We are a small group of well-known hotel critics, founded by Sunday Telegraph columnist Fiona Duncan and Former Charming Small Hotel Guides series editor Leonie Glass.
Our mission is to find good hotels. Pure and simple.
To start with, we commissioned 45 leading hotel reviewers and journalists (the Gurus) to tell us about the best places to stay in cities and regions they know well. Not just hotels, but luxury b&bs, gastropubs, characterful inns in great locations, farms and other wonderful places.
Next, we scoured travel guides, newspapers and hotel awards lists to find out where they recommended. And you don't just have to take our word for it - in addition to our own assessments, we have provided links to all the reviews and travel guides so you can read what they've said.
Next, we analysed, rated and tagged them all - a massive task, and always ongoing - to find which hotels have pools (indoor, outdoor, or both), gyms, spas; which are suitable for children; which have the best views, and which accept pets - and so on. We are obsessive, just so we can give you the quickest route to finding exactly the right place for you. In that old website cliche, we've done the work so you don't have to!
Finally, we asked the 'hotel booking public' - you - how you liked to book hotels, so we could include all your preferred methods - which means we offer you not just the leading online booking services in one place for you to compare rates, but also, crucially (and this was a big request from people) a way to contact the hotels direct. No more trawling through search engine results trying to find the hotels' contact details.
And if that's not enough, we're also able to do this for you, to save you time. It's our unique 'Ask the Guru' service - simply tell us what you are looking for and we will filter your request to up to three hotels that match your needs to come back to you with direct offers. Or pick up the phone and we'll gladly advise you.
That, in the proverbial nutshell, is the Hotel Guru. Please let us know about a hotel you think we should include if it's not here, because the aim of this site and our service is that it should get better and better, and more useful, as time goes on.
We are a small group of well-known hotel critics, founded by Sunday Telegraph columnist Fiona Duncan and Former Charming Small Hotel Guides series editor Leonie Glass.
Founder of Europe's first boutique hotel booking website, Travelintelligence.com, in 2000 (bought by Travelzoo in 2013), James is a director and co-owner of The Hotel Guru. James has spent much of his life travelling: from early voyages across the sands of the Sahara and up the Niger to Timbuktou, to one of the last of the 'Magic Buses' to run the route from the Charing Cross Road to Delhi, from jail in Morocco to the snows of Kilamanjaro. He has a passion for hotels and places to stay of character, and has reviewed nearly 1000 in the past 15 years.
Fiona's expertise on hotels began In 1986 when she and her husband Andrew Duncan launched the Charming Small Hotel Guides, and she became, along with her great friend and colleague, Leonie Glass, series editor and principal author of the series, travelling all over Europe to find and describe lovely, individual, personally run hotels. In 1998 she contributed her first travel article to the Sunday Telegraph, for which she has since written regularly, beginning her weekly column Hotel Guru In 2006.
Leonie has been a travel writer and editor for more than 25 years. After three years at Hutchinson, working first for a fiction editor then editing educational books, she moved to Mitchell Beazley, where she edited the American Express Pocket travel guides and met Fiona Duncan. After the birth of her first child, she went freelance and became, with Fiona, principal author of Duncan Petersen's Charming Small Hotel Guides.
Good food, in fact haute cuisine, used to be the driving force behind forays away from home; hotels were just a place to rest before the next gastronomic feast, but as the years have passed, the joy of a comfortable bed, a decent bathroom, an enviable location and excellent service have acquired significantly more weight, as has Hugh. He has written for the Sunday Telegraph and founded the Ski Club of Great Britain's Chalet & Hotel Guide. He now is responsible for the Hotel Guru and lives in Scotland.
Adam Jacot de Boinod is a British author, most famous for his works about unusual words. He has written three books, the first two (The Meaning of Tingo and Toujours Tingo) looking at words that have no equivalent in the English language and his latest book (The Wonder of Whiffling) looking at unusual words in English. <br /> He worked on the first series of the television panel game QI. He then began to investigate languages, examining 280 dictionaries and 140 websites. This led to the creation of his first book in 2005, The Meaning of Tingo, a book featuring words which have no equivalent in the English language, “tingo” being a word from the Pascuense language of Easter island meaning, "to borrow things from a friend's house, one by one, until there's nothing left". He then wrote up a follow-up book entitled Toujours Tingo in 2007. In 2009, de Boinod wrote The Wonder of Whiffling, a book about unusual words in English. <br /> He is now a freelance journalist writing about language, cultural comparisons and travel.
Daisy currently lives in London but claims her head is always somewhere else. "I was lucky to grow up with parents who adored traveling and wanted to share their experiences with me and my three brothers," she says. "Now I'm hooked and get itchy feet if I stay still too long." Fortunately, she has a husband and young daughter to keep her busy and contented when grounded.
Darren Taffinder is a British writer. He writes regularly on parenting and travel for publications including The Sunday Telegraph, Handbag.com, All About You, Go Mama Today, and Food & Travel Magazine. Currently, he lives in New York City with his wife and daughter.
David is an award-winning, full-time freelance writer based in England's Northwest. He writes widely for newspapers and magazines from The Observer to Wanderlust, covering all aspects of travel from green to business via family and likes emerging destinations. He has lived in Japan and South America, travelling extensively in both destinations. More recently he has been contracted as author of the Lonely Planet guide to Wales and judged the National Tourism Awards for Wales.
Gabriele Civiliene worked for eight years in Lithuania for UK publisher Pearson Education in their sales and marketing department, with responsibility for the Baltic States. At the same time, she continued to teach English at Kaunas Technology University. Passionate about language, she also speaks Russian, Polish and some Spanish as well as her native Lithuanian.
George Pownall was a film-maker and freelance writer for many years. Shooting his award-winning documentaries took him round the world and to every corner of Britain, staying in hotels varying from the palatial to the downright disgusting. An enthusiastic cook, and after all these years, still an enthusiast for a good hotel, he is married to a food journalist.
Libbla Prentice has been travelling the globe for a fair few decades and is delighted to be able to share her travel wisdom. Over the years her business life has taken her to The Far East, Australasia and America’s East and West coasts. Having worked in the retail sector in marketing primarily, she has stayed in many cities in Europe and the UK. <br /> Libbla says “Life is about sharing experiences…. and laughter with friends”.
After reading English at Worcester University, Marcus travelled through Asia and Australia before completing a Postgraduate in Periodical Journalism at the London College of Communication in 1999. He worked as a staff writer for two travel websites before going freelance in 2001. He has since written travel features for a wide variety of UK papers, magazines and websites including The Guardian, The Sunday Telegraph, the Independent on Sunday, the London Evening Standard, the Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Wanderlust, Marie Claire, easyJet, Summit Hotels, Expedia.com and thisistravel.co.uk.
Mary Lussiana has loved hotels for as long as she can remember - and written about them for more than 20 years. Not even five years on the other side of the fence, as Public Relations Manager at a Leading Hotel of the World (the Hotel Bristol in Warsaw) put her off. Now living in Portugal with her husband and two youngest children, she continues to travel and write on hotels, food and spas for a variety of publications, including Condé Nast Traveller, House and Garden, Harper's Bazaar, The Times and the Sunday Telegraph.
Nicky Swallow has lived in Florence since 1981 and has been writing about Florence, Tuscany and other Italian regions for over 10 years. Having travelled widely throughout Italy and specialising in articles about hotels, food and restaurants, she is a regular contributor to the Time Out guides Italian titles, is the editor of the Charming Small Hotel Guide to Tuscany & Umbria and is author of the Insideout guides to Milan, Florence, Naples and Cape Town.
Colin Donald is a business and arts journalist who has travelled and worked widely in the US and the Far East. He was business editor of the Sunday Herald in Glasgow, and Tokyo Correspondent for Business AM, as well as contributing regularly to newspapers in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and Japan where he was also associate professor of international relations at Baiko University, Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi-ken. His favourite things in life (family apart!) are exploring new places and getting excited about food, architecture and meeting new people.
Simone Topolski has been travel-writing since 2002, when she started writing city features for independent fashion magazine All Access. While continuing to work in retail management she completed a journalism post-grad in 2005 and continued to write for various magazines including W9 and Yoga & Health. She finally took the plunge and went full-time freelance in May 2006 and has written for various publications including Conde Nast Traveller, Time Out, The Intelligent Traveller magazine and Wanderlust.
