Life’s too short for ordinary. That’s why we’ve spent over 25 years finding, visiting and choosing brilliant places to stay. For people who love special.
Our mission is to: Bring together people and places of spirit and character for meaningful experiences. Have a positive social, cultural and environmental impact.
We seek out independent hotels, B&Bs, inns and self-catering places in the UK and Europe that are run with passion and creativity.
We celebrate difference, not standardisation, championing small businesses and big personalities to challenge the blandness of modern travel.
Inspired by meetings with old winemakers, Parisian ladies with a taste for Scottish sword dancing and multi-tasking fishwives, he turned his scruffy notes on unusual French places to stay into a simply designed book. The idea was that people could avoid standardised, soulless accommodation and find these amazing things for themselves.
Everything that followed sprang from that simple purpose and 25 years on, it’s still what we do.
We meet people, we find special places and we share them with everyone. We’re looking for something that breaks the bland mould from which so much accommodation seems to be printed.
Our carefully-curated guides and website are just a slightly neater, less wine-stained version of those original notes. This time, with maps that haven’t been hand cut and had paper dots stuck on them.
We still look for authenticity, warmth and character, places that embody the slow life. We find places where hours of love have been poured into the tiniest detail, creating simple, personal joys and making something truly special.
Four reasons to love our collection:
1. We inspect & select
Our collection is a shortcut past the bland and impersonal to places crafted by people with a passion for hospitality. Every single B&B, hotel, inn and self-catering place on Sawday’s is visited and revisited by one of our experienced team to make sure it has the creativity and warmth to give you a memorable stay.
We reject over 50% of places that apply and know you’ll love the ones we’ve accepted. Our descriptions are honest, trustworthy and based on our personal experience of each unique place to stay.
2. Amazing places
We look for warm and generous hosts, a connection to the local area, awareness of environmental responsibility, and the essentials (beds, bathrooms and kitchens) done with style and care – you can trust our places will make you feel welcome and comfortable.
You’ll also find something extra – surprising or unusual touches of creativity, craft or personality that will be the highlights of your stay and the things you always remember.
3. 25 years’ experience
25 years ago our founder, Alastair Sawday, took up the cause of championing independent owners in an industry that increasingly marginalised them.
A lot has changed in that time, but we still know that a personal touch makes a great holiday. As special moments and meaningful experiences in travel get harder to find, we get even more committed to seeking them out and bringing them to you.
4. Book direct
We put you directly in touch with the people who will be welcoming you when you stay. It costs you nothing to use our site – there are no booking fees, no surprise card charges and no admin costs.
To book with an owner, you send an enquiry email. If it’s olive harvest or market day, you might have to wait until the end of the day for a reply, but that’s part of the beauty of dealing with real people, rather than automated booking systems.
We were founded on strong principles about the way travel should be, how people ought to be treated and the role businesses can play in their communities.
With our employee ownership model, charitable trust and B Corp certification, we have structured our company around those values and are always looking for ways to increase our positive impact.
In 2018, we set up the Sawday Trust, which now owns 24% of the company.
It will use its share of profits to address the impact of tourism on climate change through research, action and support of relevant causes.
Our mission guides us to look for socially and environmentally responsible ways to do business. We’re fair, honest and human with our guests and owners. We choose our brand partners with care and pay our taxes at every level.
We are enormously proud of our B Corp certification, which shows we meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance.
In 2018 we entered into a unique version of Employee Ownership, in which the company was divided between the employees (52%), a Charitable Trust (24%) and the Sawday family (24%).
It means that every member of our team is a part of deciding our future. It’s made Sawday’s an even better place to work and means that it will always be true to the values it was founded on.
Our Community Champions are not-for-profit special places, who receive partially or fully subsidised Sawday’s membership as recognition for the causes or communities they support.
Our marketing and PR means they can focus less on making ends meet and more about doing good.
In 2019, we committed to planting a million trees by the end of 2025, as part of the fight against climate change.
It’s a bold target involving campaigns and initiatives across both Sawday’s and sister company Canopy & Stars. You can find out more on the Canopy & Stars tree planting page.
B Corporations are companies using business as a force for good.
The certification is independently awarded, constantly reviewed and a real indication that you’re doing things the right way.
B Corp is a status awarded by a non-profit organisation called B Lab, that was started in 2006 as a way to help companies maximise the positive impact of their business. It has become a powerful community of corporations across the world, all working to change the way that business gets done. (In case you’re wondering, the B came from “be the change you want to see”.)
Being B Corp means that everything about your company has been examined and approved, from your ownership structure to your suppliers and the sustainability of your offices. The application process is extremely thorough and passing it proves that your company has a deep commitment to changing not just the way they do business, but the way business is done all over the world.
What is our B Corp score?
Every member of the B Corp community is given a score based on all the points checked in their application. The areas examined are Governance, Workers, Community, Environment and Customers. The minimum score for acceptance is 80 and ours is 96.2. For context, fellow Bristolians Pukka Herbs score 104.1, Hobbs House Bakery 91 and Greenhouse PR 88.8. The score is reviewed every three years and we’re looking to drive ours up by examining everything about how we work.
What makes us B Corp?
We scored very well for our company structure, particularly being under employee ownership and having the Sawday Trust, which uses its share of profits to support environmental causes, as part owners. Initiatives like our mission to plant 1,000,000 trees by 2025 and our drive towards becoming a carbon neutral office contributed too. We did brilliantly for staff wellbeing and happiness and also for our contribution to communities, which is what we were most proud of.
Everything we do goes back to supporting independent accommodation providers in an industry that increasingly seems designed to marginalise them. To be recognised for that and become part of a community that shares our values is extremely rewarding.