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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 was delighted to welcome Lindsay from Home Cook School to Balkissock on Thursday. She came to give a private cooking lesson for myself and a B&B guest and just look how wonderful the end result was.

Scottish cranachan

Using local ingredients such as beetroot from Lindsay’s own garden, Pieroni’s hot smoked salmon and Ayrshire bacon coupled with Glen Moray whisky, Macsween Haggis and Scottish pinhead oatmeal the meal was a wonderful mix of traditional Scottish with a modern twist.

haggis needs and tatties

If you live in Ayrshire and want to find out more about cooking in your own home or in Lindsay’s home in Maybole then please check out her website for details. Lindsay also does a range of other tasty dishes.

hot smoked salmon

If you’d like to couple a cooking lesson with a short break at Balkissock Lodge B&B then email me for details. Lessons can be taught for guests here at Balkissock Lodge for up to four people.

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge B&B

Why not book yourself a lovely short break and learn how to cook something this lovely too?

(c) 2017 All rights reserved

 

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I first applied for the information for the Healthy Eating Award over a year ago. When it arrived, I was pleased to find that I met all of the criteria other than blogging about my healthy food…hundreds of mouthwatering pictures don’t cut the mustard apparently 🤣

healthy breakfast clean eating
You’ll find a selection of fruit, fruit juice and natural (fat free) yoghurt on the side table. Full fat options are also available.

cooked breakfast
All meat is either grilled or oven baked and you have the option of fried, poached or scrambled egg.

If you advise me when you book, I can cater for vegetarian, vegan and most specific dietary restrictions.

Depending upon season and/or local availability I also offer asparagus and avocado with eggs.

home baked bread

My Homemade bread recipe is made without salt but does still contain a good spoon full of Demerara sugar (seen above with vegan banana buns).

home made preserves

Homemade preserves and lemon curd may be full of sugar but they don’t contain all the preservatives and E numbers that you’ll find in shop bought varieties.

Please let me know what healthy options you like too.

Cordelia

If you want to sample the menu just click here!!

RECIPES:

Home made bread recipe

Lemon curd recipe

Vegan banana cake recipe

Tomato chutney recipe

Blueberry pancake recipe

Three fruit marmalade recipe

Easy cupcake recipe

Empire biscuit recipe

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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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There’s so much in the news regarding milk prices and I hope that the peaceful protests in Kilmarnock, Ayr and other towns and cities produce positive dialogue between the farmers and the supermarkets.

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Here at Balkissock Lodge, I’m committed to serving local, regional and Scottish produce wherever possible witch is why the vast majority of milk, cream and other dairy produce bought is either Rowan Glen (Newton Stewart) or Graham’s (Stirling).

 

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Copyright © 2015 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Balkissock Lodge

Stay at Balkissock Lodge B&B and help support local farming

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Another recipe that I use and have adapted from one of my favourite cookbooks is for tomato chutney.

The original recipe requires raisins but I use dates as I have them in the house.

 

Ingredients:

  • 900 g / 2 lb tomatoes
  • 225 g / 8 oz dates
  • 225 g / 8 oz chopped onions
  • 225 g / 8 oz caster or granulated sugar
  • 600 ml / 1 pint of malt vinegar

 

First of all you need to skin the tomatoes (playing tic tac toe is optional!).

  

Then chop the tomatoes, dates and onions and add them to a large pan with the sugar.

 

Next, pour the vinegar into the pan and bring to the boil.

Simmer uncovered for 2 hours. Stir occasionally.

The mixture will thicken.

Transfer to sterilised, hot jars and seal.

This quality made three jars (I doubled the qualities hence the six jars you see!).

 

The recipe says to leave for a month for the flavour to mature and they should keep unopened for unto a year. Refrigerate once opened.

Sample the chutney and a range of fruit preserves and lemon curd when you visit.

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge (c) 2015

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Guests regularly ask if I’ll do an evening meal so I’ve put together a menu of Afternoon Tea and some cold platters that they can pre-order.

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Afternoon Tea

afternoontea3
Ploughman’s Platter

Smoked Salmon Platter


Cheese Board

EDIT: due to difficulty in direct sourcing, I’m no longer offering a cheeseboard of local speciality cheeses) however I am able to offer a platter containing a variety of cheeses that will include any local or Scottish varieties that I’m able to source.
See the Taste our Best Evening Meals page for prices and further details.

EDIT: Afternoon Tea is no longer available

Sample one or more option when you stay

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge (c) 2015

 

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I’ve been asked by several guests for the recipe for the bread that I currently make. It’s basically a white bread mix with wholemeal added.

1 lb bread machine loaf

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  • 350g Allinson Strong White Bread Flour
  • 150g Allinson Very Strong Wholemeal Flour
  • 10g Allison Yeast
  • 20g Butter
  • 1 tablespoon Oil (Vegetable or Olive oil)
  • 10g Demerara Sugar

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This generally goes into the bread machine and I’ve found that it cooks best on the “white” bread setting although I confess I’ve no idea what the difference between the programmes is (perhaps I’ll read the instructions one day!).