Melbourne-born Tobi Cohen cut her travel and lifestyle journalism teeth at British Airways' High Life magazine. She now edited the MyTravel magazine Recline and wrote about hotels for Conde Nast Traveller, Daily Candy, Vogue Entertainment & Travel (Australia) and the Daily Mail. St Petersburg is a city she knew well, and a city to which she kept returning. <br /> <br /> Tobi very sadly passed away in 2011.
Tristram's passion for foreign cultures was sparked by a trip around the world at the age of 19. He then went on to study English at Newcastle University, and so began an insatiable interest in books and literature. Since leaving Newcastle he has worked primarily in sales, promotions and marketing, whilst still managing to squeeze in a couple more long-haul trips.
Robin Gauldie has been a compulsive traveller all his life. As a hairy student, he hitch-hiked all over Europe, Morocco and Turkey. After graduating from Edinburgh University in 1976, he worked as a reporter on local newspapers in Scotland and London before joining the pan-European travel industry newspaper Travel Trade Gazette Europa in 1979...
Travel writer Louise Farquhar has hiked, biked, skied and horse-ridden her way through some stunning country. After graduating from Glasgow University with a law degree in 1993 Louise embarked on a series of adventures which provided the fuel for many stories published at home and abroad...
Sonja began her career in the mid 90’s as a secondary school teacher in London teaching Science and Physical Education (Sonja was an international swimmer and simply adores nice pools and spas!) swiftly climbing to Head of Faculty. All the holiday-time associated with teaching allowed Sonja months to travel extensively around the world, from journeying across China on a third-class (“hard seat”) train to reclining on a 5-star beach in the Turks and Caicos Islands!
MD of Tanzania Odyssey is also a Director of ATTA, (The African Travel and Tourism Association), and is a grizzled guru in the world of African Safaris. Marc started Africa Archipelago in 1996, arranging safaris throughout East and Southern Africa, but began to specialise in then lesser-known Tanzania itineraries. This led to the creation of Tanzania Odyssey in 2000, a focused, specialist company providing the very best itineraries and safari support in Tanzania.
Clare spent her childhood in Nigeria, Switzerland and Germany and ever since has had an incurable wanderlust. Her favourite destinations are Ladahk, Society Islands, Los Angeles and Cambodia. Clare worked as Travel Editor for London Portrait Magazine in the 1980s and has been a regular contributor for The Sunday Telegraph travel for the last eleven years. Clare lives in Suffolk with her three children.
Lincoln read law at Oxford, then worked as a shipping lawyer for seven years before becoming a full time artist and sculptor, with his first show in New York. He specialises in mobile sculptures for contemporary buildings around the world, including Cathay Pacific's headquarters in Hong Kong. In the course of his work and travels he became determined to enjoy the inevitable hotel life, and has put a great deal of thought into what makes a good hotel and what doesn't – and why. For over thirty years he has travelled extensively, particularly in India, the Far East and the USA, always on the look out for great places to stay.
Louise divides her time between writing (about travel, film, art, music, theatre, fashion, literature, architecture, TV and interiors), editing (sections of various magazines including Premiere UK, Total Film and Wonderland) and acting (most notably on TV in the BBC’s Bleak House and Sherlock, and on stage for Sir Peter Hall). She has interviewed hundreds of celebrities from Liv Tyler to The Pet Shop Boys and is the co-editor of the Charming Small Hotels Guide to France.
With degrees in Economics and Classics, Michael Osborne has been an accountant, bath resurfacer and headmaster. Now he has a tangential relationship with education and writes book reviews for The Economist. He enjoys remote places and has walked considerable distances in many lands. Forty years ago he described himself on his passport as an itinerant and was happy to rough it. Today he prefers a greater degree of comfort and staying in hotels that are charming, peaceful, individual, friendly and good value.
Louise Tickle is a Gloucestershire-based freelance journalist whose activity and wildlife travel writing for publications including The Sunday Telegraph, The Guardian, The Observer, The Independent on Sunday, Elle, Coast, BBC Wildlife and BBC Countryfile has encompassed testing out a luxury bootcamp in Crete and sea kayaking in the Outer Hebrides to tracking otters on Shetland and learning to sail catamarans in the Caribbean.
