When I heard a new B&B had opened in my home town of Derby, I had a mental picture of the dull, dreary guesthouses in a Patrick Hamilton novel. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Walking into the Coach House, which reopened under new ownership this autumn, was more like stepping into the pages of an interiors magazine. It is so on-trend, the Christmas tree had cactus baubles (very winter 2017).
The B&B’s snug area with mahogany bar
The main building is Mile Ash House, built in 1860 and once home to Reverend Walter Weston, a polymath who played for Derby County in their inaugural season, popularised mountain climbing in Japan, lectured at Cambridge and wrote a few books. I like to think he’d approve of the new snug, a space to read and tuck into the help-yourself homemade brownies; it has royal blue walls, a mahogany bar and a kitsch painting of Duke Gibson: a monkey in military dress. Across the hall is the sage-green breakfast room.
There are four standard bedrooms upstairs, which have been refreshed but not fully refurbished. They are good value (singles from £44, twin from £55) but pretty basic. What sets the place apart are the three superior rooms (from £75-£135) in the converted stables at the back of the house. We were in the pick of the bunch, No 7, which occupies the upper floor. It is Scandi-inspired, naturally; white and grey and accents of yellow, with wooden beams and a feature window at the far end, overlooking the garden. Playful design (by local interior designer Sarah Reynolds) includes birch-woodland wallpaper, rhinocerous-head lamps and, in lieu of pictures, a mounted clipboard holding a page from a dictionary.
Terroir Bistro, Derby. Photograph: Sarita White
The trend for open-plan bathrooms is in evidence: the toilet and rain shower are in a modular insert, with no door. It’s a shame there’s no space for a bath in any of the rooms, though. Toiletries are by Temple Spa; a smaller, local company might better fit the ethos.
We had a peek at one of the downstairs rooms, which has a hunting lodge theme: lots of tartan and antlers but with a fun, contemporary twist; not at all stuffy. The third room has a tropical vibe, with palms and lots of blue and green. Regardless of its style, this is still a B&B, so there’s no restaurant. However, friendly owner Rob Aitken has held a trial supper club and is planning regular pop-ups. He also organises dinners for guests who hire the whole place.
Instead, we took the opportunity to visit the city’s hottest new restaurant, Terroir Bistro, which recently won restaurant of the year in the Derby Food and Drink awards. It looks like the kind of tiny, rustic bistro you dream about stumbling across on holiday but serves British dishes made with ingredients from Derbyshire suppliers and the owner’s smallholding. My main course of Chatsworth venison (£22.50) was one of the best things I’ve eaten all year. The “wine wall” is a great feature – all wine is 20 quid, and diners help themselves from the rack.
We walked back to the Coach House, which is about 20 minutes north of the city centre in Darley Abbey, a historic mill village. The B&B is close to lovely Darley Abbey park and Darley Abbey Mills, part of the Derwent valley world heritage site. It’s a smart location: close enough to town for business travellers but also near West Mill, a prime Derbyshire wedding venue.
Full English breakfast at the Coach House
Breakfast was less fashionable than the room it was served in – no avocado or green juices – but locally sourced and cooked to order, including a meaty full English and a veggie version. I went for the smoked salmon and scrambled egg bagel, which was far better than many hotel breakfasts.
The lines are blurring between B&Bs and hotels. I still prefer the latter – but I’ll happily make an exception for the Coach House.
Ask a local
Dr Alex Rock, Derby Cathedral
A solar system model (an orrery) in front of Joseph Wright’s painting The Orrery, Joseph Wright Gallery. Photograph: Alamy
Derby is the pub capital of the country, taking in everything from the craft revolution at Suds & Soda on Friar Gate to the warm, traditional glow of the Old Bell Hotel’s Tudor Bar. And the Abbey Inn in Darley Abbey is worth a visit.
Joseph Wright almost certainly spent a lot of time in Derby Cathedral, alongside his fellow Lunar Society members; Erasmus Darwin had a house only 100 yards away. I enjoy visiting Derby Museums’ Joseph Wright Gallery; its collection of his most famous works is unmissable.
By day, Dubrek Studios is a recording studio; though it also hosts a superbly curated programme of alternative and experimental bands once or twice a week, with a capacity of just 50 or so. In the courtyard, you’ll find half a dozen big sheds operating as workshop space for Derby creatives.
Derby is home to QUAD: a cinema, gallery and cafe in Market Place. The programme is outstanding. The gallery is currently home to Kimchi and Chips’ ambitious Line Segments Space, which makes me feel like I’m on the set of Tron.