Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘environment’

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

Read Full Post »

I’ve taken Maisy to four different beaches in the past week and been delighted to find them practically deserted which makes for great puppy dog fun!

Girvan Beach:

Ayrshire Beach

Croy Beach (north of Culzean Castle):

Ayrshire Beach

Stranraer Beach:

Ayrshire Beach

Ballantrae Beach:

Ayrshire beach

 

Don’t they look so inviting? Why not come along and fill them up!

Cordelia 2015 (c)

All rights reserved

Please click here to check B&B tariff, to search for availability and find information about promo codes and special offers.

 

Read Full Post »

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…

Check B&B prices, special offers and for information about Promocodes.

Cordelia 2016 (c)

Read Full Post »

Ayrshire often feels like the forgotten corner of Scotland but it has a huge amount of wildlife and scenery to offer guests and Balkissock Lodge B&B is a proud supporter of the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere Reserve.

thumb_IMG_5277_1024

 

If you want to find out more, why not visit their website.

Copyright © 2016 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Balkissock Lodge

Click her to check B&B availability and to book online

Read Full Post »

My elderly mother is staying with us for a while and today I took her to visit Logan Botanic Gardens.

At 80 years of age, she’s a little unsteady on her feet and uses a walking stick so I was surprised at how well she was able to get around the gardens. This was accomplished by the hard work of the staff who have really made an effort at levelling paths and making gradients and steps as easy to navigate as possible.

Fern at Logan Garden

It’s rather too early in the year for the huge flower displays that garden attractions are famed for but there was still loads to see from succulents in the hot house to bud bursting huge azaleas and rhododenderons in the walled garden.

Succulents at Logan

The one hundred year old magnolia tree in full bloom was worth the £6.95 entrance fee alone!

Magnolia tree

 

Logan Botanic Garden

The weather was kind, the scones in the cafe were absolutely delicious and I spent way too much on seeds in the shop again too!!

Logan is part of the Edinburgh Royal Botanic Gardens and contains many southern hemisphere exotics that grow well in it’s microclimate in the South Rhinns of Galloway, near Ardwell, a 50 minute drive away from Balkissock Lodge B&B.

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge 2016 (c)

Click here to check B&B availability, discounts, promo codes and to book online

 

Read Full Post »

Let’s face it … I’m British … I love to talk about the weather!!

I also love to take photos s what better than take photos of the weather!! Just look at the range of views taken over the past couple of weeks:

Sunshine and storm clouds:

sunshine in Lendalfoot

Double rainbow in the Tig valley:

Mist in the Tig valley:

Ice:

Rainbow clouds over Balkissock:

rainbow cloud

 

We certainly experience a lot of different types of weather here on the south west coast of Scotland so when I saw that the BBC launched their weather watchers I was eager to sign up to add my photos to their website. I was somewhat shocked when I got my one second of fame when one of my photos was shown on BBC Scotland!!

 


If you’re in the UK, why not join up and add your pictures.

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge (c) 2016

Click here to check B&B availability, discounts, promo codes and to book online

Read Full Post »

… 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:

IMG_9818

IMG_9492

IMG_9218

  • 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 …

Click here to check availability and to book online

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: