Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘South West Scotland’

I’ve been a committee member of the Ayrshire Bed & Breakfast Association for some time now and I was delighted to hear that our AGM this year was to be at the Robert Burns Birthplace Museum in Alloway, Ayr.

Robert Burns Birthplace Museum

Our Chair Person has stepped down from the role and I was thrilled and delighted to be nominated and accepted as the new Chair Person for the group.

Ayrshire B&B Association

We are a group of 50 B&Bs located across Ayrshire and Arran that work collaboratively to promote the area. If you’re visiting, why not take a look at our website here and if you own a B&B in the area and would like to join please contact me for details. We enjoy our meetings at a variety of attractions throughout the region and we have always been highly appreciative of the hospitality shown to us. We recently had a wonderful afternoon tea at Glenapp Castle and are looking forward to what 2017 can bring!

 

Ayrshire B&B at Glenapp Castle

Guest speakers at our AGM included Craig Stewart owner of Freetobook, the online booking system that I, and many in the B&B industry use. His input regarding finance was generally agreed to be invaluable.

AB&BA also produce a Restaurant brochure that lists a variety of places to dine throughout the region. Addition to the brochure is limited and all eateries are personally recommended by AB&BA members and their guests.

Why not make your next holiday destination the South West of Scotland?

Cordelia

To check availability, view special offers and to book online, click here.

2017 (c)

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 »

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

DSC03502

 

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.

IMG_4226

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.

IMG_4222

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!!

IMG_4232

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

DSC03509

 

DSC03505

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.

DSC03496

DSC03491

 

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.

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge 2015 (c)

Click here to check B&B availability, promo codes, special offers 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 »

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

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

Read Full Post »

Rexy insisted on coming to Ayr today to help me with the shopping. Incidentally, if you ever need to take a dinosaur shopping choose one with longer arms; he struggled carrying the bags to the car!

We stopped off at the Robert Burns Centre on the way back to take his photo with a wee mousy. Yes, it really is this big!

20131129-202500.jpg

20131129-202529.jpg

We then stopped off in Danure. It was so windy we had to hold onto the fence.

20131129-202631.jpg

Then onto electric brae…

20131129-202714.jpg

We played a quick round on the way home at Turnberry Golf Course. Only kidding, Rexy can’t play golf. He can’t find shoes to fit!

20131129-202756.jpg

Today’s blip is dedicated to my uncle and his wife who both lost their battle with lung cancer a few years ago but not before burying their only son, lost to the same disease. No parent should have to bury their child.

Check out information about lung cancer or cancer in general or contact your own GP who will have leaflets and more information..

Rexy is travelling the globe to raise awareness and here’s how the whole thing works….

“T. rex is travelling the globe promoting cancer awareness. One person keeps the T-Rex for a week and take photos portraying the T-Rex however she/he feels like, be creative, have fun. Dedicate the photos to whoever you feel like, post them here and in the social media of your choice, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, just make sure tag your photos #t_rex_planet_tour_cancer_awareness.

When the person finishes with the 7th or more photos she/he will send the T-Rex to another person in any place on the planet, and that other person will send to another one and so on…”

Check out Rexy’s fb page and why not take a look at this … spotting symptoms early can make a difference to survival rates.

Cordelia 2013

Click here to check B&B availability, view special offers and promo codes and to book online.

Read Full Post »

Rexy visited the Mull of Galloway today; Scotland’s most southerly point:

20131128-162557.jpg

Then onto Portpatrick for lunch and more photos:

20131128-162646.jpg

20131128-162716.jpg

Rexy then asked to go to Belfast but when I said we didn’t have time, he ate the ferry:

20131128-162813.jpg

Today’s post is dedicated to a friends’s late wife who sadly passed away fifteen years ago after a long and painful battle with bowel cancer. Today, 9 out of 10 people beat bowel cancer when it’s found early.

Check out the information at www.bowelscreeningtest.org (Scotland) or www.nhsinform.co.uk (UK) or contact your own GP who will have leaflets and more information.

It was sad to return home today to hear that Lewis Collins has died after a five year battle with cancer. The Professionals was a favourite TV programme of mine for many years. My thoughts are with his family.

Rexy is travelling the globe to raise awareness and here’s how the whole thing works….

“T. rex is travelling the globe promoting cancer awareness. One person keeps the T-Rex for a week and take photos portraying the T-Rex however she/he feels like, be creative, have fun. Dedicate the photos to whoever you feel like, post them here and in the social media of your choice, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, just make sure tag your photos #t_rex_planet_tour_cancer_awareness.

When the person finishes with the 7th or more photos she/he will send the T-Rex to another person in any place on the planet, and that other person will send to another one and so on…”

Check out the fb page:
https://www.facebook.com/TRexPlanetTourCancerAwarenessProject

Why not take a look at the following link …. spotting symptoms early can make a difference to survival rates:
http://www.macmillan.org.uk/Cancerinformation/Aboutcancer/Signssymptoms.aspx

Cordelia 2013

Click here to check B&B availability, view special offers and promo codes and to book online.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: