During our Scottish wanderings, Himself and Yours Truly generally prefer B&B accommodations or country inns over hotels. Not only are they a better value for our holiday bucks, they often offer a chance to meet interesting people on their own turf. For us, B&B has been a satisfying choice.
by BawBaw on July 21, 2010
In August 2008, Himself and Yours Truly stayed two nights at the Gràsmhor B&B on the Isle of Skye. Gràsmhor (pronounced grass-vor, Scottish Gaelic for ‘gracious’) is located in the community of Woodend near Portree, the small coastal town that serves as Skye’s capital. We were on a 17-day sightseeing tour of the Islands and Highlands, and Skye was our first stop. To get there, we had flown across the Atlantic, driven north from Glasgow to Skye, and by the time we reached the "bed" part of B&B, we were fully knackered, as the locals would say.Gràsmhor proved a good choice. Being only 2 miles from Portree gave us a greater variety of options for meals than could be had elsewhere on the island, and it also gave us the pleasure of being able to look long distances in any direction without the encumbrances of side-by-side houses. We could enjoy the landscape--and that magnificent landscape was a large part of why we were there.From the outside, the house presents as a modern version of a traditional country dwelling—a white-washed stone structure with a dark ceramic tile roof. Once inside, however, modern takes precedence over traditional, and the house opens into a much larger space than suggested from the outside. The small enclosed entrance gives way to a large foyer that soars upward for the entire two-stories of the house. Small rooms were located around the periphery—including lounge, dining, and kitchen downstairs and the guest bedrooms upstairs.Our room, the Woodend, was a generous space that featured pine furnishings, including a king bed, dressing table/desk, comfortable chair, and wardrobe. A hospitality tray was also provided. Our room was comfortable and clean, and it included a liberal stock of local tourist information. There was absolutely nothing to fault in either the décor or the housekeeping. The spotless en suite included a tub with shower and a towel warmer. Water pressure was firm, and there was ample hot water. The view from our window was gorgeous, an unbroken panorama of Skye. Sunrise was particularly beautiful.Breakfast was a full Scottish feast. The food was of good quality and well prepared. Service and the table setting were not grand, but they were thoroughly pleasant—with our hostess cooking and our host serving. As is customary in the B&B environment, breakfast was also a time for us to meet our fellow guests and share travel stories, tips for outings, and even warnings for what to avoid. Our tablemates were a young Continental couple touring Skye as part of their August holidays—thoroughly charming and pleasant company.Gràsmhor is well named, and it provided an excellent beginning for our travels. It represented quality and value at the height of the tourist season. The hosts were welcoming and knowledgeable about the area in general. In terms of pros and cons, there simply are no cons. Would we go again? Only if we get the opportunity!
by BawBaw on July 19, 2010
Himself and Yours Truly were guests at Alma House in Auchterarder for 6 days in August 2008. We were on a 17-day visit to Scotland with another couple, and the Alma House served as our base of operations for accessing St. Andrews, Perth, Edinburgh, Stirling, the Trossachs, and Glasgow for our flight back home. When we travel, we try to choose a few strategic locations for lodging that will allow us to strike out on day trips and come back ‘home’ at night. Alma House served this purpose admirably.Alma House is a graceful 19th-century townhouse with three en suite guestrooms, all of which are located on the first floor (that’s the second floor for us Americans). Breakfast was served in the lovely dining room downstairs, on a table set with what my mother would call 'the good china'. The host and hostess are friendly and attentive, and their hospitality and sense of style have earned Alma House a four-star rating from the Scottish Tourist Board.Himself and Yours Truly lodged in the Rowan Room, a standard double with a view out over Hunter Street with its row pleasant townhouses. In addition to the bed there were bedside tables, an old-fashioned dressing table with bench in an side alcove, a small television with satellite access, a generous hospitality tray, and all the thoughtful extras that earn the coveted four stars from the tourist board. The room was not particularly large, but neither was it crampted. Our friends (a brother and sister sharing quarters) had the Beech Room, which was somewhat larger and contained two beds—a double and a twin.The spoken and unspoken rules of the house were simple and practical: - Wipe your feet on entering and leave hiking boots and golf shoes in the foyer.- Use the lounge and dining room as much as you like, but leave them as neat as your found them.- Speak up if there’s a problem—anything from lack of hot water to needing a place to hang rain-soaked garments.- Borrow umbrellas and books on local attractions, but please return them.- Feel free to ask questions and seek recommendations on all things local.- If you don’t manage to connect with the hosts in person, use the yellow sticky pad by the guestbook to pass messages back and forth—including breakfast orders for the next morning.Throughout our days in Alma House, we were treated like visiting family members. Although we had few responsibilities (see above), we were made to feel part of the household. And that observation leads to yet another house rule: Let you hosts know basically where you’ll be and roughly when you’ll be back. It’s a matter of courtesy, and it helps keep your hosts from worrying about your well-being.Our stay at Alma House was wonderfully homey. Our hosts paid attention to all the details, great and small. Our beds were comfortable. Our rooms and the house as a whole were spotless. Our breakfasts were scrumptious. And the overall atmosphere of the house was welcoming and relaxing. Would we go again? In a heartbeat!- BawBaw/LovesTravel
