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Posts Tagged ‘garden’

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 and because I’ve had a couple of dog owners this year who have made me tighten up the ‘dog policy’.

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

all rights reserved

Check availability and book direct with the owner here

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We had a wonderful treat this afternoon … first Daddy, then Mummy … then baby woodpecker.

Come and see our lovely garden birds for yourself

Cordelia

(c) All rights reserved

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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?

Cordelia 2016 (c)

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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.

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

Copyright © 2016 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Balkissock Lodge

Visit the Galloway and Ayrshire Biosphere

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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)

Take in a visit to these and other gardens when you stay in SWScotland

 

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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 …

Check availability and book direct with the owner here!!!

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My little girl is a year old now so I though that I’d share a few pics of her…


  
  

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Maisy is available for cuddles by request!!

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge 2015 (c)

Maisy is available for free cuddles with every booking

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