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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 …

Click here to check availability and to book online

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Work has been particularly time consuming and I’ve not found time to keep up with my virtual life which got me on thinking about what else I’m missing … so sitting here relaxing during my Easter break in no particular order:

Cooking and baking….

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(Both ready for friends and neighbours who are coming over for afternoon tea!)

Watching the wildlife…

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Spending more time with family…

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(Grandson’s self portrait using my ipad)

I’m not complaining really. There are so many people out of work and struggling these days. I really hope that there’s an end to this recession soon …. for everyone’s sake.

Hope you all had a good Easter and hope to catch up with some of you soon!

Cordelia 2013

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It’s been some time since I last posted … and for a good reason … my real life has over taken my virtual life (how dare it!).

I’ve barely used facebook or uploaded a picture to blipfoto and I miss all my virtual friends that I used to tweet to on a daily basis.

But my New Year’s Resolution is to remedy that … I love my new job which is consuming so much of my time but armed with my new ipad and internet access I hope to restore my work/life balance.

Happy New Year to you all and thank you so much for all the wonderful comments over the past 18 months … I hope 2013 is good to you all.

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

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Neither of us had been to Shropshire so that seemed as good a place as any for our summer holiday this year. We’ve met lots of lovely fellow accommodation providers on Twitter and Facebook and decided to go to The Hop Barn and received a wonderful welcome from owner, Birgit.

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The weather, sadly, was completely pants!! We did go to a few National Trust properties in the area and have to say that they were somewhat disappointing but the villages and towns were absolutely beautiful:

Ludlow town centre

It was lovely also to take a look at The Iron Bridge:

The Iron Bridge at Ironbridge

… and the Bewdley Museum which was completely free and had a great little cafe in it:

The highlight for us both however was The International Centre for Birds of Prey.

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It even stopped raining long enough to see the birds fly!!

We even managed to find time to meet up with another Twitter and Facebook friend Karen from Hopton House whose marmalade recipe I use and our guests just love it!

Beloved made friends with the dog at the Sun and Slipper which serves fantastic food:

The Hop Barn is lovely and well worth considering if you’re looking for a “cottage” in the country and we’ll definitely be going back.

Ludlow is absolutely fantastic and I could have spent a fortune here:

Copyright © 2012 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

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

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A short post to promote a worthy cause …

A Twitter and Facebook friend is raising awareness of the following three charities:

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Can I ask you to help her to support her chosen charities by heading over  to her blog at

Survivorsburg

Why not take a look and help support too? Or chat to May @Survivorsburg on Twitter.

Thank you :O)

 

 

 

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

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I’m normally blessed with the patience of a saint but a recent experience left me annoyed and upset.  My integrity would never normally allow me to post such things and I’m being extremely careful not to identify the guests in question, but imagine, if you will, walking into one of your guest rooms to service it and to be faced with this:

Upside down single bed in the twin room

Bedspread crumpled and stuffed into the closet

Now don’t get me wrong, we get messy guests, it’s part and parcel of the business but it’s upsetting and annoying to see your own personal items being mistreated.

So what do I do now?  I wasn’t too sure if I was over-reacting so, as usual I appealed to twitter friends for advice and was surprised at the number of replies.  Most were from fellow accommodation providers and I was very surprised that many said to throw them out – they wouldn’t (and hadn’t in the past) put up with guests treating their personal belongings in this manner.  Several suggested charging the guests extra for the extra cleaning too.  Three members of the public said to shut the door and refuse to service it and when the guests return make sure that treating other people’s belongings in this way is unacceptable.  Four other B&B owners said to service as usual but leave the guests personal mess (not photographed) which, as you will see, is what I did.

Having digested the overwhelming support and advice then partaken in a restorative cup of tea I went back to the room (armed this time with my camera should the guests argue that there was no mess) to begin the damage limitation.

Having decided that the bedspreads were obviously not required I took them away … thankfully they didn’t need laundering but I did press them and hung them in a spare room.  The upside down bed was the next to tackle … I double checked the booking … two people in the double room and a single occupancy of the twin room (when they arrived they were all the same sex but we never question guests private sleeping arrangements).  Problem sorted … strip the offending bed, whomever made the mess in the room could use the other bed which had been rumpled and would need changing anyway then continue servicing both rooms.  Satisfied that the rooms were now as pristine as I could make them I set about cleaning windows … which had been the designated chore of the day!!