Lucy’s passion for travel and hotels began on a six-month backpacking trip to South and Central America in 2002. Since then she has worked as a PR consultant and freelance journalist, contributing to idFX magazine and the Spectator as well as her own blog. Her background in interiors has given her a keen eye for the aesthetics of her surroundings. Originally from Yorkshire, Lucy loves the English countryside as well as exploring more foreign terrains: with recent trips abroad including India, Dubai and America, she is always looking for new destinations and adventures.
The older son of Fiona Duncan and her husband Andrew (publisher of the Charming Small Hotel Guides), Alexander spent much of his youth staying in some of the world's most charming hotels with his parents and has now taken to writing about them himself. Aside from this, he pursues his main job as a freelance videographer. You can see his work at www.alexanderduncan.co.uk. Alexander is also a keen photographer and often contributes images to his parents’ publications.
After living in London, New York and Beirut, Pip has made Bangkok her home - for now. A writer by trade, she has contributed to Monocle, ELLE, Brownbook, GOOD, Vogue.com and others. Prior to journalism, she enjoyed a career in advertising that included many a boozy lunch, but these days, she's more likely to be found doing yoga and dreaming of the day that she can own a dog.
Geraldine Keith has written extensively on both travel and interiors, having worked in the past on the staff of a successful London magazine, Portrait, and now on Life magazines for various towns in Hampshire where she now lives. She loves traveling when not looking after her family and has spent three months in India, at the same time garnering reviews for the Hotel Guru website.
From food reviewer for Asia Life in Cambodia, to trainee gaucho on a farm in Argentina, food, travel and lifestyle writer/photographer Heidi Fuller-Love regularly contributes features and photos to 68+ publications around the globe and travels the world reporting LIVE from different destinations each month for her award-winning city/country guide show for British Airways inflight radio. <br /> <br /> Based between Greece and France (and spending five months a year on the road), you can rest assured that Heidi is a sucker for good beds and has a rigorous sense of what’s required from a good sleepery.
Stephen Brown lives between Edinburgh and Mallorca. He was born in Hong Kong and spent the first 6 months of his life living in the Peninsula hotel on Kowloon side. He travelled and grew up in the golden age of BOAC, Pan Am & TWA and has loved travel and hotels ever since. He has worked in 5 star London Hotels, including the Westbury and Grosvenor House. A hotel owner and a self catering owner in Scotland, he has worked in the travel & hotel sector for 40 years and is always on the lookout for great places to eat & stay. He is a keen golfer and fly fisherman.
Travel has always played an important part in Helena’s life – from sailing in Suffolk to an overland journey from Nepal to Tibet. She studied French and Italian at Bristol University, which included five months studying and living in Turin, followed by five months working at the tourist office in Montpellier. Helena is now back in London and works in travel PR. Favourite destinations to date include Tibet, Chile, the Languedoc Roussillon region, travelling down the Mekong in Laos and anywhere where there’s the chance to try out a new language.
Brighton-based journalist Vicki Power has interviewed hundreds of actors and written about television in a long career for UK broadsheets, tabloids and magazines. But visits to film sets in farflung destinations for work has ignited a wanderlust that won’t be ignored, and she’s developied a second career in travel writing to enable her passion to flourish. She needs little excuse to pack a bag and has developed a keen sense of what makes a hotel special.
Rachel runs the translation division of leading literary agency Peters Fraser and Dunlop, representing writers all over the world, a career which combines her passions of reading and travel. A horror of soulless 'business' hotels has led to years of seeking out individual and characterful places to stay.
The delight, and sense of purpose I experience when visiting museums and interesting cultural sites was deeply embedded when I spent three years as a postgraduate at the Royal Academy Schools of Art in London in the 1980’s .I always travel with sketchbook and easel and whenever possible my mission is to reflect and record observations through my own artistic practice. Hotels that facilitate visits to cultural centres are my choice particularly if they are clean, quiet and reasonably comfortable. My studio is in Gloucestershire and I exhibit my work predominantly in London. www.peterlloyd-jones.co.uk
Richard spent 30 years running his family’s chain of bars and restaurants in London, and has a very thorough understanding of the complexities of the hospitality business. He has travelled extensively through the principal wine districts of the world, and has a great interest in food and drink and its relation to nature and national cultures. He lives in East Anglia with his wife, Charlotte, who has run her own ski travel business.
