The Inspector, 3rd September 2007.
An Inspector Calls: Berwick upon Tweed
1 Sallyport has chic and comfy rooms.
Number 1 Sallyport has won all kinds of awards. Not so long ago,
a national newspaper made it Britain's bed and breakfast of the year, and I dare
say it might have repeated the honour several times over in subsequent years -
except that it's no longer a B&B. Nowadays, you can enjoy a superb three-course
dinner cooked by 1 Sallyport's indefatigable proprietor, Lizzie Middlemiss, who
in the 1980s used to run a restaurant here in Berwick upon Tweed called Funny-Way-To-Make-A-Living.
She's a sensational chef as well as being a wonderfully eccentric, warm character
- and it can't be long before her funky hotel picks up plaudits aplenty.
1 Sallyport is reached via a narrow cobbled lane once painted
by L. S. Sandstell. When I arrive shortly after 9pm, it's like walking into a private
dinner party, and I feel embarrassed to disturb the contented throng. But Lizzie's
manner is such that any discomfort on my part is immediately banished into the
nearby North Sea.
'Leave your shoes at the bottom of the stairs, please,' she says
- and Lizzie shows me two different rooms, leaving me to decide on one of them.
I go for the attic option, which is called Crabwater. It
has a bit of everything - and a lot more besides. At the end of the beautifully-dressed
bed, bulging with pillows, is a tray with all the usual tea and coffee-making paraphernalia
but there's also a plate of home-made shortbread. There's a massive flat-screen
TV with full satellite viewing and there's a mini-library of DVDs, a stack of hardback
books, a basket of magazines and plenty of mineral water.
What I'm not clear about is whether the half bottle of pink champagne
and packet of chocolates - oh, and the Dolce & Gabbana scent - are gratis or
not. Sitting on the table is a small photograph album that has 'Information' written
on it. Here, Lizzie, in her own immaculate hand-writing, explains about her packed
lunches and where best to eat them: Holy Island, St Abbs Head, Bamburgh Beach.
Berwick itself is well worth exploring. It was once Scotland's greatest seaport,
although from the 16th century until 1836 it was an independent borough, neither
in Scotland nor England.
It's always rumoured that a combination of its ambiguous status
and an administrative error means that the town is still at war with Russia. In
fact, today it's in Northumberland - although the football team is in a Scottish
My bathroom is across the corridor, but is mine alone. It's huge
- with a stand-alone, rolltop bath in the middle of it. A walk-in shower occupies
the far end of the room. Candles are everywhere. It seems a shame to be staying
here on one's own.
Seagulls wake me rather earlier than I had intended - and breakfast
here officially doesn't start until 8.30pm. But I smell the coffee and head downstairs.
There are two large communal tables and it isn't long before I'm joined by a couple
from Coventry. Unlike me, they had dinner here the night before and are still purring
on about it. In one of the dining rooms, a painting of Fidel Castro looms large.
After a bowl of fresh raspberries, kiwi fruit, nectarines, plums
and vanilla yoghurt, I'm presented with Lizzie's full Scottish breakfast, complete
with haggis. Don't expect to eat for the rest of the day. 1 Sallyport restores
your faith in paid-for hospitality. It deserves all the applause it gets.
Tiny lanes and cobbled alleyways sweep up to this l7th-century
listed townhouse in pretty, medieval Berwick. Step inside and you find surprisingly
funky interiors. Bedrooms are wild: a fire and huge plasma screen in one, a sleigh
bed in another, and even a white 'Crabwater loft' room. All come with DVD players,
Bose sound systems and fridges to chill your wine (no licence, so bring your own).
Super-cool bathrooms, most with deluge showers, have Fired Earth tiles and waffle
bathrobes. Owner Elizabeth will whisk up a feast for dinner (on request) or for
communal breakfast. A real find.
BRITISH AIRWAYS HIGHLIFE
Berwick-upon-Tweed, a historic red-brick town that sits on the
Scottish borders where the Tweed meets the sea, has a picturesque charm that is
perfectly complemented by the intimate 1 Sallyport. The name of this 17th century
house comes from the French term for waterfront, and though you can't see the sea
from the rooms themselves, views of the dramatic coastline from the town's medieval
walls are just a minute's walk from the front door of this award-winning B&B.
While luxury is the name of the game (the newest room, Hallowstell, is a romantic
suite with a handmade cast-iron bath and soft furnishings from the upmarket fashion
house of the same name), there's a cosy home-from-home atmosphere thanks to the
friendly but unobtrusive service. Breakfast is a relaxed but divine gourmet affair
(think waffles with raspberries or craster kippers with poached eggs) and those
with hearty appetites can help themselves to home-made shortbread if they're feeling
peckish. For dinner, the new restaurant offers a sublime, daily changing feast
of local produce.
The Sunday Times
Walter F Stowy, 17th April, 2005.
Better and Better: The Top 10 B&Bs in England
This week, the shortlist for England's best bed and breakfast
will be revealed - but we've already sent our ruthless hotel inspector, Walter
F Stowy, to see if they're up to scratch.
No 1 SALLYPORT
I was on my way to my room on the top floor when Elizabeth Middlemiss
showed me her suite, Whitesands. Wow. I’d never seen anything like it
in a B&B before: a huge room, lit by big windows and home to an oversized sofa,
a widescreen television, a DVD player and all manner of artful flourishes. The
curtains appeared to be made of suede. Suede! “How much?” I cried. “Well,
it’s a bit more expensive,” she admitted, “£95 a night,
including breakfast.” “How much?” In London or New York, a room
like that would set me back £400. “Including breakfast,” Elizabeth
ventured. Now I know that in order to test the true mettle of an establishment,
a reviewer should check in to the cheapest room. But I’m sorry, readers.
The bed: as much a throne as a place to sleep — home to
a big leather headboard, oversized pillows and expensive linen. The accompanying
bathroom was a treat, too: my morning shower was heavier than an Amazon rainstorm.
The breakfast: there’s a wide range of cooked dishes (I
had eggs benedict) as well as home-made bread and jams. 9/10.
The decor: the other rooms were also gorgeous. 10/10.
The service: easy-going and intelligent. Elizabeth knows when
to leave you in peace, too. 9/10.
The location: probably the best-preserved historic town in Britain,
Berwick should by rights be a Unesco World Heritage Site. Within three minutes
of leaving Sallyport’s front door, you’ll be standing on the medieval
walls, looking out across the mouth of the River Tweed. 10/10.
Do they do dinner? Yes, but not on the night I stayed there.
The “rustic Provençal suppers” cost £29.50 a head.
Value for money: 10/10.
Does it deserve its nomination? You bet — I thought I’d
died and gone to heaven, or at the very least to the top floor of a luxury Crabwater
The winner is ...
… No 1 Sallyport. Berwick is a criminally underrated place
for a holiday — the kind of history-drenched town you’d expect to find
in Brittany or the Dordogne, not England — and this is the perfect perch
from which to enjoy it.
The Which? Guide to Good Hotels 2005
Stylish Rooms and Good Food at a Bijou B&B in Berwick's
Whatever Elizabeth Middlemiss does, she likes to get it right.
Just a short stroll from the River Tweed waterfront, her stone townhouse is a haven
of comfy style and fine food, liberally dotted about with eclectic bits and bobs
to catch the eye of anyone with a feel for contemporary style. That's not to say
that this is a soulless, minimal sort of place: the bedrooms (shoe-free, incidentally)
head straight for the comfort zone with touchy feely fabrics, big beds to sprawl
in and classy modern bathrooms with features such as terracotta or mosaic tiles
and monsoon shower heads.
The vast leather sleigh bed, wooden floors and modular sofa in
Whitesands will appeal to style slaves, as will the clean-cut lines of the Crabwater. The Master Bedroom is a more traditional space that blends toile wallpaper
with a gleaming brass bed and black marble fireplace. By arrangement, Elizabeth
cooks Provençal-style dinners in a suitably rustic farmhouse kitchen where
guests share a polished table by a huge stone fireplace; breakfasts are a treat
too - perhaps vanilla waffles with fresh raspberries, local Craster kippers or
a full Scottish breakfast with haggis.
Deborah King, 1st July 2004.
Home Comforts With Chocolates and Shortbread
BED AND BREAKFAST doesn't come much better than No 1 Sallyport,
a 17th-century house tucked away in an ancient alley near the quayside. Owner Lizzie
Middlemiss, a new entry in The Good Food Guide, encourages guests to remove their
shoes once inside, a fast-track way to treating the place like home.
The similarity can end there. My room, the Whitesands, was more
of a suite than a bedroom. The newest and easily the swankiest of the three guest
rooms, it has wood flooring, a huge sleigh bed and, through an arch, a separate
lounge area with stylish corner sofa and widescreen television. Also included were
Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries, homemade chocolates, vases of lilies and a guests
kitchen stocked with teas, coffee and homemade shortbread and cakes.
Evening meals resemble a dinner party as guests sit together
round a large wooden table. My fellow guests, who tucked in to a feast of boeuf
bourguignon followed by pears poached in wine and honey, included a judge from
Chester and a retired couple who had just returned from the Falklands.
You choose your breakfast the night before from a huge list that
includes Craster kippers, fruit compote, homemade vanilla waffles and oatmeal porridge
served with cream and Drambuie.
A lot of thought has gone into the designer rooms and staying
here is a decadent and delightful experience.
Guardian: 6 of the Best B&Bs
Elsie Dillard, Editor of the Good Bed & Breakfast Guide 2003
"No 1 is an atmospheric house dating from the 17th Century.
Goose down duvets, fluffy towels, white bed linen and fresh flowers all contribute
to the feeling that No 1 is somewhere special and all three bedrooms now have TVs,
videos and CD players. Guests have access to the kitchen where they can make their
own cafetiere coffee and help themselves to home-baked shortbread or fruitcake
and drinks from an honesty bar."