Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘B&B’

Christmas Present #2

Another chance to win in the second of our festive giveaways ….

Would you like to stay for two nights B&B at Balkissock Lodge in 2018 completely free?

.

Christmas present

.

There are two easy ways to enter:

  1. Head over to Facebook, find and like the post “Christmas Present #2” then either tag the person you’d like to share the prize with or share the post with your friends so they can enter too.
  2. Email me and ask to be added to the new monthly e-newsletter (first edition will be Jan 2018) which will include news and information about promo codes exclusively for guests who book direct.

You could of course do both and double your chances of winning!!

T&Cs:

Entries will only be accepted via the two options outlined above.

The prize is two consecutive nights B&B for two people (sharing a double room) OR two consecutive nights for one person only.

No cash alternative is offered.

I’m happy for you to gift your prize however to avoid fraudulent claims the winner MUST book the accommodation.

Closing date for entries: 8pm on Friday 15th December 2017.

Name drawn from a ‘hat’: 9pm on Friday 15th December 2017.

Prize winner(s) must book before the 31st December 2017 and stay before 31st May 2018 (subject to availability).

Once booked, dates cannot be changed.

Additional nights can be added to the stay at the specified nightly rate (subject to availability).

Evening meals can be added at the specified rate.

This competition is not endorsed by WordPress, Facebook, Twitter nor anywhere else you may see this competition advertised.

.

GOOD LUCK!!

Cordelia @ BalkissocklodgeB&B

 

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Christmas Present #1

EDIT: This competition is now closed. Many congratulations to Mrs Thompson. I’ll be launching another competition at 3pm on Sunday.

Would you like to stay for two nights B&B at Balkissock Lodge in 2018 completely free?

There are two easy ways to enter:

  1. Head over to Facebook, like our page, find and like the post “Christmas Present #1” then tag the person you’d like to bring on holiday with.
  2. Email meand ask to be added to the new monthly e-newsletter (first edition will be Jan 2018) which will include news and information about promo codes exclusively for guests who book direct.

You could of course do both and double your chances of winning!!

T&Cs:

Entries will only be accepted via the two options outlined above.

The prize is two consecutive nights B&B for two people (sharing a double room) OR two consecutive nights for one person only.

No cash alternative is offered.

[edit: I’m happy for you to gift your prize however to avoid fraudulent claims the winner MUST book the accommodation]

Closing date for entries: 6pm on 8th December 2017.

Name drawn from a ‘hat’: 9pm on 8th December 2017.

Prize winner(s) must book before the 31st December 2017 and stay before 31st May 2018 (subject to availability).

Once booked, dates cannot be changed.

Additional nights can be added to the stay at the specified nightly rate (subject to availability).

Evening meals can be added at the specified rate.

This competition is not endorsed by WordPress, Facebook, Twitter nor anywhere else you may see this competition advertised.

Cordelia @ BalkissocklodgeB&B

Read Full Post »

I’ve decided to go public about our on-going internet issues. Those of you who have stayed this year know the difficulties we’re experiencing and until tonight, everyone has been so understanding realising that it’s completely outwith our control.

Tonight … well tonight was a different story. The internet dropped out completely so there wasn’t a thing we could do about it but one set of guests complained so bitterly that I ended up phoning a local hotel and moving them there!

Well, if you’ve got a spare 10 minutes then please read on (go on, make a cuppa and put your feet up and share our utter frustration). If you’d like to help us …. please share far and wide … we cannot be the only ones going around in circles and I’d like to find some kindred spirits:

 

Dear Mr (name/position withheld for this post),

 

I’d hoped that after all of this time, I wouldn’t need to bother you again with our internet/phone issues but we find ourselves back to square one … no, actually, we are worse off than that!

 

As you know, when we first contacted you and you were kind enough to help us, our internet was running at between 0.2mbps-0.8mbps (when it was working) and we were suffering from ring trip. BT had told us not to contact them again because they were fed up with us complaining that the internet kept dropping out telling us that there was nothing wrong with the line!

 

Let me briefly explain what has happened in the intervening months: mostly because everything over the past few months has just blurred into one huge communications nightmare that is affecting our health and our small businesses both financially and on the practical day-to-day running of them both more than I’d like to attempt to make it brief!

