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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:




  • 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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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.

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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].

Tidy guests welcome ;0)

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For the three months we’ve been entranced by the housemartins who decided that the eaves outside our bedroom window were the perfect place to build their nest.

It took 3 days to build and they worked every daylight hour ferrying mud, hay and feathers from around the garden and surrounding fields in relay carefully weaving all the pieces together:

Housemartins peering out of the nest

We’ve been rudely awoken at first light for weeks by chirping and squabbling and even witnessed macabre scenes of nest stealing and murder at Balkissock Lodge when one housemartin was found dead but not sure if the deceased was the original builder or the usurper.   I’ve peered out of the window every morning and my gentle tapping on the glass has been responded to … the reciprocal peering at me from whatever occupants I’d disturbed.

We’ve even been saddened by the sight of broken eggs on the windowsill.

Yesterday we went out for the afternoon, a leisurely lunch at Wildings Restaurant then shopping and returned to see a very sad sight on the doorstep…a broken nest and a dead chick:

Looking up we saw that the nest had completely broken away from its housing and felt quite guilty that we’d  cursed the birds on departing for the amount of mess, and by mess I mean “bird poo”, on the window and sill.

The Bonny Lad

I’ve been reading “The BonnyLad” by Jonathan Tulloch whose wife I knew very well when I used to live in the North East of England (name dropping or what?!) a fact that my wonderful neighbour was unaware of when she gave me the book.  I digress because there’s a bit in the book about the old man using a broom to sweep away the housemartins nests from his home because of the mess they made thinking it rather cruel but after weeks of cleaning poo from the windows I’m beginning to empathise!!

We disposed of the nest and deceased chick and sadly set about unloading the car and storing the shopping when movement from behind the plant pot caught the eye of my beloved.  Parting the shrubbery we saw 3 pairs of frightened little eyes:

Shrieking with joy we jumped up and down … then wondered what to do with the little guys.   Watching through the kitchen window for some time we saw that no parents were in attendance so I scooped the youngsters up and put them and the remains of the nest that beloved retrieved from the compost heap (bless his little cotton socks) into a makeshift nest made from an ice cream tub and placed it into the shrubs next to the front door – at least they’d be warm and out of sight of next door’s cat!

Ice cream nest in the shrubs

Close up of the ice cream nest

As always these days when I need some information I sent a plea for advice on Twitter and as the sun was about to set, beloved and I went for a stroll to take a picture or two and saw the ISS making its way across the beautiful night sky:

Wonderful sunset taken by Beloved

Can’t miss Beloved

We hesitated on our return but could see no movement near the ice-cream tub nest.

Beloved made another cuppa and I began to read the advice given by the wonderful @Forfeng an absolute font of knowledge and wonderful lady who’d hand reared a “gazillion” (love that word Heather, thank you) baby birds in her time.  By this time it was dark, but undeterred I went out with shovel, tweasers, scissors, egg box and torch in hand to find grubs to feed my new family.

The worms and grubs had clearly heard that they were on the menu so were noticeable by their absence but I did find a couple of little slugs and an ailing crane fly so into the egg box they went (you were wondering what that was for now weren’t you?).

Collecting the ice cream box nest I began cutting up the hoard with scissors and trying to feed them to the chicks using the tweasers to no avail.  They refused it all…thankfully I’m not considering a career change to veterinary nurse!!

It was promising to be quite cold that night so I upgraded the ice cream tub nest by wrapping it in old sheeting and placing it in a huge plant pot in the porch hoping that the chicks would be warm enough for the night … the front door was left open until very late but I don’t think the parents returned.

You can imagine my trepidation the following morning when going into the porch … gingerly peeling back first of all the layers of sheeting and then the ice cream tub lid.  To my surprise all three chicks were alive and well but still refused to eat.

Leaving them in their new des res, I got the step ladders and put them on the porch roof – by that time there were house martins swooping through the garden and several inspecting the remains of the nest high up on the front of the house.

With fingers crossed I began the day’s cleaning – which would actually be quite difficult to do if it weren’t a figure of speech!!

There was an awful lot of tweeting from the nest so I left them to it, checking up on them a couple of hours later just to make sure that they weren’t too hot in the sun to find that one was missing from the nest! It was impossible to accidentally fall out of the new des res.  With a heavy heart and wondering what had eaten my wee chick I went back to the cleaning.

I could at least clean all the bird poo off the window and sill now knowing that I wasn’t going to disturb the birds!!  Approaching the window I saw a few adult birds scooting past so peered at the des res on the porch roof just in time to see one of the chicks climb to the edge of the plant pot and fly away (well by that I mean flap a few times then land on the ground next to the front door – again!!).  I ran for the camera and by the time I got back to the window just managed to catch the second:

I think I can fly

Running down the stairs (believe me this is the only time I’ve ran in 30 years) I was so excited trying to tell beloved the news that he couldn’t understand so I had to show him the picture on the camera.  We went to the front door and found this wee guy hiding under the hydrangea:

Another ahhhhh moment

As yet, no sign of the other two but still a lot of tweeting going on outside the kitchen window so all must be well.

And I’m trying not to be put out that they obviously prefer the hydrangea to my upgraded ice cream tub nest 😉

Fingers still crossed for a happy ending.

Thank you also to @rachelgillon @Auntywainright @Poorjim6060 @hatsbybilly @weeburd1 and @PamSSaunders all Twitter friends for their help and advice during the wee bird crisis.

Copyright © 2011 by Cordelia

All rights reserved

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