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If you’ve visited or know us, you’ll know that I love animals.

We have one super gorgeous Collie and two rescue kitties that are almost 10 months old now living here with us in addition to the visiting birds, squirrels, rabbits and a very cheeky stoat that are gradually moving away which has something to do with the kitties rather than by preference I suspect!!

Starsky and Hutch

We are a “dog friendly” B&B but thought that I’d write a short blog about how that works in practice so that dog owners and non-dog owners can see the situation from a B&B perspective.

What do we offer for dogs and their humans?

  • Towels for drying off muddy feet and wet fur
  • Bedding: fleecy blanket and old quilts
  • I have a small/medium sized plastic dog bed if you wish to use it too … adult Collie dogs are too big for it!

Collie

  • Bottles of water to take out on day trips
  • Poo bags
  • Bowls for water or food
  • Carpet shampoo for cleaning up accidents
  • Treats
  • Hugs

We have a guest lounge and you’re welcome to take your dog in there with you.

The bedrooms and lounge are located on the ground floor literally feet away from the car park.

Maisy the Border Collie

You’ll find that there are loads of dog friendly beaches, attractions and places to eat in the area too. Why not take some photos and tag us into them. Maisy got herself onto the Visit Scotland blog!

visit scotland blog

What do we expect from doggie owners and their dogs?

I try not to call them rules … but … if you’re bringing a dog (or dogs) please bear the following in mind:

  • Do not allow your dogs onto the beds or furniture. The obvious reason is for the dirt. All of the bedding is currently white, 100% cotton which people like. Despite the manufacturers’ claims, dirty marks don’t always wash out satisfactorily even with additional treatment which adds to my workload and is not pleasant for future guests to see. Also, hairs do migrate through fabric and can get into the quilt itself which could cause discomfort to future guests.
  • Dogs must be, under control and well-behaved at all times. As you know, for one reason or another, not everyone likes dogs or any other animals and some people are frightened or allergic to dogs, their hair or skin. Even those who, like myself, love dogs, don’t really want other people’s dogs jumping up at them whilst they are eating or having to brush dog hairs off their clothes just as they’re heading out the door to a wedding at Glenapp Castle for instance.
  • Dogs must be kept on a lead or fully under control outside. We are located on a working farm. There are animals in the field with lambs in the spring and early summer. Please remember that farmers have the right to shoot dogs who are seen worrying and/or attacking the sheep. Please also remember that we have two kitties who know no fear of dogs and who will be seen wandering around in their own garden. You’re welcome to take the dogs into the garden but please keep them on a lead if they chase cats, thank you.

Starsky

  • Do not leave dogs in bedrooms when you go out for the day. Also, if you are the only guests in, or the other guests don’t mind, please feel free to take them into the lounge during breakfast or in the evening. If you suspect that your dog may jump on the bed or chew when you are out of the room, please lock them in the car during breakfast. Please note that the cars are parked only feet away from the rooms.
  • Please ensure dogs are free of mites, tics, fleas, etc. before bringing them to stay. We’ve been very fortunate to never have fleas here at the Lodge and I hope that this continues. I’ve once stayed at a place that had fleas (in fairness it was probably bed mites) and I counted 200 (I kid you not) bites the following day. Apart from the obvious discomfort for future guests and the risk of passing the fleas etc on to our own pets, we do not want to be dealing with bad reviews from bitten guests!
  • Please dry dogs off before they enter the bedrooms and lounge. A good shake outside and a good dry off inside the entrance would be greatly appreciated so that dirt and water do not drip onto carpets. Please remember that no matter how many times you wash your dog (our Maisy prefers a daily bubble bath!!) they do always smell to other people, especially to those who do not have animals. I provide plenty doggie towels.
  • Clean up after your dog. There are poo bags available and if they have an accident in the room please clean it up using the carpet cleaner available and let me know as soon as possible so that I can give the carpet a second thorough cleaning before the next guests arrive. I can provide plastic trays to put dog bowls onto to prevent water and food splashing onto the carpets too.
  • All damage must be paid for.

