted by
264 posts

Most B&B's that you stay at are basically someone turning part of their home into a mini hotel. They then provide breakfast to you as a service. Most separate their living from your living. Most will either ask when you will come to breakfast or will give a time at which you can. Provided you are reasonable in your behavior you should not have an issue.

Beyond that most everything you are free to do. You should get a key to come and go as you want/need.

You will probably find two types of owners

  1. People with extra space looking to make money
  2. People who just like people and want to share their locality with travellers.

When #2 you may find them wanting to converse with you and interact with you. They may invite you to a pub or something with them especially in smaller areas. However they normally don't cross a line and intrude if not welcomed.

Posted by
11973 posts

Usually they will go through the drill when you check in.

Many I have stayed at give me a key to the house if I'm going out so I can let myself back in.

They tell me when breakfast is when I'm checking in. If you don't come down for breakfast, they will assume you're sleeping in.

Generally if you behave as you would when visiting relatives, you will do fine. Don't make unnecessary messes or noise.

Posted by
932 posts

Thanks all. You've put my fears to rest. It sounds like the "intrusive" B&B owner is definitely not the norm! Plus, I'm using tripadvisor.com's ratings to find B&B's. So hopefully I will not end up at some B&B with owners that are weirdos! And my husband and I are very social creatures, so we will enjoy talking with the owners and getting to know them and/or learning about the area. To be specific, the complaint on TripAdvisor was that the owner would talk to he and his wife during their entire breakfast every single day, and he had hoped to enjoy breakfast alone with his wife. It went on to talk about the owner playing the piano incessantly, too, or something like that. It’s actually a very long review with a very long response from the owner. If you’re curious or just want to be entertained, here’s the link: http://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowUserReviews-g551543-d613056-r22234785-Sea_Breeze_Lodge-Salthill_County_Galway_Western_Ireland.html
I will definitely ask the owners when booking about "curfews" or having a key for any night we may be out late before I book the room. And I am hoping not to miss any breakfasts. I want to try some blood sausage and haggis. ;) (Plus, nothing tastes better the morning after a few beers than a greasy breakfast!)

Posted by
8293 posts

I don't think haggis is breakfast fare.

Posted by
1014 posts

We were offered Haggis and black pudding at Ardgarry B&B. We declined. There was enough great food without those tidbits.

Posted by
2349 posts

Don't be alarmed-there will be a tomato next to your bacon and eggs.

You didn't ask about the bathroom situation! Usually shared with other guests, down the hall. You'll need something decentto wear to travel to and fro. There will probably be a sink in your room.

David McFadden has written two travelogues that are wonderful. He has many encounters with b&b owners and fellow travelers. "An Innocent in Ireland" and "An Innocent in Scotland." I'm in the middle of the Scotland one. Just delightful.

Posted by
932 posts

Haggis is on the breakfast menu for several of the B&B's that we're considering in Edinburgh. I like to try new foods, so I will definitely try it while I'm there. And since it's included in the price of the room, it's no loss if I hate it! I had an Irish breakfast once or twice at an Irish pub in Germany. And I remember the tomato and it was a nice addition to the greasy fare!

Oh, and the only rooms in B&B's that we're considering are the ensuite rooms. I do NOT share bathrooms with others... (Oh, except my husband!!!)

Posted by
9363 posts

I've had lots of Irish breakfasts and have never had tomato. You must be thinking of English breakfast (where I have had tomato often).

Posted by
932 posts

Well, then I guess they were serving an English breakfast at the Irish pub. I've never been to England, or an English pub, so I have no idea... I just remember what they served me.

Posted by
495 posts

English, Scottish, Irish breakfasts and Ulster frys are all closely related with many common ingredients. One other thing they share is lack of a canonical list of must have ingredients.

The contents of an English breakfast will change according to region and the whims of whoever makes it. Same for an Irish breakfast etc.

Posted by
977 posts

We have stayed in B & B's 9 times out of 10 during our travels through the UK, Ireland and Europe.
Personally, they are my first preference. We always ensure when booking that our room has an ensuite bathroom/toilet. You glean so much local knowledge from the owners and they always know the best places to eat and drink (most important). I can only remember one chatty owner who drove us to distraction at breakfast time.
As one our learned forumers pointed out, treat your lodgings as if you were staying with friends or relatives.
Go and enjoy the B & B experience.
Those wonderful Irish/English breakfasts certainly leave you well fuelled up for the day ahead!!!

Posted by
356 posts

I have always been given a front door key when staying in B&Bs in the UK (and I have stayed in a lot!). I find that generally they leave you alone to do your own thing. In a lot of B&Bs I have often only seen the host at breakfast as they will sometimes live in a completely separate part of the house.

It would be expected for you to tell the host if you are not coming down to breakfast as you wouldn't want them to waste food. I think it would be the polite thing to do, although I have never had anyone knock on my door! To be honest, I would just tell them your worries when you get there.

The only B&B I have found intrusive (in a good way) was when I inadvertently found myself staying in a place run by and aimed at gay men (I was a straight single woman traveller). It was the campest B&B on the planet (I have never seen so many glitterballs in my life!) and I spent a week being fussed over and treated like a princess by hoards of gay men. It was mad, but brilliant!