 

Your guys from Open Reach have been here so many times that the dog doesn’t even bother to bark at them anymore. They’ve tweaked and fiddled and done what they’ve been told to do from whomever they answer to. They’ve found a number of faults with the line between our house and the exchange that have subsequently been repaired. There have been experts here from ‘down south’ (can’t remember where) fault finding at the exchange in Ballantrae as that’s where they believed the fault was.

 

Despite this, no one could sort the ring trip issue out so they divided our service with the phone being on one dedicated line and the internet on another. At the time we were led to believe that this would remain in place as a viable solution. It was a huge improvement in terms of ring trip (as it didn’t happen any more!) although the internet was still running very slow (generally under 1mbps) and still dropped out several times a day which your guy Jim in Leeds (or is he BT’s guy?) said was ‘acceptable’ to him … but then again, he doesn’t have to live with it!!! They did continue to fiddle and tweek and we did reach the heady heights of 1.8mbps on several occasions but it was short-lived. Foolish thoughts of uploading more than one photo to facebook at a time and updating an app on my phone in under half an hour were cruelly dashed.

 

Your guys were then given orders to put our service both back onto one line (as the fault had been fixed apparently) and low and behold, not surprisingly, everything has gone ape shit again! (Excuse the language but I can’t think of a better description!)

 

Jim in Leeds, who clearly has never been self employed and never had to rely upon communication in order to generate income, decreed that it was the 1470 service that was at fault. His solution was to increase the length of time the phone rings to 25 rings before the answering service activates which would stop the fault. I pointed out to him that no one …. ABSOLUTELTY NO ONE … will hang on the phone for 25 rings let alone leave a message after all that time but he went ahead and did it anyway. Feeling proud of himself, he phoned back a couple of days later saying he could get it down to 50s or possibly even 40s … he wasn’t given to most welcome of responses to this news! Most businesses, as you know, have a three-ring policy and from a survey I did on FB/Twitter, without exception, everyone who replied said that they’d put the phone down after 4-6 rings! His only solution was for us to buy an answerphone that we were forced to do because God only knows how much business we had lost in the intervening few days and would have continued to lose had we not.

 

He also suggests that it’s the distance from the exchange to the house, quoting resistance figures, that is to blame. Well excuse me for saying but to the best of my knowledge the exchange in Ballantrae has not been moved in the past year and the house has not moved in almost 200 years so I’m at a loss to understand his reasoning for this. The internet worked at about 1.8mbs for a number of years; we could certainly watch iplayer until last year and did not suffer ring trip until this year and I can no longer facetime my grandson and mother which saddens me greatly. I’ve moaned to many, many people about our internet woes this year and you wouldn’t believe how many people are experiencing similar issues. One lady last week who lives about five miles away said that her problems also started early this year and both she and her husband work from home but their service is currently so bad that she often has to drive to her office just to use the internet!

 

Jim also suggested that we had too many devices connected to the wifi (two phones, a router, Sky box, a printer and a computer … not excessive in this day and age) which was why the internet was so slow! So basically what he’s now telling me is that the internet works just so long as we don’t need to actually use it!!! He even had the audacity to suggest that it was our fault for living here and what did we expect?! Well, we expected to at least have the same level of service that we had when we moved in and (as it turns out) stupidly expected that the service would improve over time especially given the multi-billions of pounds the UK and Scottish Parliaments have given to communications companies to develop better coverage.

 

To complicate matters, our phone line was dug up by a tractor (so we were told) about six weeks ago leaving us without phone or internet for several days and the ‘temporary’ repair is still sitting above ground in a passing place on the bend of a narrow road about three miles from the house so with the dark evenings upon us it’s probably only a matter of time before it’s destroyed again despite the orange cone.

 

I’m also about to remove the ‘free wifi’ feature from the B&B business advertising because it’s now so slow and completely unreliable that guests were complaining and as any B&B business is only ever one bad review away from being completely destroyed I’m considering re-branding … how does ‘turn your clock back 40 years and relax!’ sound? It certainly reflects the infrastructure that Jim seems is ‘acceptable’ but will hardly attract modern travellers who, according to Visit Scotland, today travel with an average of THREE wifi enabled devices each!! We’ve even installed USB chargers in our rooms to assist guests. Reputation and excellent reviews are of paramount importance in our industry. Free wifi is the top feature people look for when booking a B&B these days behind cost/location and ahead of free parking according to the Visit Scotland assessor who visited this summer. The internet has failed twice this summer whilst I’ve been in the middle of taking card payments; not only is it inconvenient, it’s stressful it’s embarrassing and completely unprofessional and I can only say that it’s only thanks to some extremely pleasant and understanding guests who waited patiently until the whole process could be gone through again that I’ve managed so far. Every time the internet system drops out I am disconnected to whichever secure site I’m using (internet banking, B&B booking systems, Booking .com, Visit Scotland intranet, etc) which means that not only do I have to go through the often lengthy process of securely logging on again but I then have to waste more time finding out whether payments/processing etc were processed or not before the connection was broken.

 

My husband, who has had the patience of a Saint throughout this process, is losing out on business too. Over half of his work comes via Facebook and it’s a sorry state of affairs when people are waiting for replies but he hasn’t even received their messages because they won’t load! The rest of his work comes via phone. People leave messages when he’s out of the house which he used to be able to pick up via the 1570 service and respond to them fairly promptly and could sometimes get to people the same day which was particularly important to some elderly customers who do not have family in the area to help them.

 

It’s not like we can even rely upon accessing the internet on iphones/ipads/devices as there is absolutely no phone coverage at all in this area for any of the service providers. I have to walk out into the middle of the farmer’s field to send a text! I realise that is not your fault but I mention it to give some sense of the situation as a whole.

 

Do you actually realise how many lives and businesses are being affected by this woefully poor service and how much stress you are inflicting upon people in our situation? I challenge you and anyone else sitting in an office somewhere in your organisation to come here and attempt to go about their work under these conditions!

 

I also wonder how much money is being squandered in the vain attempt to stabilise a system that quite clearly is not fit for purpose and unable to cope with the demands of modern-day communications when what seems to be needed is that the physical connections themselves need to be replaced by something that were at least manufactured in the 21st Century!

 

So now, in summary, not only are we out of pocket for the cost of an answerphone, we no longer have access to the 1570 service which allowed us to access messages when we were out of the house (which was our primary reason for paying for the service), we are also back to square one with the ring trip issue and we are losing business opportunities.

 

Low and behold the phone has rung twice this morning (Thursday 14th Sept) whilst I’ve been writing this email on the computer and twice the internet has dropped out! You couldn’t script it! EDIT: As we were awaiting replies from the emails that Howard sent to Jim and yourself I didn’t send this email straight away … it’s now Sunday evening (17th Sept.) and I’ve had a huge problem with a set of guests who were complaining so bitterly about the internet which was not working sufficiently well for them to even get logged on that in the end I telephoned a local hotel and found them alternative accommodation. No income for me today and as I’ve already bought food for breakfast I’m actually out of pocket. No doubt, given how disgruntled they were by the time they left a dreadful review is indeed in the offing now … thanks for that!!!

 

To say we are fed up would be a gross understatement. I’m not even sure if I know sufficient colourful words to describe the frustration, anger and stress this is causing us and believe me I know quite a few! Enough is enough! We cannot carry on like this. The situation is damaging our health. The situation is damaging our businsses. To this end, I’ll be sending copies of this email (or hard copies if more appropriate) to absolutely every single person I can think of in the vain hope that someone may be in a position to help. BT and OpenReach have already missed Phase 1 of the government’s big plans and I’m not waiting until 2020 for them to miss the rest. Something must be done … not just for us but for countless thousands of others in similar positions.

 

  • “to provide superfast broadband coverage to 90% of UK premises by early 2016 and access to basic broadband (2Mbps) for all from December 2015 – “Phase 1” 
”
  • “Ofcom currently states that a connected speed of at least 10Mbps is necessary to deliver an “acceptable user experience” of broadband – this is based on a typical household’s uses, including basic web browsing, video calling, catch up TV and film streaming in HD. “

House of Commons

Briefing Paper No CBP06643, 9th March 2017

 

I’ll also be sharing the contents of this communication as far and as wide as I can on social media: we’re not the only ones suffering and going around in circles and it would be nice to find out just how we fare in comparison to others throughout the nation.

 

Regards,

 

 

Are you still reading … thank you ever so much … I hope your cuppa was nice :0)

Cordelia

So what was it? Put your clock back 40 years and relax!! I’m only taking bookings until the end of October as I need to do some maintenance work this winter.

 

Read Full Post »

I was delighted to welcome Lindsay from Home Cook School to Balkissock on Thursday. She came to give a private cooking lesson for myself and a B&B guest and just look how wonderful the end result was.

