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I thought that I’d share a photo of a wonderful sunset..the sunlit fields with a storm brewing just over the hill. 


Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge (c) 2017

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I’ve been doing some gardening today. The lawns are cut and the flower beds nearest to the guest areas are weeded.


There’s quite a lot of colour in the pots:


But there’s an awful lot of pink in the garden just now:



Why not come and take a look for yourself…

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Cordelia 2016 (c)

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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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Another recipe that I use and have adapted from one of my favourite cookbooks is for tomato chutney.

The original recipe requires raisins but I use dates as I have them in the house.

 

Ingredients:

  • 900 g / 2 lb tomatoes
  • 225 g / 8 oz dates
  • 225 g / 8 oz chopped onions
  • 225 g / 8 oz caster or granulated sugar
  • 600 ml / 1 pint of malt vinegar

 

First of all you need to skin the tomatoes (playing tic tac toe is optional!).

  

Then chop the tomatoes, dates and onions and add them to a large pan with the sugar.

 

Next, pour the vinegar into the pan and bring to the boil.

Simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Stir occasionally.

The mixture will thicken.

Transfer to sterilised, hot jars and seal.

This quality made three jars (I doubled the qualities hence the six jars you see!).

 

The recipe says to leave for a month for the flavour to mature and they should keep unopened for unto a year. Refrigerate once opened.

 

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge (c) 2015

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The garden is really looking colourful now …

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… and Maisy has been taking time off from her role as “Head of the Welcome Committee” to come and ‘help’ with the weeding…!

 

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Copyright © 2015 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Balkissock Lodge

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Environmental Policy

We are lucky enough to live in a truly beautiful area, next to Britain’s first Dark Sky Park and in the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere.

 

This policy was written to balance two crucial aspects of running a B&B:

  • Providing a high standard and quality of service.
  • Lessening the business’s impact upon the environment.

 

Laundry

Sheets and pillow cases:

 

The sheets and pillowcases are washed after every visitor has left or in the event of a long stay, every five days.

Any stains are pre-treated.

The sheets and pillowcases are washed at 40C.

The sheets and pillowcases are air dried when possible (a) but are placed in the dryer in inclement weather.

The sheets and pillowcases are all ironed (b).

Quilt covers:

The quilt covers are washed after every visit.

Any stains are pre-treated.

The quilt covers are washed at 40C.

The quilt covers are air dried when possible (a) but are placed in the dryer in inclement weather.

The quilt covers are ironed (b).

Pillow and mattress protectors:

 

Pillow and mattress protectors are washed regularly but not necessarily after every visit.

Any stains are pre-treated.

Pillow and mattress protectors are washed at 40C.

Pillow and mattress protectors are air dried when possible (a) but are placed in the dryer in inclement weather.

The pillow and mattress protectors are not ironed unless badly creased (b).

 

Table covers (in bedrooms) and cushion covers:

 

Table and cushion covers are washed when necessary.

Any stains are pre-treated.

Table and cushion covers are washed at 40C.

Table and cushion covers are air dried when possible (a) but are placed in the dryer in inclement weather.

Table and cushion covers are ironed (b).

 

Towels:

 

The towels are washed after every visit.

If visitors are staying longer than one night, any dirty or wet towels, or those placed on the floor or on the floor of the shower are removed and replaced with clean towels.

Any stains are pre-treated.

The towels are washed at 40C.

The towels are air dried when possible (a) and placed into the dryer to fluff.

The towels are dried in the dryer in inclement weather.

The towels are not ironed.

 

Table cloths and napkins:

 

The tablecloths and napkins are washed after every use.

Any stains are pre-treated.

The tablecloths and napkins are washed at 60C.

The tablecloths and napkins are dried in the dryer (c).

The table cloths and napkins are ironed (b)

 

Tea towels, kitchen cloths and aprons:

 

The tea towels, kitchen cloths and aprons are washed after every use.

The tea towels, kitchen cloths and aprons are washed at 60C.

The tea towels, kitchen cloths and aprons are dried in the dryer (c).

The tea towels, kitchen cloths and aprons are not ironed (b).

Kitchen cleaning

 

The kitchen is cleaned to a schedule that meets Food Safety Assurance Systems.

The benches are sprayed with Dettol spray before and after breakfast is prepared.

Paper towels are used for drying where necessary.

Washable cloths are used where possible.

Carex hand wash is used.

Rubbish and re-cycling

 

Bins in the bedroom are emptied daily. Any items found in there that can be re-cycled such as newspapers and plastic bottles are placed into the household re-cycling bin.

 

Kitchen waste:

 

Raw food waste such as strawberry stalks, pomegranate skins and similar items are placed onto the garden compost heap.

Eggshells are placed onto the garden compost heap.

Excess cooking fat is drained into a container and used to light the coal fire.

Breadcrumbs, left over toast and bacon rind are fed to the garden birds.

Waste food that cannot be composted nor fed to the birds are put into the kitchen bin.

All cereal boxes and other similar paper/card items are placed into the household re-cycling bin.

All juice bottles, milk cartons and all similar items are washed and placed into the household re-cycling bin.

All empty tins, from baked beans, prunes etc. are washed and placed into the household re-cycling bin.

Any items that cannot be recycled in any other way such as greaseproof paper used to wrap sausages are used to light the fire rather than go to landfill.

