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Archive for the ‘Life’ Category

I’ve been a committee member of the Ayrshire Bed & Breakfast Association for some time now and I was delighted to hear that our AGM this year was to be at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, Ayr.

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

Our Chair Person has stepped down from the role and I was thrilled and delighted to be nominated and accepted as the new Chair Person for the group.

Ayrshire B&B Association

We are a group of 50 B&Bs located across Ayrshire and Arran that work collaboratively to promote the area. If you’re visiting, why not take a look at our website here and if you own a B&B in the area and would like to join please contact me for details. We enjoy our meetings at a variety of attractions throughout the region and we have always been highly appreciative of the hospitality shown to us. We recently had a wonderful afternoon tea at Glenapp Castle and are looking forward to what 2017 can bring!

 

Ayrshire B&B at Glenapp Castle

Guest speakers at our AGM included Craig Stewart owner of Freetobook, the online booking system that I, and many in the B&B industry use. His input regarding finance was generally agreed to be invaluable.

AB&BA also produce a Restaurant brochure that lists a variety of places to dine throughout the region. Addition to the brochure is limited and all eateries are personally recommended by AB&BA members and their guests.

Why not make your next holiday destination the South West of Scotland?

Cordelia

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2017 (c)

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I’ve been on TV again!!!


Form an orderly queue for autographs please!!!

It was a lovely evening so my other half, Maisy and I went for a walk up the hill to watch the sun set and I posted the picture whilst sitting on the hill.

Check prices, dates and promo codes.

Cordelia 2016 (c)

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The 2016 Gumball 3000 Supercar Rally roared through Ballantrae on Sunday during its journey from Dublin to Bucharest to raise money for charity.  They had just departed from the StenaLine ferry at Cairnryan from Belfast and included celebrity drivers David “The Hoff” Hasselhoff, rapper Eve, actor Sullivan Stapleton and DJ Afrojack.

 

I wished we’d chosen a different place to view them though as they roared passed so fast it was difficult to really see them but thankfully Howard got some great photos. I hope that you like them!

gumball 3000

 

Gumball 3000

 

Gumball 3000

 

Gumball 3000

 

You can read more about their journey on their own website by following this link.

 

Cordelia 2016 (c)

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Happy New Year!

This year I have decided to crochet a Temperature Afghan using these gorgeous colours…

 

temperature afghan 2016 colours
Don’t know what I’m talking about? Then read on…

The first temperature afghans that I saw were knit or crocheted in stripes…

 

screenshot from Pinterest
[screenshot from Pinterest]
You select a range of colours of yarn and allocate a temperature (or range of temperatures) to each colour. Check the forecast (or your thermometer) each day to find out the maximum temperature and work one row in that colour. Unless you live somewhere exotic where the temperature is the same every day, at the end of the year you should have a beautiful multi-coloured blanket at the end of the year.

 

These are my colours:

White: background and below 0C

Blue: 1-4C

Green: 5-8C

Yellow: 9-12C

Orange: 13-16C

Raspberry: 17-20C

Purple: over 20C
Edit: I’ve ordered a pale blue to cover -5 to 0C and a pale yellow to cover over 25C (which will probably get used once!!).
I’m not really into stripes so I have decided to make coloured squares and to make it even more colourful, I’ve decided to record the nighttime low temperature (the colour in the centre) and the daytime high temperature (the flower itself).

Squares however have caused me a bit of an issue as 366 squares don’t sew together to make a square or a rectangle! To accommodate this I’m doing 14 all-white squares to put between the months (with an extra one between June/July) making a total of 380 squares (19 x 20 rows).

A disadvantage is that its difficult to buy sufficient yarn when you don’t know how much you’ll need so I’ve deliberately over-bought. I love the colours and I’ll make something nice in a year’s time with what’s left.

I’ll post pictures now and again of my progress.

Let me know if you’re also doing a Temperature Afghan 2016 as I’d love to see them.

Copyright © 2016 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Balkissock Lodge

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… or 

DO NOT book a visit at Balkissock Lodge if you want to leave the door open when you go to the toilet!!