Scottish cranachan

Using local ingredients such as beetroot from Lindsay’s own garden, Pieroni’s hot smoked salmon and Ayrshire bacon coupled with Glen Moray whisky, Macsween Haggis and Scottish pinhead oatmeal the meal was a wonderful mix of traditional Scottish with a modern twist.

haggis needs and tatties

If you live in Ayrshire and want to find out more about cooking in your own home or in Lindsay’s home in Maybole then please check out her website for details. Lindsay also does a range of other tasty dishes.

hot smoked salmon

If you’d like to couple a cooking lesson with a short break at Balkissock Lodge B&B then email me for details. Lessons can be taught for guests here at Balkissock Lodge for up to four people.

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge B&B

Why not book yourself a lovely short break and learn how to cook something this lovely too?

(c) 2017 All rights reserved

 

Read Full Post »

“The Curse of the OTAs”

I’ve sat on this blog post for some time but I now feel that it’s time to publish … the message is simple …. please, please, please book direct! Not just for my sake but for any B&B (or hotels, cottages etc) that you’re thinking of visiting. Why? Let me list some really good reasons:

What are OTAs?

OTAs (online travel agents) have been around for a while now. I’ll not give any of them the additional publicity of naming them but they’re the ones that have the flash adverts on the TV, always advertise that they have the best rates and list all different types of accommodation providers on their swanky websites.

I only advertise with one of them so can only base my comments/prices/experiences in this blog from that. Others may be better or worse and my comments only refer to “B&Bs” although hotels, cottages, etc also advertise on their websites.

What do OTAs do?

For the B&B owner: For a fee, you can advertise your B&B business on their website.

For the public: they promise the best prices, everything in one place, free booking, free cancellation, etc. etc. etc. Slick apps allow customers to book on the go and have complete control of their bookings.

That’s great isn’t it?

For the customer, yes (up to a point), for the B&B industry, no!

So what are the problems?