Small seed and grain wholemeal loaves

Today I’ve tried out a different wholemeal recipe … again using Allinson flour but this time a seed and grain wholemeal variety.

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  • 500g Allinson Seed and Grain Wholemeal Flour
  • 10g Allison Easy Bake Yeast
  • 20g Butter
  • 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 10g Demerara Sugar

I wasn’t confident that it would rise (my past attempts at 100% wholemeal have been disappointing) so I split the mixture between four small loaf tins.

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Small but perfectly formed:

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Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge (c) 2015

Guests love the home baked bread … come and see why!

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I’ve been told that I spoil my guests … and what is wrong with that?!

In an attempt to get a good balance between offering a range of choices for breakfast but ensuring that the choices were manageable and people were not waiting 20-30 minutes for their food I’ve come up with a limited but, hopefully, tasty menu selection that appeals to a majority of people.

Ayrshire B&B breakfast

As with many other B&Bs, I offer a range of branded cereals. I’ve just bought these glass containers from IKEA (aren’t they great?) and made some lovely labels so that there’s no guessing what’s inside!!

Ayrshire B&B breakfast menu

I also try to offer seasonal fruit (isn’t the cut glass bowl lovely in the sunshine?) to add to the locally produced Rowan Glen yogurts.

ayrshire B&B cereal jars cute

The small pots contain homemade preserves such as Balkissock Bramble Jelly, Three Fruit Marmalade and Lemon Curd.

A “Full Scottish” is popular, here made with local Duldaff Farm Sausages or sometimes We Hae Meat sausages, Ayrshire bacon and local free range eggs.

Ayrshire B&B Full Scottish Breakfast

Lighter choices include scrambled egg on home baked bread with Scottish smoked salmon.

Ayrshire B&B Breakfast scrambled egg and Scottish smoked salmon

A firm favourite already are the blueberry pancakes made with wholewheat flour and topped off with Greek style yoghurt and honey.

Ayrshire B&B Breakfast Blueberry Pancakes with Greek yoghurt and local Kirkbride honey.

I serve a range of branded tea, fruit teas and filter coffee to accompany breakfast and make homemade bread which is made using a mixture of white and wholewheat flour.

Home baked bread Ayrshire B&B breakfast

A recent popular dish has been creamy garlic mushrooms on toasted ciabatta or petit pain with roasted cherry tomatoes.

Ayrshire B&B breakfast creamy garlic mushrooms on ciabatta

This month, grilled asparagus with poached egg has been popular too although I didn’t get a photo :O(

I try to shop local and use locally produced produce where possible.  Graham’s are a Scottish company and they use Ayrshire cows!

shop local Graham's Dairy dairies milk

I’ve also placed a menu in each of the guest rooms so that guests can take as much time a they want to decide upon what they’d like for breakfast!

Ayrshire B&B double ensuite

Due to our location and the fact that shopping usually involves an 80 mile round trip, not all of the items are available every day but I do my best to offer a range of dishes.

Any other breakfast suggestions are welcome.

So … what will you choose when you stay?

Copyright © 2015 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Balkissock Lodge

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Now that the B&B is re-opening at Easter, I thought that I’d try out some breakfast recipes for the 2015 season.

Today I started with breakfast pancakes with Greek yoghurt and blueberries.  I tried two different pancake recipes with two different types of honey and also maple syrup.

Ingredients

Taste testing today was my guinea pig Howard, my other half!!

I have to say Paul, you may know how to bake but Hugh knows a thing or two about tasty pancakes. The wholemeal recipe in River Cottage Everyday was far superior in our opinion.

books

We tried a decent quality store bought honey and also maple syrup but locally produced Kirkbride Farm Honey was by far the best.

So here is my own recipe adapted from HFW’s book:

Ingredients:

  • 100g plain (all purpose) wholemeal flour
  • 5g baking powder
  • 10g muscovado sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 free range egg
  • 125 ml (1/2 cup) full fat (whole) milk
  • 25g butter (melted)
  • Sunflower or light olive oil (see note at end of “method”)

adapted recipe

Method:

  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
  • Add the sugar and mix.
  • Beat the egg in a cup and add the milk to the egg.
  • Using a balloon whisk (or a fork) slowly add the wet ingredients into the bowl, stirring until everything is combined.
  • Melt the butter and add to the bowl.
  • Briefly whisk until the mixture is lump-free.
  • Place a tablespoon (15ml) of the mixture into a medium hot frying pan (griddle or similar) and allow to cook until bubbles rise and pop. This only takes a minute so don’t leave it! When the bottom is cooked (light or golden brown depending upon your preference) flip the pancake over and cook the other side. You may need to oil the pan just a little if the mixture sticks.

I topped ours with:

  • Greek style yoghurt
  • Blueberries
  • Kirkbride Farm honey

blueberrypancake

PS We also had some Ayrshire Bacon that needed to be eaten; topped with maple syrup of course!!

baconandmaplesyrup

The blueberry pancakes have been getting rave reviews from guests since they were put onto the menu

Copyright © 2015 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

Balkissock Lodge

Cordelia Galley © 2015

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