I certainly don’t mean any disrespect to any dog owners and I’d like to hope that you’re all reading this saying to yourself ‘yes, I do that’ or ‘that’s sensible’ and that you can see that I’m trying to ensure that all guests are able to enjoy their visit.

bluebell woods

I only charge a small fee per dog, per visit: details on Tariff page. This is to cover the additional cleaning that is required to eradicate stray hairs and I often also need to wash the carpets to remove lingering smells for the comfort of future guests.

Let me know in the comments section if you think I should add any additional information to the above bullet points.

Cordelia (c) 2017

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Check the tariff page for prices, deals and to book online 

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Guests often ask what there is to do in our local tiny village …

Ardstinchar Castle and War Memorial:

The castle is a ruin and is crumbling so please don’t be tempted to go for a closer look. It greets you on the hill as you approach Ballantrae from the south on the A77.  Turn right just after the bridge and park to get a better view.F

Ardstinchar Castle

The war memorial lies on a steep slope that is not accessible if you use a  wheelchair or have a pushchair.

Old Stinchar Bridge:

The castle dates from 1450 and the stone from the ruined castle was used to build the old bridge which is no longer safe to us but makes for great photo opportunities.

Old Stinchar Bridge

River Stinchar Path:

River Stinchar

The path follows the edge of the river for a few miles although I’ve personally only walked the first mile. There are places to sit and have a picnic although there are no seats. Please be careful … when I took these photos today the river level was very low and it will rise significantly after a storm/heavy rain.

 

The river contains salmon and trout and we’ve had quite a few fishermen staying with us over the past few years. You’ll need to buy a permit to fish so please do ask when you book and I’ll give you details of who to speak to about that.

We weren’t the only ones enjoying the river path today. We met the staff and the pupils of the local Nursery class who were exploring the fauna and flora around the river 

The bluebells were out in full bloom too.

Ballantrae Beach:

Despite the sun, we had the whole beach to ourselves today!

 

It’s a strange beach … some days we have sand … others we have pebbles … and other days we have a mile of kelp!!

kelp on the beach

Ayrshire Coastal Path:

The Ayrshire Coastal Path starts at Genapp Kirk about 10 miles south of Ballantrae. The route take brings you to the south end of the village and over the Stinchar via the A77 then turns left towards the shore.

Ballantrae Harbour

Follow the shore towards the harbour and then out of the village to the north.

 You can buy copies of the Ayrshire Coadtal Path guidebook at the garden centre and I have copies for guests to use if they’re staying over.

Ayrshire Coastal Path Official Guide

Garden Centre and Cafe:

The garden centre itself is very easy to find. It’s on the A77 at the north end of the village. We eat there regularly and Maisy always has a peanut ball which she thoroughly recommends to everyone! It has a small children’s play area and some days in the summer they have a narrow gauge railway and train which chugs around the field. There is access to the Ayrshire Coastal Path direct from this field near where the Ballantrae Festival of Food and Drink is held in June.

Ballantrae Food Festival

Although dogs cannot go into the cafe itself, they are dog friendly and there are bowls of water for the dogs.

You can order tea/coffee, light snacks, soup or full meals and it’s all very reasonably priced. There is also a freezer in the garden centre where you can get a range of ice cream lollies.

Old Cemetery and Kennedy Memorial:

Clan Kennedy are associated with Carrick and most especially with Culzean Castle which is about 30 miles north of Ballantrae. A walk around the old cemetery on a beautiful sunny day like today was an absolute pleasure and it was lovely to see how well-kept the area is. 


There is another graveyard to the south of Ballantrae and others at Colmonell and Glenapp for anyone tracing ancestors.


I even spotted the graves of former Balkissock residents. Major Onslow’s name also appears on the War Memorial.

Ballantrae Public Gardens:

They’re probably the smallest public gardens anywhere in Scotland but they’re very well kept!

 

On a practical note, Ballantrae also has a garage where you can get fuel 24 hours a day (via a card machine), a small Scotmid supermarket that the lorry drivers use so it has, hot pies, cakes and a coffee machine and also a cash machine if you need it. For residents, it also boasts a bowling green and tennis courts … not bad for a small village!!

We also have a wonderful thrift shop BRICC. The charity itself looks after elderly and infirm in the community and is a fabulous treasure trove of the unusual.

I bought my piano there!

BRICC hosue

So why not visit Ballantrae rather than just driving through it!

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge B&B

2017 All rights reserved.

Check availability and book online here

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The first in this summer’s “suggested day trips”

Belfast, Northern Ireland (part 1)

Ferry tickets vary in prices throughout the year and in general, it’s cheaper to book in advance. TIP: I booked on St Patrick’s Day and got my ticket for £5 pp. Look out for special deals in newspapers too. They will email you reservation details and a booking number. There is no need to print this off as long as you can quote the number when you check in but beware that phone signals at both ferry ports seemed intermittent and emails are generally stored in the cloud! You may also be asked for ID so take a passport or your photo driving licence.

Stena Line operate six sailings per day to Belfast on the Superfast VII and the Superfast VIII. The sailings that I use are either the 7.30am or the 10.30am sailing. As a foot passenger you need to be at the terminal a minimum of 30 minutes prior to sailing which means leaving Balkissock by either 6.30am or 9.30am respectively.

An 8am breakfast will give you plenty of time to make the later sailing but, not surprisingly, I’m not up to cook breakfast at 5am for the earlier sailing. If pre-arranged, I will provide a lighter breakfast of cereal, fruit, toast, tea or coffee at 6am or email me for a bespoke package.

The sailings are approx. 2hrs 15 mins and there’s lots to do on-board to keep you occupied including a small cinema which normally screens a children’s film, a shop, games machines, several eating outlets, outdoor area (for smokers) and loads of sofas and comfy chairs to sit and chill and relax.

Jump on a bus at Belfast port and for £2.00pp you’ll be in the city centre in approx. 15 mins. TIP: don’t forget to ask the driver where to catch the bus to return to the port later in the day! You can also get a return ticket at a slightly reduced price.

What can I do in Belfast?

Tip: if it’s your first visit I’d suggest visiting the Visit Northern Ireland Tourist Office opposite the City Hall just around the corner from the bus drop-off point. It’s a treasure trove of leaflets and souvenirs.

A guided tour of Belfast on the open top bus:

There are two different tour operators and my daughter, her partner and myself used the “City Sightseeing Hop On – Hop Off” bus. The cost was £12.50 (adult), £10.50 (concession), £6.00 (child) £31.00 (family: 2 adults & up to 3 children).

The lady doing the commentary was very witty and it was an enjoyable 90 minute bus ride. You can jump off at any of the stops to look around or visit the attractions and then catch a later bus to continue the tour.

Belfast

Stops on the tour included the Titanic Exhibition and the Parliament buildings (TIP: be careful of timings if getting off at the Parliament buildings as busses are not allowed into the grounds after 3.30pm). 

Titanic Exhibition Belfast

The tour included information about the troubled recent history of Northern Ireland, of division and renewal and the bus drove past the Peace Wall and through the areas of the city that saw the worst of the Troubles.

Belfast mural

 

Belfast City Hall:

Free entry.

View the beautiful stained glass windows depicting events in Belfast’s history and it’s links around the world.

Stained glass window

Guided tours are available although we couldn’t get booked on to one the day we visited.

Belfast City Hall

TIP: If you’re going to do a blog … get a much better photo of the outside of the building!!

Belfast City Hall

The return journey:

I generally get either the 3.30pm or the 7.30pm ferry to return to Cairnryan. The latter arrives at 9.45pm and taking into account disembarking and driving, I’m back home about 10.30pm.

Please note that there is a very long walk from check-in, along the gangways and onto the ferry. I would imagine that Stenaline have someone to assist you if you’re infirm or use a wheelchair but I didn’t think to check.

Cars can be left in the Stena Line car park at a cost of £5.00 per day. TIP: pay for your parking on-board on the return journey to save you waiting in queues at the terminal.

I’m planning on visiting Belfast again later in August with my grandson and we’ll take the other bus tour which will take us to Belfast Zoo and we’re planning on visiting the Titanic Exhibition too.