Charlotte has a keen passion for the arts and all things cultural, in particular, hunting out undiscovered finds whether it be a tiny restaurant in Paris or a quirky guesthouse in Malta. She has a penchant for interior design, architecture, literature, art, photography and good food, which is reflected in her written work. Charlotte currently lives in Kent and holds the position of editor at local lifestyle magazine Vine in Sevenoaks. She loves to get away at any opportunity, however, and is always looking for new destinations to enjoy and share with others.
Born Danish but grew up in Ghana, Pakistan, Singapore, the US and Germany. Managed to continue her love of travelling and living abroad together with her English husband and children in postings in Singapore and Hong Kong for 18 years. Now residing for the first time as an adult in Denmark, and very much enjoying exploring Scandinavia and the rest of Europe.
Travel editor and writer Laura Griffith-Jones has been hooked on travel since her first major adventure, to India, aged 17. Since then, she's taken every opportunity to explore the world, journeying throughout Central America, Asia and Africa. She's lived in London, Paris, Cape Town, Zambia, Uganda and, most recently, Mumbai, where she has been working as Managing Editor of Conde Nast Traveller India.
A keen traveller from a young age, Alasdair has explored various parts of continental Europe, North America, Africa, the Middle East, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand and China. He read Classics at Cambridge, and took advantage of the long holidays to go travelling. His excursions included inter-railing around Europe, a rugby tour of Australia and a Mandarin course in Chengdu, Southwest China. After a year spent teaching, he is now studying law, as well as planning a trip to Cambodia and Vietnam. He is a keen rugby player and skier, and still has a long ‘to do’ travel list.
A career in finance, energy and entrepreneurship, along with an eccentric love of slow travel, has taken Gav to some hundred of the world’s two hundred countries, and to thousands of its hotels (most great, some far from great). Still spending one night in three in a hotel somewhere, Gav is passionate about a peaceful night’s sleep and a hotel window that opens.
Caribbean expert James Henderson is an independent travel journalist writing for the Telegraph and the Financial Times, including its luxury magazine How to Spend it, as well as being series editor of the Definitive Caribbean Guides'
Maud's passion for travelling has led her to live in various places across the world, including Melbourne, Kolkata, Dublin and Edinburgh. With a zeal for authentic local knowledge, she has used both work and study as an excuse to explore new places. After working as Travel Editor of Trinity News she wrote for various publications including The List before going freelance.
Malcolm has been involved in travel guidebook publishing for 45 years and was until recently Publisher of Signpost - the UK hotel guide established in 1935. <br /> Before that his then company won the Queens Award for Export Achievement two years running for work in the Middle East, he co-published leisure guides with Visit Britain (then called BTA) and he was publisher of the PATA Asia-Pacific Business Travel Guide from 1990 until 2000. He travels widely in the UK and overseas and counts bridge and ski-ing among his interests.
Jean started backpacking as a teenager round Europe and has been hooked ever since. A degree in History of Art further fuelled her interest in different cultures and languages, which led her to teach English in the UK and Hungary. Having perpetual itchy feet has clashed with other commitments and she recently took a career break to be able to tick off some places from her extensive must see list. She is happiest exploring ancient sites from the Valley of the Kings to the temples of Angkor and zipping round cities on the back of a scooter.
Trained as a Social Anthropologist and Geographer, seeing and understanding the world around us has always been uppermost in Honor's priorities. Always keen to see around the next corner, over the next hill and just along the cliff path, Honor has done a lot of solo travelling finding "It makes you talk to the person sitting next to you on the bus or at the chai stand when you get off". She has recently completed a research degree in South Asian Development at Edinburgh University and consults for an NGO working to improve women's rights in rural Himachal Pradesh. India is the focus of her travels at present but, she says, "I really want to explore Pakistan - such a stunning country and amazing history, but a little difficult at the moment!" Honor is particularly interested in good places to stay for women on their own as well as finding places which are sustainable and resonating local culture - "I cant bear cliches, the ubiquitous orchid on the pillow; its got to feel like a real place that belongs to someone!"
Laura has been writing about style and interiors for over 20 years. She worked at Vogue in the early 90s then joined The Daily Telegraph, helped launch In Style in the UK in 2001 before going freelance. She’s had columns in The Times and ES Magazine and has contributed to the Financial Times including How To Spend It, Elle, Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, US Vogue, You Magazine, Livingetc and the Telegraph Magazine. Growing up in Scotland, she likes the contrast of wilderness and city life and after stints in Paris, NYC and Gloucestershire, is now based in London. A self-confessed detailist and foodie, she loves nothing more than researching an area and finding new places to explore and experience. Travels have taken her all over Europe, throughout America, SE Asia, Australia, Africa, India and sailing across the Pacific.
Antonia Windsor is a freelance journalist specialising in travel - and all the subjects necessary to write about a place: food, arts, culture, environment and global development issues. Her work has appeared in the Guardian, Observer, Financial Times, Executive Travel, Food and Travel and many other print and online publications. She currently blogs about London for Expedia and about life as a travel writer with two small children.
An aspiring travel writer/ hotel reviewer with a first-class degree in English Literature and Journalism. Currently living and working in London, Tom is a web editor at Duncan Petersen Publishing Ltd, who is always thinking about his next holiday destination.
With a mix of family life in Scotland and expat life in Asia and Middle East since 1987 I have travelled extensively and experienced a wide range of hospitality from basic huts in the Philippines in the 80's to the glitz of the best of Dubai today with a bit of Europe and Africa thrown in from time to time. Mother of 4 adventurous travellers I am always looking for quality, atmosphere and value with a touch of quirkiness if possible. Personal preferences include Glenburn Tea Estate in Darjeeling, Scarista in Harris and Park Hyatt in Dubai for their incredible Friday Brunch.
Cole is from Lexington, Kentucky and attends school at the University of Kentucky. He currently is studying in London for 6 months and hopes to travel the world as much as he can. He is the son of Bob and Kathy and brother to Drew, Morgan, and Blake.
A travel writer and feature writer, Helen lives in the north (of England) which makes her properly appreciate the merest flicker of sunshine, and she doesn’t mind travelling big distances to find it. While she likes exploring a city’s nooks and crannies, she can also do lazy very well. Hiking across hills or testing the softness of sand are both fine with her. She writes travel and other features for many UK nationals, including the Telegraph, Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Times, Guardian and Condé Nast Traveller. She also writes for the Alastair Sawday guides.
Twenty years living and travelling in the Far East and a career in design journalism gives Caroline the important Guru credentials of being a lover of unique hotels and a stickler for interesting and stylish interior detail. Caroline now lives with her family and 2 ill-disciplined hairy Dachshunds in Scotland from where she runs the well-known mail-order company Mandarina Shoes - and of course continues her travelling adventures.
Emily was brought up in the Far East and educated in Scotland and the United States. She has recently moved back to Asia where she is working on a documentary series about Vietnam sponsored by NatGeo. She is determined to seek out some of the country’s most stylish hotels along the way.
Since sequentially selling out of two successful business ventures he co-founded, Charles has motored extensively across and around Britain and Ireland in order to see his racehorses run, and sometimes win, on exhilaratingly exciting occasions, which has necessitated staying in numerous superb hotels around the British Isles - some of which he has reviewed for the Hotel Guru.
Living on the edge of Exmoor, Richard is a journalist who writes for many national papers and magazines, including Sunday Telegraph, Daily Express, Sunday Express, Daily Mail, Sunday Mirror and Real Travel.
James Jayasundera is Founder and Managing Director of Ampersand Travel in London. Of Sri Lankan and English descent he was brought up in Rome and has been travelling throughout Indian subcontinent and South East Asia all his life. Although he loves his comfort he is not blinded by five star luxuries – his motto is “luxury is in the experience” and it is that indefinable quality that makes something special which he is always on the look-out for.