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Have you ever though about combining a stay at a B&B with learning a new skill … or perhaps you and some friends are looking for a relaxing crafting weekend break?

Visit the Silver Daisy page for more crafting options or browse the Stay & Craft theme but here I’m going to highlight one option:

Lampshade making

Lampshade workshop

Chose from a variety of fabrics* and make your own 20cm or 30cm diameter lampshade. The 20cm size is ideal for a bedside or table lamp and the 30 cm would be ideal for a larger table lamp or for the ceiling fitting.

lampshade workshop

If you stay locally and wish to attend crafting sessions with friends, please email me to discuss your dates, numbers and requirements. I’m also happy to arrange crafting sessions with afternoon tea for groups of 4 – 8 people (depending upon the craft) when I don’t have any B&B guests booked in.

crafting workshop

You can opt to do lampshade making as a single session or you could choose lampshade making as one of your options on the Mix ‘n’ Match weekend course.

Details about prices and how to book can be found on the Silver Daisy page.

*If you’d prefer to bring your own fabric so that you make a shade that better matches your decor then you are welcome to do so. You will need to bring a piece of fabric larger than the following minimum size:

20cm diameter lampshade: 645 mm x 220 mm

30cm diameter lampshade: 970 mm x 255 mm

lampshade workshop

Most fabrics can be used but be warned that heavy fabrics and those that fray easily are extremely difficult to work with, I use cotton and polycotton quilting fabrics in the workshops.

You may also be interested in sessions run by other crafters in the area who also make lampshades:

If you’d like to return to the Silver Daisy page, please click here.

If you’d like to check availability for accommodation and book securely online at the best prices available, please click here.

Cordelia 2018

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Balkissock Lodge B&B is currently going through the verification process to become the very first B&B with accredited status in the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere.

The Galloway and Southern Ayrshire UNESCO Biosphere has been recognised internationally as a world class environment for people and nature.

The UNESCO Biosphere designation is recognition of the fantastic array of landscapes wildlife, cultural heritage and learning opportunities that SW Scotland offers for communities, businesses and visitors to experience and celebrate in a sustainable way.

From the wilderness of the open hills to the Dark Skies of the Galloway Forest or windswept coastline, the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere has many places to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life. The Biospheres [sic] geography of remote open moorland, serene lochs, quiet ancient oak woodlands, waterfalls and deep gorges and picturesque villages all contribute to its peaceful character, providing opportunities for contemplation and awe.

GSA Biosphere literature

There’s more detailed information on their website.

Balkissock Lodge B&B has been a proud supporter of the Biosphere charter for some time now and we are thrilled and delighted to be considered for certification.

Cordelia @BalkissockLodge

If you’d like to visit us why not find out more by clicking here or to book your 2018 holiday book online here.

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Christmas Present #2

THIS COMPETITION HAS NOW CLOSED AND HAS BEEN WON BY MRS GILMORE.

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?

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Christmas present

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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.

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GOOD LUCK!!

Cordelia @ BalkissocklodgeB&B

 

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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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… 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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Just a couple of quick pictures … I’ve been decorating the guests’ lounge and thought that I’d show you the changes to the fireplace.  I can’t believe that a coat of paint makes so much difference!!

Before:

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During:

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After:

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I still need to take the cast iron grate outside and clean it up and decide upon whether to put the mirror back up or not.

 

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Copyright © 2015 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Balkissock Lodge

Come and relax in our pretty guests’ lounge

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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

Check availability and book direct with the owner here

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