This B&B is one of the most fashionable in York thanks to a couple of farmers who dash from country to city to make it work. Sharon Dale reports. Pictures by Scott Merrylees.
Guests who visit the Staymor B&B in the trendy Bishopthorpe Road area of York rave about everything from the decor to the breakfasts.
Few realise that the property is a farm diversification project and that the man making the bacon butties and coffee in the morning has already done a good couple of hours work.
Rob Penty gets up at 5am to tackle jobs on his 200 acres of arable and grassland, which also host a herd of Shorthorn X Blonde cattle. At 7am, he drives the eight miles from Bolton Percy to York to help out at the guesthouse. His wife, Ruth, takes over at 9.30am after she has dropped their four children off at school.
The relay system was key to making the business work and to the bank giving it the go-ahead. “We already have a holiday annexe at our farm and we really enjoy having people to stay. Plus it brings in enough for us to pay our heating bills. You are lucky to break even in farming these days, so we were looking for further diversification ideas,” says Ruth. “A B&B seemed like the best idea and we knew that the tourist industry was booming in York, so that seemed like the ideal place to look.”
With the help of Dan Taylor, of Carter Jonas in York, they took out an agricultural mortgage and secured it against their farmland.
They then managed to find an existing B&B that needed updating. The price was £345,000 and Ruth, who is full of creative energy and ideas, immediately spotted its potential. “We fell in love with it. It is in a great spot close to the racecourse and in walking distance of the city centre but it was an old-style guesthouse with a dining room and traditional decor. We knew we could modernise it and create some funky rooms,” she says.
The renovation, which turned out to be a far bigger job than they realised, gave the Pentys a chance to repurpose the space. They reasoned that many guests don’t like the idea of setting their alarm for breakfast with others in a shared dining room.
So instead, the Staymor offers breakfast in the bedrooms, which all have a table and chairs. What they have dubbed the “In-room Breakfast Experience” gave them the opportunity to turn the old dining room and sitting room on the ground floor into extra guest accommodation. They now have a total of seven letting rooms.
“Getting up and eating breakfast with other guests in a dining room is not something everyone enjoys so we thought of offering it in the room so you could get up and have breakfast in your pyjamas if you want. Visitors love that aspect, especially as we serve our own farm eggs and local produce,” adds Ruth.
The couple, whose children are aged between 10 and five, “shift parented” the renovation project but Ruth was in charge of the decor. She has given every room its own York-inspired theme with quirky accessories to match.
There’s a Tour de France room with a cycling theme, including framed Grand Départ tea towels by Yorkshire artist Jessica Hoggarth. The Dick Turpin room is darker and atmospheric with grape-coloured walls and Cole and Son Woods wallpaper. There is a picture of Dick and a fabulous diorama in what was the old serving hatch. It contains a highwayman’s tool kit: a replica pistol sourced from a York car boot sale, a mask and an old coin purse and pennies. There are also tricorn hats on the wall.
“I’m trying to get hats relevant to every room for people to try on and play with,” says Ruth, who has also created a railway-themed room with a sliding carriage door into the bathroom. Other bedrooms pay tribute to Terry’s chocolates and afternoon tea at Bettys.
Furniture and finds include some vintage pieces, many of them from Wombles in York, including two beautiful chairs with needlepoint upholstery that were a bargain £30.
Mattresses are from the Pentys’ neighbours in Bolton Percy, Harrison Spinks, who are renowned for their handmade beds. “We get lots of comments about how comfy they are,” says Ruth, who is now a part of the Bishopthorpe Road community – known as Bishy Road to those who know and love it.
“We love this area and so do people who stay with us. It has been described as Yorkshire’s answer to Notting Hill and that’s just what it is but maybe better.”
She and Rob are enjoying a taste of city life even though it has added more hours to their working day. “People wonder how we can possibly run the B&B in the city and the farm in the country as well but it actually works really well,” says Ruth. “We have a great housekeeper to help us at the Staymor and we love working here at the B&B. It doesn’t feel like a job.”
The Staymor in the city guesthouse, York, thestaymor.co.uk
Frankie and Johnny’s cookshop, Bishopthorpe Road, frankieandjohnnyscookshop.co.uk
Stanley and Ramona’s coffee shop, Bishopthorpe Road, stanleyandramona.co.uk
Pexton’s hardware, Bishopthorpe Road, pextons.co.uk
Pocklington Carpets, York, pocklington-carpets.com
Vanilla Interiors blinds, vanillainteriors.co.uk
Harrison Spinks beds, harrisonspinks.co.uk