Beckford's Tower


Lately, I’ve been frequenting Airbnb accommodation for work travel and adventures of my own. The mere whisper of the “A bomb” must send shudders down every Hotelier’s back. They have changed the game for the hospitality industry and I struggle to reason why anyone would pay hotel rates these days. Not when you can play house, lording it up in apartments, often a great deal nicer than your own humble abode, for a fraction of the price of a hotel room. Did I mention an online cruise through the Airbnb site also incites pure interiors envy?! But it has dawned on me that wherever I stay in the world recently; Paris, New York, Amsterdam, all my Airbnb’s have a familiar, identikit look. You can’t swing a cat for Billy Bookcases, angle poise lamps, reproduction Eames chairs and Fifty shades of grey. Its all one international supermarket sweep of a trolley dash round Ikea, to furnish accommodation perhaps not always treated with the greatest respect.  Since “good” design taste became so affordable, the world seems a blander place in my eyes. Where are the knitted loo roll covers of my childhood and the Land of Leather sofas. We all had a lot more fun when we could scoff at what we considered was someone else’s supposedly bad taste.

So it’s refreshing to pass the weekend in Beckford’s Tower in Bath, a remarkably unique place, like no other. Leased by the Landmark Trust, who had the foresight in the 1960s to save extraordinary listed buildings now known as “Landmarks.” Sensitively restoring them and generating income to maintain their future through paying guests. Thereby saving these buildings for future generations and allowing them to be enjoyed by all, for a modest price. They are criminally good value, with some Landmarks costing as much per person as a Travel Lodge!

Marble flooring at the entrance to the tower.

You won’t get an Old Chelsea Masons tea service, Victorian towel rail and a Farrow and Ball arsenic green painted bedroom at the lodge. Nor can you throw lunch for your friends on a mahogany dining table, facing a hand painted marble effect fireplace. The Tower, like all Landmarks is filled with thoughtfully sourced period furnishings you can actually use – not admire from afar.  Behind the scenes, is the wonderful Housekeeper Julie, arranging fresh flowers for your arrival. Need I say more, this is the level of attention to detail, which sets them apart from the rest.

Incidentally, the tower and I go way back and it is a place I have a deep-rooted connection to. As a boarder at Kingswood School in the 90s, I spent much of my formative years huffing and puffing my way round the playing fields with the tower looming on the horizon. I suffered the same fate of my father; attending a seriously sporty public school whose hierarchy was based on sporting ability, whilst being in possession of absolutely none myself.  Many an hour was spent wheezing my way past the boy’s rugby pitches, turning puce whilst my straightened mane frizzed into a hairstyle any poodle would be proud of. All the while, desperately trying to look attractive (I did not) to members of the opposite sex, pondering the history of the tower rather than paying any attention to the rules of hockey.

The lovely Buxton family and their new dog Tansy join me for a lunchtime W.A.L.K.

Thankfully, staying at the tower is a far more civilized experience than being a teenager and switching off from London life wasn’t hard; the Landmark has a no television or wifi policy. My friend Clare and I spent an unforgettable evening, drinking tea and crying with laughter, taking turns to read random excerpts from the Visitor’s Book. It definitely made an interesting insight into the psyche of the British public. Highlights included the lady who raved about the fabulous acoustics when singing her socks off to “Polly put the Kettle on” and “Oranges and Lemons”. Another gentleman scared himself to death convinced he’d seen the ghost of a spaniel in the cemetery facing the bedroom. Whilst others joked of missing the key to the 60 inch flat screen television and the classical oil painting featuring a man about to do inappropriate things to a lamb! “God bless Waitrose,” was a reoccurring theme as was bragging about how many Landmarks they had stayed in; “this is my 587th stay,” as one chap joked. All in all, plenty of leg pulling and good humour by previous guests set the tone for what was a truly memorable weekend.

The oil paintings that seemed to fire people’s imaginations!

Cantilever staircase leading up to the tower

The last remaining cornicing detailing from Beckford’s day.

Rapunzels in the tower, Katie and Clare look out over Bath and Bristol simultaneously.

The Tower inspires these kind of enduring, treasured memories in people, not the type you find wolfing down a cheap English breakfast in a sterile hotel. As I write this piece, I am watching a young stag grooming himself, nestled against a grave in the cemetery, wondering how I’m ever going to tear myself away for the 6pm train home. If the Visitors’ book is anything to go by, visiting other Landmarks becomes a lifetime addiction and I’m off home to book my next trip. I hope I have inspired you to book yours!

All very professional shots courtesy and copyright of The Landmark Trust