“ Address: 54-57 London Road / Tunbridge Wells / Kent / TN1 1DS / England „
Just off the high street of picturesque Royal Tunbridge Wells in Kent, you'll find a lovely B&B that won't completely break the bank at an average rate of £65-70 a night for two people in a twin/double room. The rooms are large, comfortable and tastefully decorated, and the back garden off the dining room is lush and pastoral. Conveniently located for getting to airports located to the south of London, this B&B is probably the most elegant one I've ever stayed at, and certainly was an intelligent choice!
To get to this hotel, you can either drive to take a train into Royal Tunbridge Wells. We had a touch of a problem finding it (silly us for not doing a mapquest before we left home), since it is off a side street parallel to the high street. If you're driving you also might have a problem with parking, since they only have three spaces (for 40 rooms!), although there's free street parking inside the park across the road. If you're coming by train, it is about a 15-minute walk from the station, which isn't bad, but not optimal either.
Once you're at the hotel, I repeat that the rooms are "large, comfortable and tastefully decorated". Our double had oodles of space, including enough for a desk, a luggage stand, plus table and two comfy chairs in the bay window. There's a large built-in closet, a fireplace (which I'm not sure works, as we were there in the summer) above which is a flat-screen TV. Our double bed was very comfortable and there were plenty of fluffy pillows. The room is decorated in browns and creams in a very modern but not stark design that was gentle on the eye and welcoming. Even though the hotel is off the high street, it is still on a main road. Although we had our window open all night, there wasn't a huge amount of traffic to disturb our sleep. Best of all, the curtains were so well lined that they really made the room dark even when the sun was directly opposite the window (making our afternoon nap a pleasure).
Our room faced the front of the hotel and the view we got was of the park across the street, which was very nice. But had we had a room at the back, we would have had an equally lovely view of their gardens, so no problems there.
However, not all was perfect. For instance, the TV is placed in such a way that it doesn't face either the bed or the sitting area, which made viewing a bit wonky. The bathroom sink didn't have a mixer tap, which I find strange (especially since they renovated as recently as 2006), and both the shower and bathroom in general was a touched cramped. We were also a bit disturbed by the bathroom door that squeaked so much it woke us up when one of us needed the facilities in the middle of the night.
Aside from that, while the room service we ordered (two coffees that were brought in huge café presse carafes enough for over two cups a person, and costing only £1 each) came quickly, they only start at 11am, meaning those who don't want to spend the extra for their breakfast are out of luck for their morning coffee. Mind you, we always are equipped when we know there are no coffee/tea facilities. Thankfully, we found lots and lots of sockets to plug in our kettle, and didn't have to unplug anything else, including our phones that were recharging.
Finally, I should mention that there's no air conditioning and the windows don't open very well, making the room a bit on the stuffy side for our summer visit. Other than that, since this was recently renovated, everything seems in tip-top condition. I assume that the hotel was built by combining a bunch of old homes together, giving the outside a real old-world feel to it. The lobby and reception area is as modernly decorated as the rooms and we found the staff very helpful for everything, and very welcoming. The only problem is that although there is an elevator to take you to upper floors, because of the connecting of the buildings, you'll still need to go up and down a few stairs here and there along your corridors to get to your rooms.
While we didn't have breakfast at this hotel, we did see what was on offer, and it looked very nice. Several types of juices, cereals, breads, pastries, jams, yoghurts and more of that lovely coffee they sent us. The dining room is designed to match the rest of the hotel, and has been extended to include a solarium. Outside of that, you can even sit in their lovely gardens for your meal (if it isn't raining).
The town of Tunbridge Wells is a bit on the sleepy side. That means there isn't much of nightlife, but we weren't looking for it. Daytime activities are mostly visiting the shopping and antiques areas, as well as some historic sites. We didn't have enough time to wander around, but I got the distinct feeling that it would be a lovely place to visit and poke around, and might be a good base for discovering Kent in general. Having found this reasonably priced, comfortable and attractive B&B to stay at if we ever get a chance to do so, I can honestly say we'd come back again. However, next time, we'll ask for a room that faces the back garden. In general, we were very pleased with the Smart & Simple, and it deserves to be awarded a solid, four out of five stars.
Davida Chazan © August, 2009
Their website is http://www.smartandsimple.co.uk/index.html and you can book on-line from there. As mentioned, room prices start at £65, and they have facilities for groups and parties.