PitStop – Morgan B&B
The ultimate overnight stay for sports car lovers?
Hotels are like restaurant food.
You can go for the McBurger end of the market: cheap, easily available and utterly flavourless. You wake up in a bed identical to those stocked by equivalent outlets all across the world, with a vague sense of having sacrificed your morals at the altar of convenience in a white linen one-night-stand. It’s usually impossible to get any kind of food other than crisps if you arrive at an unsocial hour; if there is some sort of overnight room service, it will consist of dodgy, slightly damp sandwiches or microwaved mini pizzas.
Or you can go for the Michelin stars: grand, cultured, with a thousand different knives and forks, tiny portions and huge prices. Gorgeous, sumptuous and well beyond the means of those of us who travel frequently on – at best – modest budgets.
One of the hazards of running photographic collective Spacesuit is the regular travel, which is not nearly as glamourous as it might sound. I’ve stayed in countless hotels over the past four years. Most of them are so homogenous that I’d worry if I was quizzed by the police about where I’d stayed the night; I simply wouldn’t be able to recall any of the details.
There is, however, another way, as demonstrated by a modest bed and breakfast located above a car workshop in a minute village near Bishop’s Stortford. And it involves going forward to the past.
I challenge you to stay at the PitStop B&B and come away not loving both the facility and the owner. Proprietor Melvyn Rutter is one of life’s eccentrics – as well as being a lifelong Morgan car lover and a shrewd businessman. He runs the facility with his wife and daughter.
Melvyn got his start in business by selling Morgan car parts from his mother’s dining room table back in the 1970s. That early love has turned into something approaching obsession: his Little Hallingbury site has Morgans and Morgan memorabilia crammed into every corner. There are three different showroom spaces (Melvyn lives above the main showroom), an underground long-term storage area and a series of interconnected workshops, including a paint booth.
Wandering around the extensive parts warehouse, located above the workshops, is like falling into Wonderland. Everything from seat fabric to steering wheels can be found here, itemised, labelled, shelved and racked. Antique computers log everything, although Melvyn is in the process of switching over to newer computers. It all feels very 1970s – which is fitting, given Melvyn’s love for a marque which is still family-owned and which still builds cars by hand around wooden frames.
The B&B is part of the new workshop complex, whose construction was project managed by Melvyn himself. Four distinctive, retro-themed rooms (all en-suite) and a 1950s-style diner are perched above a showroom around which guests can wander freely at any time of day or night.
The attention to detail is staggering at every turn, as are the Morgan connections. The three arched windows in the diner, for example, are from the original Morgan factory. When the factory was being shut down in preparation for a move to a new facility, Melvyn rescued the wooden windows, had them stripped down and refurbished and installed here. A photograph of the old factory with windows in situ hangs proudly in the diner.
The diner itself is a revelation for anyone who travels frequently. It is open to guests all day and night and is stocked with, well, everything. Eggs, fruit, juice, bread, butter, spreads, teas and coffees. Guests simply help themselves to whatever they like, whenever they like.
(Bread kept in the freezer, enveloped in sandwich bags in pairs of slices. This preserves freshness. It’s all so sublimely sensible that I can’t believe I haven’t come across this before.)
The place has been spotless every time I’ve visited, which might be a significant contributing factor towards the AA gold award rating the PitStop has held since 2012.
Best of all, prices are reasonable and, if you’re planning to leave earlier in the morning than Melvyn will be awake, you can simply post your key through his front door.
You don’t have to be a petrolhead to enjoy the PitStop but it certainly makes for a great place to visit if you are. Melvyn has a thousand stories about Morgans and doesn’t need much prompting to take you on an spontaneous tour of the workshops and showrooms.
In fact, the PitStop B&B feels like the Morgan cars it sits among: hand built, made to last and, despite being rooted in the past (or because of it), somehow timeless.
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