Central heating:

 

The central heating works from an oil fired boiler and is normally on ‘timed’ to ensure that the rooms are warm in the evening and morning.

The central heating is not normally switched on during the day to avoid excess Kerosene usage (d).

The central heating system is set to a medium temperature to optimise Kerosene usage.

I will always check if guests are warm enough and the heating will be turned up to a higher temperature.

Hot water:

 

Please note that the water is heated in a tank (i.e. it is NOT a ‘combi’ system with instant hot water).

The water is heated morning and afternoon to ensure that there is sufficient for all guests.

The water heater is not normally switched on during the day to avoid excess Kerosene usage (d).

I always check if the water is hot enough and the system will be turned up in the event of water being too cold.

Lighting:

 

The bulbs in the overhead lights and bedside lamps are low energy types.

The bulbs in the corridor are standard types due to the dimmer switch.

Shopping:

 

Shopping trips are kept to a minimum as it is a round trip of approximately 50 miles to Stranraer or 80 miles to Ayr to do the shopping which increases the carbon footprint of the business.

Items that can be stored easily such as toilet rolls and tinned beans are normally bought in bulk whether at the supermarket or the cash and carry.

Items with a short shelf life such as milk can be bought locally in Ballantrae.

To reduce mileage, some items, such as smoked salmon, are frozen.

Bread is made on-site and is fresh each day.

I try to source as much of the produce locally to reduce its carbon footprint.

Water supply:

 

All of the water entering Balkissock Lodge comes from a spring located on Balkissock Hill next to the property. The water is potable and has passed all chemical and bacterial tests. To meet necessary stringent water quality tests the water is treated as follows:

The water passes through an ultra violet light to kill bacteria.

This ultra violet light operates 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

The ultra violet lamp is replaced every year to ensure that it is working at an optimum level.

The water passes through a string filter to remove all dirt particles.

The string filter is changed every month

The water supply is treated with Milton every two months.

Sewerage, surface water and drainage

 

Septic tank:

 

Balkissock Lodge is serviced by a septic tank that requires a fine balance of waste and microbes to keep it functioning correctly.

All toilets and bathroom waste water at the lodge empty into the septic tank.

Environmentally friendly cleaning products are used to clean the toilets.

Flushing unsuitable items into the tank such as condoms, tampons, baby wipes, etc. result in blockages which are not only costly to rectify but an overflowing septic tank is not only unhygienic and odorous but can damage plants and wildlife (e).

 

Soak away:

 

Surface water from the gutters flows into a soak away in the nearby burn.

Waste water or harmful chemicals are not put down the sink nor into the septic tank but are taken to be treated at a local centre.

 

 

NOTES:

 

(a) In the event of a bird related incident, the item is re-washed.

(b) Items are not re-washed if they get water marks on them from the ironing process.

(c) Items are not placed outside for hygiene reasons.

(d) Guests are normally out of the property during the daytime.

(e) Guests are requested not to flush away such items.

 

What can I do to be an environmentally friendly guest?

 

 

 

Laundry:

Excuse occasional peg marks and water marks on the bed linen and towels.

If staying for a visit of more than one night, place towels that you’re happy to re-use on the towel rail and dirty/wet ones onto the floor of the shower for changing.

If you require fluffier towels please do ask … there are likely to be some in the laundry cupboard.

 

Rubbish:

Place all rubbish for re-cycling into the waste bin in your bedroom. I’m happy to sort it out into the correct recycling boxes for collection.

Bag and dispose of other rubbish, such as tampons and condoms, and place into the covered pedal bin in the bathroom.

 

Central Heating and hot water:

If you are cold PLEASE do let me know and I’ll turn up the heating.

If you’re too warm, feel free to turn down the radiator and/or open the windows.

Please close your window before you leave for the day and through the night both to avoid excessive heat loss and for security of yourself and your items.

Please do not leave the shower or taps running if you are not using them.

Please do not leave the entrance door open when you’re not using them.

 

Cold water supply:

Please do not leave the taps running if you are not using them.

 

Toilet and Septic Tank:

Please do not flush anything down the toilet other than toilet roll.

Place items in the bags provided and dispose of them in the covered pedal bin in the bathroom.

 

 

If you have questions regarding the Environmental Policy please do ask. If there are items that you think have been omitted, please do let me know. This is a live document that grows with age!

 

 

.

Cordelia Galley

Balkissock Lodge B&B

April 2015

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The Arran Room (twin ensuite) has been undergoing decoration too.

Some before, during and after shots for you …

twin ensuite B&B Ayrshire

I started with re-covering the headboards and bad bases so that they would co-ordinate with the curtains.  I’ve never done either before so I set to work with the stapler and hoped for the best.  Hand sewing the backing on was tedious and made my fingers sore though!

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I then made the curtains, tie backs, pelmets and nets (no photos at present).

Next came the painting … hope that the smell goes. I always chose water based paints but this is the first one that has left a lingering smell.  It took two coats to even out the shade.

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Painting the woodwork took forever … there’s so much of it in this room and the ensuite and inside of the huge cupboards.

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The bedding arrived and I couldn’t resist opening it and getting the beds ready even though the room wasn’t quite finished!

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Now for the after shots…

Ayrshire B&B twin ensuite

Arran10

Ayrshire B&B twin ensuite

Coming soon … guest lounge renovation and the decoration of the two en-suites…

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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