Posted by
932 posts

Judy, I mentioned the same thing to my husband about a big breakfast being a great way to start the day. We will be walking it off during the day (well, maybe SOME of the calories! ;) and we will be so full, that if we even need lunch, it could be something light and on the go. And then we can have a nice dinner. This will save us loads of money!
Laura, thanks for the advice. I would definitely let them know if we wouldn't be at breakfast, because I hate waste! But even if we have a late night, I'll probably set my alarm, go eat the big meal and then go back to bed!!! And I love the glitterball story. I did enquire at one B&B in Edinburgh and the owner (a man) has a big rainbow flag on his webpage. But I'm thinking that my husband would get more attention than me! ;) What does "campest" mean?

Posted by
356 posts

Campest as in most camp (as in "he was as camp as a row of tents" etc). I honestly didn't realise it was a gay B&B when I booked, but then I walked into the front hall and there was a glitterball on the ceiling, a framed photo of Freddie Mercury on the wall and pink sequins and feather boas everywhere. Marvellous!

UK breakfasts are the best thing about staying in B&Bs (I don't think many of us actually cook them at home that often) so I would definitely try to force one down each morning!

Posted by
932 posts

Sorry Laura, still didn't understand "camp!" I had to wikipedia it: "Camp is an aesthetic sensibility wherein something is appealling because of its bad taste and ironic value." Is this the context in which you meant it?

Posted by
356 posts

Wow, I thought camp was a universal word! Mind you, I spent my whole time in America referring to cigarettes as fags so I haven't quite got my head around the language differences! In the UK, camp is generally used to refer to men who are gay and act in an effeminate way (mind you, my very straight colleague at work is the campest man I know!). In terms of furnishings it would refer to something kitschy and over-the-top. I'm trying to think of some camp American celebrities, but I can't think of any at all!

Posted by
2280 posts

Amy, I have stayed at several B&Bs in both Ireland and Scotland and loved them all. If you are social, I would suggest looking for a small one (so you'll get more attention from the owner), and check Trip Advisor to make sure the owners are friendly. That's one of my top criteria, and I have found the reviews on Trip Advisor give you a very good idea about what the owners are like (assuming there are enough reviews).

As for rules, I have found very few. I can't say about late nights, because I like to go to bed early on vacation. But sometimes my husband will go out to a pub after I go to bed, and he hasn't had any trouble. I have found the owners to be most accomodating. However, breakfast will most likely be at a set time. We love the breakfasts we got in both countries -- we never had to eat lunch out. My recollection is that every place in Scotland offered haggis. My husband likes it. I was leery of trying it because it sounds so gross, but I did have a taste and it tasted pretty much just like the sausage.

You will not feel like you are in a stranger's house. You will feel like you are staying with friends. Have a great trip!

Posted by
932 posts

Laura, I'm laughing. Funny. I hope your "campy" co-worker doesn't read this!

Carroll, thanks for the info. This thread has made me feel totally comfortable now with going to a B&B. I'm looking forward to new experiences on this trip. I'm just trying to understand how/why B&B's are so much cheaper than hotels. They're giving you MORE services than a hotel. It's not like they're putting out pastries and coffee in the morning. They're cooking a large breakfast for all their tenants. In America, B&B's are so expensive and considered luxurious!

Posted by
2664 posts

Amy, B&B's do not charge you VAT which helps keep the cost down. B&B's are the greatest way to go.

Posted by
356 posts

Amy - I think there are two reasons why B&Bs are cheaper than hotels. Firstly in the UK they are seen as being slightly more downmarket than hotels (I have never heard a posh person say they stay in B&Bs!) although of course some of them are much nicer than hotels.

Secondly, I think B&B owners are not in it for big profits. B&Bs do mostly seem to be run by people who are retired or people who wanted to escape the rat race. I think every B&B owner I have spoken to just wanted to cover their costs and have enough for a reasonable standard of living. I have never met one with pound signs in their eyes.

Posted by
2280 posts

I think Laura is correct. Also, the furniture may be a little worn. And perhaps the wallpaper is a bit dated. The less expensive B&Bs are not plush, but can be very charming and full of character. If your host/hostess is helpful and friendly and if you get a good breakfast, you will not care if the woodwork needs to be painted, trust me.

Posted by
3428 posts

Laura and Amy- Richard Simmons is Camp! So is Rue Paul! And check out Cher's audiances sometimes! Elton John plays at being camp! Sounds like you had a marvelous stay!

Posted by
932 posts

LOL, Toni. I was reading my Great Britain Rick Steve's last night, and I was taking a gander at the British-American glossary. I did NOT find Camp or any form of the word in it. Maybe he needs to add this to his updated issues... ;)

Posted by
356 posts

Amy - I read the glossary in the 2007 RS Guide to Britain and I did have one issue with it. He said the term "knocked up" refers to knocking on someone's door. This is true, but is quite an old-fashioned use of the term (my mum is the only person I know who uses it in that way). Most people would use the term to mean getting someone pregnant. I had this vision of some poor American wanting to speak the lingo and conveying quite the wrong message!

Posted by
9363 posts

Laura, last year I was in Chicago, waiting in line at O'Hare security for a flight to London. The British man in front of me, probably in his mid 50's, was talking to his daughter (I think) on the phone. She apparently asked when his flight would be in, and he gave her the approximate time, then said, "So I should be in time to knock you up and take you to breakfast." He got a glance or two from others in line. :)

Posted by
356 posts

Nancy - ha ha! My mum has a VERY loud voice. I was once in a busy restaurant with her when she decided to tell me that she was "tired because the postman knocked her up that morning". Oh, the smirks and sniggers...