The latest Alistair Sawday guide to British Bed and Breakfast (pounds 14.99) has just hit bookshops. Over 670 properties selected include some of the loveliest houses in Britain ( along with city centre apartments, moat houses, a quirky castle or two and some tranquil rural cottages.
Wilton House, in the heart of Hungerford, Berkshire, dates from medieval times. Plenty of "inspired amateurs" offer spare bedrooms in Bristol's trendy Clifton district, while a stunning 1920s villa owned by the Robertsons in Carbis Bay, Cornwall, has a private sitting room for guests and spectacular Atlantic views.
In the Lake District Fellside Studios are remote boltholes in the Troutbeck Valley, while the impressive 34 The Bank Georgian townhouse in Barnard Castle in the heart of County Durham includes Digby, an old English sheepdog, and a polite ghost called Georgina.
Virtually all properties selected provide a stunning contrast to corporately-owned hotel chains which often look the same wherever you happen to be staying. Sawday editor Laura Kinch says homeowners who entertain paying guests include teachers, farmers, sculptors, painters, architects, lawyers, chefs, writers and designers, among many others.
And they are making a big effort to go green this year.
More than 500 entries promise breakfasts which are either organic or consist entirely of locally produced food from within a 40-mile radius. And many are so close to the National Cycle Network, or within two miles of a train or coach station, that visitors don't really need a car to visit them. One cottage in Herefordshire offers a second night free to guests arriving on foot or by bike. And some properties even provide a stable or field for those visitors who turn up on horseback!
But Sawday's initiative to identify spare city centre rooms in private homes appears to be stalling because entries in this sector come only from Bristol and Brighton.
* For further information go to the Sawday website on www.specialplacestostay.com