by BawBaw on July 18, 2010
Hillpark House is a 4-star B&B offering guests an ideal base of operations for exploring Fife and southern Angus. Located on the outskirts of the village of Leuchars, golfers will love the fact that it is only 6 miles from the courses of St. Andrews and only 19 miles from Carnoustie. St. Michael's, the local golf club, is literally just across the road. Further afield, but still nearby, can be found the fishing villages of the East Neuk and an assortment of historic homes and churches.During our stay in October 1999, the hosts of Hillpark House provided us with amply quantities of both hospitality and comfort. The house itself is a period piece of Victorian stone construction. The house was decorated with porcelain dolls and plates, vintage clothing, and quilts, giving the interior an authentic Victorian manner. Quilts and tole painting on some of the furnishings also lent unexpected touches of "American" country charm to the overall effect.Two of Hillpark's three guestrooms are en suite, and the bathrooms are complete with all appropriate toiletries in "real" sizes, as is the custom in many British B&Bs. The third room adjoins a bathroom fitted with a large nineteenth-century canopy-style tub/shower, which other guests may use if the third bedroom is empty.Thoughtful additions to each room included a hair dryer, a complete sewing kit, and a variety of skincare products. One had the impression that over time whenever a guest has uttered, "Oh, I wish I'd remembered to bring the _____," the hosts had rushed out to procure the wished-for item and ensure that each room was stocked accordingly. Towels are soft and fluffy, and a comfortable flannel robe could be found hanging on the bathroom door. Each room also contained a well-stocked hospitality corner, including a substantial variety of teas, instant and ground coffee, "biscuits," chocolate bars, and still and sparkling water. Our room was large and airy, and the bed (actually, two twins pushed together) was comfortable.A handy folder placed in each room documented house rules (all quite sensible) and contained a breakfast menu with many choices, including omelettes and crepes. In our experience, the food was excellent, and the table service was congenial. When we trooped downstairs our first morning at 7:30 a.m., we found the air filled with the tantalizing aromas of a full Scottish breakfast--our choice for the day. Freshly squeezed orange juice, homemade preserves, and toast kept us occupied until our plates arrived, piled high with eggs to order, grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, and other breakfast staples--all perfectly prepared. A variety of cereals and fresh fruit awaited our pleasure on the sideboard. Freshly brewed tea and coffee rounded out our breakfast service. With notice, Sandy will accommodate special dietary requirements.The dining room and sitting room served as common areas where guests are free to come and go at will. Books and games are available in the sitting room, as are brochures on local attractions. Family pets were trained to seek the company of only those guests who are so inclined--they were not permitted in the common areas unless invited by a guest. Similarly, our hosts were attentive and unobtrusive--providing each guest with the just desired amount of personal attention and interaction.The grounds at Hillpark were typical of a Victorian country home, with dahlias taking pride of place during our autumn visit. During a pleasant stroll about the garden, I discovered a herb garden in the back corner with to a wooden bench nearby. Liberal use of stone added form to this part of the garden, while the herbs themselves provided color and a broader range of textures. Throughout the garden, a variety of mature trees and shrubs promised a steady progression of colors and scents as the seasons passed. The old dovecote has become a garden shed.Our stay at Hillpark House was an excellent value in terms of cost. I can think of only one caution for potential visitors: the house is not well suited for handicapped visitors. All three bedrooms are located upstairs. Though the staircase is wide and makes for a gentle climb, this isn't the place to stay if you can't climb.A review of the home page for Hillpark House indicates that the hosts who greeted us are no longer managing this B&B, but the atmosphere seems much the same and the rooms as pictured on the site look almost unchanged. A conservatory, which was under construction during our stay, has been added to the public areas of the house, and breakfast is now often served there. The lodging had also maintained its 4-star rating. Given need for accommodation in this area, we would definitely return. The memories it holds for us all happy ones.- LovesTravel/DAnneC/BawBaw
by BawBaw on July 17, 2010
I’ve stayed twice at the Blackwaterfoot Lodge on the Isle of Arran, once in early 2006 and again in the spring of 2007. The Lodge is a Victorian time capsule perserving the ambiance of more relaxed times. It’s a gracious 2-star hotel with plenty of small deficiencies—most notably with its dated bathrooms—but it is also charming, picturesque, comfortable, and welcoming.The village of Blackwaterfoot is on the west coast of Arran, at the end of the String Road that crosses the island. The Lodge is located a few hundred yards inland from the shoreline--positioned perfectly, according to the innkeeper, to become beachfront property once global warming kicks in.The Lodge itself consists of a sturdy stone building. In the front, it appears to be a simple block building not unlike many others on the island. But from the back, especially with the addition of a large conservatory, it has a far more complex look. The ground level of the building houses the lounge, conservatory, and restaurant with bar. When I visited, it also housed a cozy pub right off the entrance. The Lodge’s Web site no longer mentions the pub, so I’m not sure whether it's still open. If not, it’s a sad loss. I found it friendly, well-stocked, and just plain chock-full of character.Most guestrooms are on the first floor, up 19 steps with a small landing about two-thirds way up. Blackwaterfoot Lodge is not a wheelchair-accessible accommodation--though I hasten to add that mobility-impaired customers should be able to patronize the restaurant on the main floor with little difficulty. My first stay at the Lodge was in a twin bedded double on the first floor (second floor to us Yanks), with a window looking out over the back garden. It was charmingly decorated and had a roomy old-fashioned en suite, also with a window overlooking the garden. Hot water seemed to come from a boiler somewhere in the lower recesses of the building. There was no electric shower heater. A towel warmer in the bath was a welcome modern touch.On my second visit (this time with Himself), our room was half a level down in what appeared to be an old addition to the building. The windows, sitting more or less at ground level, looked out over the small front lawn and the main road passing through the village. I found the style of this room a bit less pleasing, but that’s a matter of personal taste. It was pleasantly decorated and entirely comfortable. The real problem with this room was the en suite. It was perfectly suitable in terms of floor size, but it was tucked in under a slope from the floor above. This meant that Himself could only stand up to his full height at the end of the tub, extending the shower hose almost its full length. As a shorter person, I got off a bit easier.Breakfast was served in the conservatory during both of my visits. Both times, the Lodge offered a generous continental breakfast as part of the room rate. A more extensive menu was available for guests who might want something different. Evening meals in the restaurant were quite simply exceptional—tasty, fresh, and exquisitely prepared. I can think of few meals I’ve eaten anywhere that could surpass these. I would happily go back to Blackwaterfoot Lodge for the meals alone! Neither the extended breakfast menu nor the dinner menu were included under the room rate.Service in all areas was unfailingly pleasant, and it was professional at all the right times. In the pub, service was friendly, with the type of interesting conversation one hopes for when on holiday. Catching the host at the right moment in any part of the Lodge had the potential for leading to fascinating conversation, though one sensed that he knew when to engage in such exchanges and when to hold back.Would I a return yet again to the Lodge? Well, yes, of course. Twice is not enough for such a place. I would, however, ask not to be placed in the room with the oddly shaped en suite.
by BawBaw on December 12, 2009
If a B&B experience on a traditional Scottish farm appeals to you, then you’ll likely enjoy a stay at Clynelish Farmhouse near Brora, on the east coast of the Scottish Highlands. The large 19th-century listed farmhouse, along with the nearby distillery, was once owned by the Dukes of Sutherland. Now it serves as the hub of a 300-acre, family-run farm located off the beaten path on a quiet lane--complete with sheep, a beautiful country garden, easy access to the sea, and a short stroll to some of the best scotch in Scotland.Himself and Yours Truly stayed at Clynelish for four days in August 2008, and we were absolutely charmed by our hosts, their home, and the overall ambience of life in rural Scotland. The hospitality we encountered was genuine and simple. We were welcomed as guests and treated as friends. We happily shared evening conversation and wee drams with our hosts, and we met various family members as we moved through the rooms of an active and clearly hard-working household.Lodging at Clynelish includes four guestrooms (one single, four doubles, and one triple) and an attached self-catering cottage. Each room is unique in terms of size and furnishings, though the two we saw were very similar in their amenities. Our room was comfortable rather than luxurious, a double containing two twin beds. The room was small, though not cramped, and included a closet for our belongings, a dressing table, a bedside table between the two beds, a dresser, and a television. Our view from the window took our eyes across the garden hedge, over the nearby field, and on to the hills beyond. The triple guestroom next door was used by our traveling companions. It was significantly larger, but aside from the fact that it contained a double bed as well as a twin, it was similarly appointed.The many-gabled farmhouse itself is a virtual treasure trove in which family history over general generations is tastefully displayed. Showing interest in a particular heirloom is likely to evoke a brief account about one or another great uncle who saw service abroad in Britain’s far-flung empire. Information about the house and its contents is freely given by the hosts, but always on the basis of what the guest is interested in hearing. The hosts at Clynelish have learned the fine art of giving guests the lead in such exchanges, engaging in conversation without dominating either the subject or the discussion.Our hosts provided a variety of brochures for nearly attractions, and personal recommendations were happily given for restaurants and pubs. Guests are invited to use the lounge at their leisure, including a large flat-screen television. The dining room, where an excellent farm breakfast is served, is also available for guest use. Our party of four enjoyed a tasty evening carryout from a nearby chippy while relaxing around the dining room table. The garden is large, informal, beautiful, and made for exploring. Antique stone troughs have been transformed into planters, and natural lichens mix beautifully with plantings and stone walls to provide visual interest.Leaving Clynelish felt like leaving the home of friends after a satisfying visit. Is there better testimony for a successful B&B experience?
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