My husband is heading there with friends in September and I suspect that Game of Thrones will be on the agenda!

So … watch out for Belfast the sequel!!

All prices were correct April 2017.

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge B&B (c)

All rights reserved.

Check prices and book online here

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I don’t often have a rant … and rarely about guests … but this weekend has tested me to my limits.

 

I’ve had many guests over the years who are smokers including members of my own family. They smoke outside, sometimes in the garden but usually out in the car park and to be fair, I can’t speak for the guests, but my own family even go outside to smoke in their own homes!

Smoking B&B guests are warmly welcomed.  I even provide a bucket of water or sand to put out cigarette ends and there’s a huge brolly at the door in case it’s raining … but I will not tolerate smoking in the bedrooms. Apart from it being against the law [Smoking, Health and Social Care (Scotland) Act 2005], the room smells of smoke for weeks and weeks and weeks afterwards because no matter how many times the room is cleaned, the smell, to a non-smoker, lingers.

Not only is it embarrassing to smokers who chose to both flout the law and disregard the “no smoking” signs in my home to be told to leave immediately but I also know that future guests in the room can, despite my apologies, vent their disgust at the smell on review pages which can be extremely damaging to business and reputation.

So please, if you smoke, you’ll be made extremely welcome but please adhere to the “no smoking” anywhere in the building policy, thank you.

I’m off now to wash the ceiling and walls in the bathroom that was smoked in, in an attempt to clear the smell … despite the fact that I’m banned from standing on ladders and chairs due to sciatica!

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge B&B 2017 (c)

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I’ve just discovered that I can randomise the photos at the top of my blog!!

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What do you think of the selection and would you like to suggest any changes?

Cordelia

Balkissock Lodge B&B 2017 (c)

All rights reserved

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Book before the end of April and take advantage of my three nights for the price of two this summer. 


Yes, you did read that right! I’d rather fill the bookings diary with happy customers booking direct rather than them paying full price via the OTAs. 

Book direct from the link on the Tariff page and enter the promo code: easter17. I can’t set it up to deduct automatically but I will deduct the cost of the free night before you pay your bill. 


You could be enjoying a cheap short break this summer with a great selection and choice for breakfast. 


I use local produce when available. 


Don’t forget to order your evening meals too if you’d like to eat in.  The Visit Scotland hotel inspector said that she thoroughly enjoyed her salmon platter last week!


Cordelia

Balkissock Lodge B&B

Chair: Ayrshire Bed & Breakfast Association

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I was expecting guests today one of which is vegan. I always bake bread for guests for their breakfast and try to make home-made cake or biscuits for when they arrive but although I’ve made countless vegetarian dishes, vegan cake was a completely new experience for me.

Vegan banana cake
I researched a few recipes and decided to base my recipe on this one that I found on the internet.

Vegan Banana Cake Recipe:

Makes 8-10 small buns or 6-8 large muffins

Ingredients:

  • 150g  Self Raising (SR) Flour
  • 1 teaspoon (5g) of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon (1.25g) of salt*
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5g) cinnamon
  • 100g demerara sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of light olive oil
  • 2 ripe bananas
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 1/2 teaspoon (2.5 ml) of vanilla essence**

Method:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 170C (350F) and place paper cases into bun/muffin tins.
  2. In one bowl, mix the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together.
  3. In a second bowl, mash the banana using a knife then mix in the sugar and oil. Add the water and vanilla essence and mix well.
  4. Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients (mine resembled a stiff rather than runny mixture).
  5. Divide the mixture into paper cases.
  6. Place the bun/muffin tins into the pre-heated oven and bake for approx 20-25 mins (small buns) or 35-40 mins (muffins).
  7. Remove from oven when cooked and allow to cool on a wire rack.

 

* I’m using Himalayan pink salt now and loving it!

** I make my own vanilla essence so used more but added less water.

 

They went awfully quickly!

I’ll add photos next time I make some … which won’t be very long!!

Let me know how you get on if you try out the recipe.

Cordelia (C) 2017

To view current offers and to book on-line, click here.

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