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The weather has been great this week for the end of September and it’s been ideal to get out and about.

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One place to visit is the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, on the south side of Ayr which has been in the top 10 of places to visit for our guests.

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In addition to the museum that provides the story of Robert’s life, it houses a lovely café and a gift shop with all sorts of Scottish fayre to take home as souvenirs.

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Across the large car park is a beautiful walkway with sculptures taking you to the old house which takes about 10-15 minues to saunter to.  Don’t forget to have your photo taken next to the “wee” mouse!!

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There is also parking at the house if you prefer not to walk.

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A short walk in the opposite direction from the museum will take you to the park which houses the Burns monument and the another photo opportunity is to stand on the Brig o’ Doon itself.

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Whilst there, why not treat yourself to a beautiful meal at the Brig ‘O Doon hotel?

The Burns Museum is owned and operated by the National Trust for Scotland. If you’re not a member it costs £9 per person entry but I have some vouchers which will get you a discounted entry of £6 per person.

The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is just under an hour away by car at Alloway on the south side of Ayr.

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge 2015 (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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I’ve had several guests this year who have been walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path and I’ve always offered pick-up and collection as Balkissock Lodge B&B is three miles from the route.

Following a discussion with our latest walkers I thought that I’d write this post with a few helpful tips for anyone following in their footsteps!

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast, I dropped the guests off at the start of the route at Glenapp Kirk with full flasks, bottled water, fresh fruit and my copy of The Ayrshire Coastal Path Official Guide Book.


The first part of the route to Ballantrae is relatively short in distance but challenging due to the terrain and there’s currently a diversion due to some engineering works.  There are no shops on this part of the walk so be prepared to carry lunch/refreshments with you.

I collected the guys later in the day and they stayed here for a second night before continuing their walk the following morning, leaving their car here at the Lodge.  I do a selection of platters or the pub in the village serve meals until about 8pm.

The father and son were having a wonderful time together and even made time to write a beautiful comment in the guest book:


Not knowing the area prior to their visit they pre-booked another B&B to the south of Girvan but found that this made day two of their journey too short and wished that they’d booked somewhere in Girvan which would have also given them a good choice of places to eat in the evening.  It’s worth remembering to pop into Scotmid in Ballantrae to stock up on any supplies as there are no shops between Ballantrae and Girvan.  The guests also called in at Craigiemains Garden Centre to buy their own copy of the Guide Book.

Being several miles south of Girvan made the following day quite a long trek as they’d booked a B&B in Dunure, a beautiful little fishing village on the coast overlooking Aisle Craig, Arran and the Mull of Kintyre.

Dunure, Ayrshire, Scotland

Again, please call in at the many shops in Girvan as the only shop between Girvan and Dunure on the Path is a small one at Maidens. They enjoyed their meal at the Dunure Inn.

This left a relatively short walk the following day to Ayr to catch a bus back to Ballantrae where I picked them up so that they could collect their car and after more coffee and biscuits headed off for a quick break in Edinburgh before returning home.

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge (c) 2015

We offer a drop-off and pick-up service for guests walking the Ayrshire Coastal Path … just let us know when you book so that it can be arranged.

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Many thanks to The Grumbling Gecko for allowing me to re-post this here. Wonderful photos and write up about Ailsa Craig.

Ailsa Craig looks wonderful at all times of the year … come and see for yourself.

Nature+

Ailsa Craig and its magnificent gannetry Ailsa Craig and its magnificent gannetry

Ailsa Craig is famous, among other things, for the awesome gannetry that perches on its precipitous face. The isle is what remains of a volcanic plug that rises 388 metres from the Firth of Clyde about eleven miles off Girvan in Ayrshire.  Depending on the angle from which you view it, the Craig can look like a stuffed dumpling or an embryonic pyramid.

We circumnavigated the island in a tiny fishing boat to experience the frenetic spectacle of seventy thousand nesting gannets.  To put that into context, the world gannet population is estimated to contain 800,000 birds, and a tenth of these nest on Ailsa Craig – an island barely 0.38 square miles! Only St Kilda and Bass Rock hold larger colonies and when you put all three of these Scottish islands together they are home to half of Britain’s 500,000 gannets.

The closer…

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I took the puppy to the beach this morning and came across this unusual sight. We get lots of seaweed wash up at Ballantrae but not this type. By the damage, it looks like it’s been torn off the sea bed in a storm.

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Some of the pieces were as thick as my arm and about six feet in length.

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Sometimes we get kelp … sometimes stones … sometimes sand … what will you see when you book?

Cordelia 2016 (c)

All rights reserved

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A trip to Dumfries House is on our guests’ top 10 things to do when they visit the area … but beloved and I have never been.

The house is beautiful and the art & furnishings collection was “saved” by HRH the Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesey in 2007 from being split up and sold and in addition to the fabulous Chippendale furniture you can also view a collection of Prince Charles’ own watercolour paintings.

A tour of the house costs £8.50 pp but we splashed out and took the one and a half hour Grand Tour for £12.50 pp and it was wonderful. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and witty and talked the entire time (feat of memory too).

They’re busy working on extending the grounds and there is a coffee shop too. Why not put it on your Top 10 list too?

Dumfries House is about 70 mins by car from Balkissock

Copyright © 2012 by Cordelia

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A visit to The Robert Birthplace Museum in Alloway, Ayr (which is on our guests “top 10 things to do in SWScotland”) started with a look around the brand new museum and then lunch in the cafe … which of course just had to include haggis!! Then a walk in the sunshine to see the rest of the attractions.

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A walk through the grounds to the:

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Then on towards the:

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Then a short walk to:

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The Robert Burns Birthplace Museum is approx. 1hr from Balkissock in Alloway on the south side of Ayr

The museum is owned/operated by the National Trust for Scotland.

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Copyright © 2012 by Cordelia

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