 

Intrigued? Read on…

 

I’ve been asked only once why I don’t display my Visit Scotland rating but the answer intrigued the enquirer to a degree that I thought it worthy of a blog post

 

For those who are not aware, it would cost me £173.28 per year every year (2015 figure) to be part of the Quality Assurance Scheme:

Annual Fee (1 to 3 bedrooms)                        £122.00 + VAT

Additional fee per bedroom                           £11.20 + VAT

Source: http://www.visitscotland.org/pdf/QualityAssurance%202015Fees.pdf

 

To be part of the Scheme, you apply, pay your money and then an inspector visits, inspects, reveals their identity and awards you the grading.

Border Collie in the garden

 

With me so far? OK! This is where is gets interesting…

My business is B&B … BED and BREAKFAST … so you’d expect the majority of the grading criteria to be based upon the quality of the bed and breakfast … yes? OK, so the manner that you greet guests is important, and the information that you provide can make their stay more enjoyable and it’s nice to have a tidy driveway or garden but did you know that of the 42 criteria that a B&B is judged against, only TWO relate to the breakfast. That’s 27 lines of a 9 page document. There is more column space dedicated to the state of my gutters than to what I’m providing for breakfast!

Check it out for yourself: Visit Scotland Grading Criteria for B&Bs

 

How did the inspector rate Balkissock Lodge B&B based on a stay in my popular Arran Room:

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  • Cleanliness: 100% (5*)
  • Hospitality and Friendliness: 100% (5*)
  • Service and Efficiency: 100% (5*)
  • Exterior, Maintenance and Car Park: 60%
  • Bedrooms (Arran room): 62%
  • Bathroom (Arran room): 60%
  • All Public areas Quality and Maintenance: 72% (4*)
  • Dining Room: 60% (Inspector not sure it would hold four guests comfortably …. even though it does)
  • Breakfast Choice and Range: 80% (4*) and awarded a Visit Scotland “Taste our Best” Award

 

Not too shabby don’t you think?

The criteria are grouped into five sections and you have to have at least the same grading in all areas but because the Arran room and its ensuite score only 62% … Balkissock Lodge is only rated:

 

I know … Shock! Horror!

Interesting that guests staying in the Arran room this summer have left seven of the 10 5* reviews on Trip Advisor and four of these couples have commented that I’m not charging enough for the room!

“The [Arran] room was comfortable, spotless with all amenities.” TA review

“…the [Arran] room was spacious and comfortable…” TA review
So what were the inspector’s comments about what I could do to get a further 8 marks in that one section in order to get a 4* grading:

  • Put more pictures on the walls in the lounge and the corridors: there is a huge, expensive, signed print on one wall in the lounge plus two free-standing photos which apparently isn’t enough and I have no pictures (in frames) in the narrow corridor for safety reasons. There are a total of seven pictures in the two bedrooms.
  • Put a light inside the wardrobe because it’s dark in there: hands up everyone who has a light inside their wardrobe? Nope? Didn’t think so!
  • Put the coffee table and tray inside the large wardrobe because the door hits it when you open it: only if you open it over 110º, ie open it further that the other door which only opens to 90º before it hits the wall which apparently is OK though!
  • Buy matching furniture: the other bedroom was fine apparently until I pointed out that the furniture didn’t match in there so what was the difference? A bit of backtracking from the inspector at this point.
  • Provide more sockets as there weren’t enough sockets to plug the hairdryer in: there were three available but the computer, tablet and TV were plugged into them and I have NEVER in five years of B&Bing had anyone pull out the bed to use the socket behind it!!!
  • Change to motion activated lighting: apparently the 11W lamp that I leave on in the corridor all night (the bulb is still cold enough to touch in the morning by the way!) uses more energy than producing these battery operated expensive devices.
  • Put pebbles from the beach and a candle in the fireplace to brighten up the black hole
  • Get rid of the lounge facility (i.e. the sofas, bookcases etc) so that the breakfast room is larger and can comfortably seat four (despite the fact that it already does!)
  • Put a folding garden chair in the room as it takes up less space and there must be a chair in there to get four stars despite it being next door to the lounge!

Table set at Balkissock B&B

… and you’re going to love this one …

Change the door on the bathroom so that it slides into the wall cavity like the 5* new-build holiday cottages in the village so that you don’t have to close the bathroom door to get passed it to get to the toilet!

Oh and apparently there were too many towels and too many mirrors in the room!

Interestingly if you live in the town and only have one hanging basket, the same grading system is used to assess it as was used to assess my almost one acre of not weed-free garden and if you live in the town and have no parking at all then that doesn’t get marked (nor does it lose you marks) but because I have ample free parking it’s marked down because it’s not kept in a pristine condition!!

Also, I provide a huge selection of quality teas and coffee and the inspector even commented that it was the only place that they’d been offered their favourite Chai Tea. It’s all from Taylors of Harrogate, Clipper, Twinings or a similar quality renowned company but the examiner went to their car to bring me a sample of a tea that they thought I should be serving because it’s promoted as “Scottish Breakfast Tea”.  I checked the company’s website.  It’s imported and packaged in Scotland…nothing special!

Twinings, Clipper and Taylors of Harrogate Tea for B&B guests

So to sum up …

Basically, if you’re OK with too many mirrors and towels and a huge range of quality teas and coffees from the UK but not necessarily packaged in Scotland, it you don’t mind looking at facebook/twitter/Pinterest/Instagram and the website for your ‘fix’ of additional photos, aren’t bothered about neon lights in your wardrobe, can sensibly open a door without hitting a table, don’t mind if the bedside table and the table that the tea tray sit on don’t match, don’t mind unplugging one of your chargers when you want to dry your hair and normally close the bathroom door to when you go for a pee then Balkissock Lodge is perfect for you!!

Afternoon tea on the lawn

Alternatively, I could spend all day doing the gardening so that the garden, driveway and car park are pristine and not cook home baked biscuits for the guests and not make evening meals and home made preserves, and not bake any bread …..!

home baked wholemeal bread

To top it all, because I would not let VS add the 3* rating to their website as I believe that it would put people off visiting, they would not display my lovely “Taste our Best” Award … now that’s just spiteful!

Visit Scotland Taste our Best Award for the B&B, Ayrshire

I spoke to 24 accommodation providers, most in Scotland and some in England, and asked them about their respective grading systems. All but five had abandoned the rating systems because they felt that it did not properly reflect the needs of the modern visitor and they did not see that paying a yearly fee was a good investment for their business.  Of the five still with the grading systems, four didn’t like them but thought it brought additional business and only one was happy with their grading!

“A lot of us in England have left the star rating scheme and seem no ill effect but then visit England website never sent us any business so we weren’t relying on that” private conversation with someone who ran a 5* Gold B&B.

You’ll not be surprised to learn that I’ll not be renewing my grading next year … or ever!!

As an aside: I do also wonder about the business acumen of an inspector that refers to the money paid for the night’s B&B as “pure profit” just because it was paid in cash.  I’m guessing that I don’t need to pay for the water purity tests, the business insurance, advertising, maintenance, the food, electricity, laundry etc. etc. etc. out of this money then?

 

Visit Scotland have not yet responded to either my letter of complaint or to the comments that I added to their on-line questionnaire despite asking if I wanted someone to contact me so I’m unable to give you information from there as yet.

Bitter? Yes, actually I am a little. I know that overall Balkissock Lodge B&B scored 172/200 points which put it firmly in the 4* bracket and that there will be businesses out there that have been awarded a 4* grading with far fewer points which seems dreadfully unfair.

I know from guests comments, from online reviews and from kind comments on Trip Advisor that my guests value the warmth and hospitality and great food and I that no one has ever complained that the Arran room is too small.

Now, I do feel better getting that lot off my chest ;0)

Ayrshire B&B

Thank you for reading,

Copyright © 2016 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Balkissock Lodge

 

Well if that hasn’t put you off …

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The forecast was for a miserable day … they got that one wrong!


…. so I pulled my card making supplies out of the cupboard and set about making some greetings cards. Some are for family and others will be sold at the next local craft fair.

They’re all individual one-offs and they usually sell well at about £1.20 each.

I’ll have to remember to photograph them before putting them into poly bags though!


I made about 50 today.


Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge 2015 (c)

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There’s so much in the news regarding milk prices and I hope that the peaceful protests in Kilmarnock, Ayr and other towns and cities produce positive dialogue between the farmers and the supermarkets.

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Here at Balkissock Lodge, I’m committed to serving local, regional and Scottish produce wherever possible witch is why the vast majority of milk, cream and other dairy produce bought is either Rowan Glen (Newton Stewart) or Graham’s (Stirling).

 

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Copyright © 2015 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Balkissock Lodge

Click her to check B&B availability, special offers, promo codes and to book online

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