Guests complained when they returned … wondered why one of the beds was left stripped.  I explained that the bed was so untidy it was not worth my while making it and whomever had used it could use the other bed tonight.  “We used a bed each last night” was the reply … explains the other rumpled single bed. “Well that’s not what you booked and we do charge differently for that to reflect the extra laundry and servicing.  Please check your booking confirmation … are you complaining that you have exactly what you booked? I’ve removed the bedspreads that were crumpled up in a heap and put them to one side but if you require them you’re welcome to have them that’s not a problem and there’s wine glasses out on the table in the conservatory for you”.

“We feel very uncomfortable now  and will stay in our rooms.”

“There’s absolutely no need, you’re welcome to use the lounge and conservatory as you did last night.”

All was quiet for a while until one of the guests mentioned that they had no water [oh joy!].  It took beloved a while to sort (an air lock we think).

Breakfast was interesting … one guest refused to look at or even speak to beloved as he tried to take the orders, instead focussing on texting (?) on their phone. After asking three times the guest’s friend prompted a reply.

“They’re probably filling in a Trip Advisor report” he said when he came back to the kitchen.  “What are they going to complain about…?” I replied, “that they got exactly what they booked and paid for, or that I cleaned up the mess that they made without charging extra?”

They settled the bill … even accepting the discount we give to customers paying by debit card and left, not surprisingly, without goodbyes.

Now an apology for the mess at the time would have been appreciated but I guess that was too much to hope for.  Had it been sincere enough I would probably have made up the other bed [oddly they never asked!], even at that time of night, despite the booking error being their fault!

So, for the benefit of future guests … the collective feeling of the accommodation providers across the UK and USA [based on my replies] is this … we don’t mind you dumping and crumpling your own gear but please have a little more respect for our items.

Which leads me to the title of this cathartic post … we have good TA reports (so far) and normally I’d be quite stressed about a bad one … but with the house for sale and us slowly running the business down to a more manageable level as we’re both busy with other jobs I’m rather more circumspect.

[Please note that the conversations are not direct quotes and I’ve altered some of it to protect the guests’ identities and shortened, but tried to keep, the general gist].

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Ballantrae Rural Initiative Care in the Community Ltd

BRICC hosue

With just a few mouse clicks you can help this wonderful and deserving local charity win £6000.

There can’t be many opportunities in life where you can do so much good for a charity without spending a penny!

To vote, click here  and if you want more information first, including instructions on how to register, then please keep reading.

What is BRICC?  BRICC organise help and activities for the elderly and infirm within the community so that they can live independently at home but still enjoy a fulfilling and rewarding standard of life.

There’s a great video of their work here produced a couple of years ago.

BRICC Thrift Shop

How does BRICC raise the money to do this? The BRICC thrift shop is staffed by volunteers and take in unwanted items from around the community.

Rosemary, BRICC’s founder, also has a truck which can be seen whizzing around the lanes of Carrick collecting larger items.

The BRICC thrift shop is an Aladdin’s cave of treasures and if you’re passing through Ballantrae please take a look.

Why do BRICC want £6000?  BRICC are currently raising money to purchase a minibus with wheelchair lift so that the elderly and infirm, many of whom are isolated as they live away from the heart of this rural community, can be transported to the BRICC house to participate in many more of the day centre activities that are arranged each week for them.

Please vote for BRICC here … many people who support and benefit from the work of BRICC are not computer literate so rely upon the youngsters (I’m not objecting to their description of me at all) to help out on this one via social media.

Instructions in case you need them:

1. Click on “vote for us” (top right)

2. You will need to register – click on “register” (left hand side)

3. Fill in your name and email address

4. They will immediately send you an email with a link to confirm – click the link then vote 🙂

Knitted Baby Clothes

I think voting ends on 25th October 2011  but will update this info when I know.

Since moving to Ballantrae beloved and I have been regulars in the Thrift shop both donating and buying and would have many more items in our home if only we had the space!

To help raise money for BRICC we’re donating the entrance fees for our forthcoming Craft Fayre to be held at Balkissock Lodge on 9th October to them.

Please do feel free to re-post this blog or spread the word via Facebook or Twitter … thank you so much!

Cordelia @ Balkissock Lodge

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

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