  • Commission: 
    • They charge B&B owners a standard 15% commission … although they will accept up to 50% commission if you want to be at the top of the searches on their website!!
    • That’s good … 85% of a booking is better than 100% of nothing!
    • I don’t mind paying 15% on the bookings that I receive … although for many years, the industry standard commission was 10% from other websites … other websites that no longer exist because the OTAs have basically put them out of business.
    • Don’t forget that it’s 15% of the ENTIRE booking so if you book a room for £75 and wonder if it’s worth £75 don’t forget that the B&B owner actually only receives £63.75 and if you book for four nights at £75 per night, the owner pays commission on all four nights which is £45 of your money and the owner’s profit straight to the OTA!!
    • I, like many, have had to increase my standard rate to compensate for this loss of revenue.
    • End result: you are paying more by booking through an OTA, the B&B owner is receiving less for their hard work, the OTAs are raking it in!
  • Free cancellation:
    • They say that ‘nothing in life is free’ … for the customer, in this case, that’s perhaps not entirely correct, but the cancellations are financially crippling B&B owners.
    • Let’s just say that you book a single night in mid July … three days before you are due to stay, you decide to cancel because your husband gets a puppy (I’m ripping that off from one of the OTAs own TV advertisements!!) If you had a “free cancellation” policy then you’re fine! The B&B owner of the other hand is not. In three days they are unlikely to fill the bed space resulting in a loss of revenue. It may also be that because you’ve had the bed booked, someone else couldn’t book so the owner may have missed out on a more lucrative booking. We accept that is going to happen but when the one-nighter cancels is disheartening. Why should the B&B owner be out of pocked because you decide to cancel at short notice? I was also speaking to a B&B owner just last week who has a week-long booking for July. The booker said she’s only booked a week because she wants to be ‘flexible’ … read into that what you will but I know for a fact that the booker will cancel some/most of the days staying just one or two nights depending upon how her travel plans progress leaving the B&B owner with a room that they’ll struggle to fill at very short notice.
    • I, like many now, have changed my cancellation policy. I’ve just changed it to a strict 14 day policy (although I’m thinking of changing it again to a 30 day policy… the OTA I’m with won’t let me do anything in between or actually even a non-refundable deposit). If people don’t pay 14 days before arrival then I’m thinking of cancelling their reservations. That at least, will give me 14 days to try to fill the vacancy.
    • If you’re not the sort of person who cancels on a whim then you may be wondering why this is an issue: approx. 40% of all OTA bookings that I’ve received this year have cancelled and the situation is getting worse. In all of the years that I’ve been doing B&B only about 1 or sometimes 2 bookings made direct through my website are cancelled per year!!
    • Also consider the fact that processing bookings takes time … and processing cancellations also takes time … doing it so many times is really annoying. What was even more annoying last week was altering an exiting booking from two nights to three nights … then for the booker to cancel the booking entirely two days later!!
    • Result: I haven’t yet come to a conclusion who is most disadvantaged by this situation yet although the customer is fine just now. However, given the general feeling among B&B owner friends that I’ve been chatting to, customers are soon going to find it harder and harder to find accommodation that will not take non-refundable deposits to cut down on cancellations.
  • Booking deposits and cancellation fees:
    • The OTA that I’m with very kindly offer to take deposits for me if I’d like them to but I can’t have the money until the 15th of the following month! So if you book on the 1st July I’ll get my payment on the 15th of August!
    • The OTAs also don’t seem to always check credit cards either … a fellow B&B owner had a cancellation for a week-long booking last summer only a few days before the customer was due to arrive. As it was within the cancellation period, they used the credit card details to claim the money due only to find that the card was declined so got nothing.
    • I’m thankful that my own booking system super checks all cards.
    • When I first joined up with my OTA and a guest cancelled within the cancellation period, they would phone me up asking me if I would allow the guest to cancel free of charge. Now, the customer just clicks a button and I have to deal with it all.
    • Result: again a mixed conclusion although as I never used to take deposits and accepted payment when staying I’d say that the customer is going to be disadvantaged in the long run.
  • Lowest prices:
    • You know those TV adverts that bemoan the fact that there are so many prices out there for the same hotel room? Have you ever wondered why there are so many prices? If everyone booked direct, there would be only one price (I’m stretching the truth here to make a point) however, because different companies charged different commission rates, hotels etc added the commission to the basic room rate so that they weren’t out of pocket. This resulted in different rates for rooms depending upon where they were advertised. On the whole, the B&B/hotel owner therefore received the same amount of money for the room regardless of where it was booked.
    • The OTAs caught on to this and now, when you sign up to advertise on their website, they insist that they always have the lowest (or the same rate) as anywhere else. This means that I can’t advertise lower rates on my own website although I do always ensure that I have “Owner’s Special Deals” which are acceptable.
    • Result: the customer will always find the best price on OTAs because all the prices are the same … but they’re the same higher price because of the commission. Tip: book direct and ask for a discount!
  • Google rankings:
    • Five or six years ago all of my bookings came via my own website or one of a handful of other websites that I chose to advertise on most of which no longer exist. Today, only about 20% of my business is made up of direct bookings and return guests.
    • Today, if you search for “Balkissock Lodge B&B” on Google you’d be hard pushed to find it on the first page. The OTAs use my commission money (that you pay) to grease the metaphorical hand of Google so that they always appear at the top of all of the searches meaning that even if you’re specifically looking for me, you will find that the top listings will all be OTAs!
    • In addition, that annoying review website (the one in green that everyone uses) seems to have done a deal with one of the OTAs so that the review website no longer has a link on their website to my website and they no longer list my price from Freetobook but instead only the OTAs prices automatically show meaning that even when you find me on their site and are interested, you’re still directed, not to me, but to one of the OTAs to check prices and make a booking!!!!!! I can get an account with them and add links to availability/prices from my own booking system but I would either have to ‘pay per click’ which can be costly with little generated revenue or I pay 12-15% commission so I’d be no better off really!

I hate to moan too much as it seems like I’ve nothing positive to say about the situation but I will say that I’m really, really worried about the future of B&Bs. We’re too small to fight the OTAs and because the vast majority of the public use them, we would be out of business if we weren’t advertising with them. They’re so large and the public rely on them so much they can basically dictate the future of our business and from what I’ve so far seen, none of it is good news for B&B owners.

So my plea to you is this … if you’re booking abroad and don’t speak the language then for goodness sakes keep using the OTAs … in those circumstances, I would too. But if you’re thinking of a break in your own country, think of the small business owners up and down the land that would really appreciate it if you give them a call (or email) … like me, they’ll probably offer you an “owner’s special offer’ if you do! Result: win win!!

So please, if you’d like to book, please click on the link and check availability and book direct, thank you!!

Cordelia

PS I’ve deliberately not included photos as I don’t really want to give the OTAs even more publicity!

Read Full Post »

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 drive through it!!

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge B&B

2017 All rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

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.

The Irish Sea ferry ports are only a 25 minute drive from Balkissock Lodge B&B

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: