Archive for the ‘bed and breakfast’ Category

A winter tour of Bath, the South Cotswolds and Somerset

May 8, 2011

A few blogs helped me plan a winter tour in Somerset in the UK so hopefully this blog will give others tips!

The American Museum of Bath

The American Museum

We arrived at Bristol Airport and drove straight to the American Museum in Claverton Manor House just four miles outside Bath.  We did deliberate about this as we wondered whether it made sense to visit an American Museum whilst on a visit to the UK.  Wow, we were glad we opted for it as it was a real treat.  If you are a quilt enthusiast, a lover of old houses, somebody who loves amazing scenery and somebody with an interest in American history and culture, definitely pay this place a visit.  The house is in a fabulous location with a breathtaking view over the Avon valley.

The collections of furniture, quilts, silver, glass, portraits and exhibitions are all held within the manor house itself so you get to enjoy the displays as well as the fabulous home.  There is an exhibition centre at the side of the house and at the time of our visit, there was a wonderful display of quilts in addition to the quilts exhibited in the house.  There is also a wonderful cafe in the Orangery which had plenty of choice and not too expensive.

pickwick lodge farm

Pickwick Lodge Farm Bed and Breakfast

After this visit, we headed for our bed and breakfast a few miles further on just outside Corsham.  Pickwick Lodge Farm is a 17th century Cotswold farmhouse situated within a 300 acre farm.  We loved this place and it oozed English charm.  Gill, our host, made us feel so welcome and was quick to give us tips as to where to eat.

Castle Combe Village

The village centre of Castle Combe

The following day we set off for Castle Combe village which is about 12 miles from Bath.  This is one of the most picturesque villages in the Cotswolds with all the houses built out of the traditional cotswold stone so don’t miss it as it really is a gem! It has been the setting for a few films, eg Dr Doolittle.

Allington Farm Shop near Chippenham

Allington Farm Shop near Chippenham

We stopped at the Allington Farm Shop near Chippenham on the way to stock up with supplies for our self catering accommodation.  The shop supplies home and locally produced food and also has a lovely cafe and garden centre.  I had to resist buying too much as it all looked so delicious!!

The George Inn at Lacock near Chippenham

The George Inn at Lacock Near Chippenham

After this we headed for Lacock which is another very pretty village totally unspoilt by any modernisation.  It is about 3 miles from Chippenham and is almost entirely owned by the National Trust.  The village of Lacock is mentioned in the Domesday Book.  We had a meal at the George Inn which was to be highly recommended.  This village has been used in numerous television programmes and films.

From Lacock we headed into Bath city centre to indulge ourselves at the Thermae Bath Spa which was a fabulous millenium project.  We had been to this spa before and would never pass up on the opportunity for another visit.  Where else are you going to be able to enjoy thermal springs in the centre of a wonderful city.  You look at the building from the outside just minutes walk from the Roman Baths and you can’t even image what awaits you.  The spa is amazing.    I suggest you start off in the downstairs pool, the Minerva Bath.  The thermal jets around the side of the bath are wonderful.  Progress next to the open air roof top pool.  You can literally swim around in the middle of winter and look over the city of Bath and the surrounding hills – the view is incredible.  After this, head for the aroma steam rooms.  Each of these rooms are infused with a different scent, eg eucalyptus, frankincense etc and in the middle of the room there is a massive waterfall shower that at least 10 people could stand under – It goes on and off on a timed basis.  Lastly, you can always opt for a treatment (we didn’t) or while a way some time in their lovely cafe.  I think this millenium project is out of this world and you will discover that many private spas are not nearly as amazing as this public one!!

Lower Lakes Log Cabin

Lower Lakes Log Cabin near Bridgwater, Somerset

Our self catering accommodation was based at Lower Lakes Log Cabins in Chilton Trinity near Bridgwater.  This place is a dream.  Our open-plan log cabin, Meadowside Lodge,  overlooked a lake (some of the occupants of other cabins went fishing).  It’s such a peaceful place and is an excellent base for touring Somerset.  Our log cabin was wonderfully airy and every detail was thought of.  We stayed here in November and were really warm inside the cabin.  It’s very spacious inside – a real treat.

Longleat

Longleat House

Our next day’s adventures took us to Longleat, near Warminster, one of the few stately homes open in winter.  The sheer scale of this house and the 900 acre estate is breathtaking so take your time going around this place.  The house was finished as far back as 1580 and is now the home of the Marquis of Bath.  It’s absolutely packed with antiques and portraits and you even get to see some of the artwork done by the Marquis himself.  I think it tells us a bit of his character.  We had a really informative guided tour of this vast place.  Afterwards we had tea downstairs in the cellars which was also to be recommended.

On our way back from Longleat, we stopped at Sheppys Cider Museum just outside Taunton but were a bit disappointed.

Wells Cathedral

Wells Cathedral

Our next day’s trip was to the city of Wells and then on to the Cheddar Gorge.  Wells is  mentioned in the Domesday Book.  It is truly a medieval gem with a fascinating cathedral.  We arrived on market day (Wednesday) so there was a real buzz of activity in the town centre.  The cathedral itself is in the heart of the city.

Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge

From Wells we headed up into the Cheddar Gorge which is a limestone gorge in the Mendip hills just outside the village of Cheddar.  It is well worth a visit.  We stopped in Cheddar village and did a tour of the cheese making facility.  The village looks like it might be a bit trippery in season but in November, it was fine!  The rock formations in the gorge incredible so allow time to get out of the car and explore.

Exmoor

Exmoor

On the next day we headed to Minehead and Dunster and on to Porlock and through Exmoor.  There were many stunning views from various points on our tour of this area.  The Exmoor national park is spread over a wide area. the largest towns being Porlock, Dulverton, Lynton and Lynmouth.  You could easily spend days in this area particularly if you are a keen hiker.

Bridgwater Carnival Road Train

Bridgwater Carnival Road Train

Another highlight of our visit to Somerset was the Bridgwater Guy Fawkes Carnival.  This is a massive illuminated night time procession of road trains all laden down with beaming lights and all kinds of displays.  We were amazed how easy it was to get in and out of Bridgwater to view the carnival.  Definitely visit this if you happen to be in this part of the world for Guy Fawkes. Wrap up well as this procession lasts for a good while.  I was amazed at how many road trains were involved.  They just kept coming.

On our last night we stayed at Pennard House Bed and Breakfast which is situated near Shepton Mallet.  This is a lovely old house brimming with character.

1 Royal Crescent in Bath

1 Royal Crescent in Bath

Our final stop before returning to Bristol Airport for a short plane trip back to Cork was to visit 1 Royal Crescent in Bath.  The house is maintained by the Bath Preservation Society and is a wonderful example of a 1700s town house.  It was the first house to be built in the crescent and originally provided luxury accommodation for aristocrats who came to Bath in the old days to take the waters.  Stroll through the sitting room, bedrooms, kitchen and get an idea of how the gentry in Bath really lived.

We loved our short trip to Somerset and highly recommend this part of the world.  There are many fascinating places in the area that were not open in winter so we’ll be back at some stage for a summer visit.

Advertisements

Irish Hotel Tax Incentive Schemes and their downfall

August 14, 2009

Irish hotels have benefitted from a myriad of tax incentive schemes which are now seriously affecting the tourism industry as a whole.  The tax breaks were exploited to such an extent that not only were too many rooms added creating massive over-capacity but many hotels were built in ridiculous locations.  Tax break hotels were often built by developers rather than hoteliers and all they cared about was a 7 year tax freebie.  They couldn’t have given a jot about the guest.

The sting in the tail of the tax break is that if a hotel that has benefitted from these tax breaks does not stay open for seven years after the development, the investor will have to repay the tax breaks against their personal tax bills.  What we have now is a situation where unprofitable hotels remain open, reducing rates to ridiculous levels thus seriously damaging those operations that are viable.  The Irish Hotels Federation has calculated that there are 21,000 hotel rooms that fall short of the 7 year requirement (out of a total number of about 60,000 hotel beds in the country).  Another scary figure is that the average occupancy rate over all hotels in Ireland is just 53pct and overseas visitors to Ireland this year have declined by nearly 19pct.

Lywood House, Ardingly, Sussex

July 5, 2009
Lywood House, Ardingly, Sussex

Lywood House, Ardingly, Sussex

Lywood House in Ardingly, Sussex is the home of Max and Cleone Pengelley who take  Wolsey Lodge guests.  I had the good fortune to stay with them during my recent visit to Sussex.  This was a wonderfully ‘English’ experience.  Just picture a 14th century listed timber framed house with a view of a perennial border packed with vibrant colours, sweeping lawns and paddocks with one horse wrapped up in blankets as a fly deterrent.  Outside the front door was the horse box.

It was a sweltering hot day so Max was quick to produce elderflower cordial and lime squash on my arrival.  Cleone cooked a delicious dinner for myself and two other guests – a green salad with egg and thinly sliced prosciutto, fish with broad beans and spinach from the garden and a delicious mousse-like dessert with a strawberry compote – Yummy.   The other guests mentioned that normally they would go abroad but this year they had decided to explore the South East of England.  They gave me some great tips of places to visit including Hever Castle which I thank them for as it was a treat!

Had I remembered my swim gear, I would have been able to take a dip in the pool.  I highly recommend this accommodation.  Thank you to Max and Cleone for a very enjoyable stay!!  I also compliment Cleone on producing an excellent dinner.  We gave up offering dinners a few years ago as it was such hard work.

removal of water marks on ceilings

May 5, 2009

If you provide accommodation facilities like myself, then you may have to deal with the challenge of removing water marks from the ceiling every now and again when people flood the bathroom.   Having run out of patience painting my ceiling again and again and resisting having to purchase damp block paint which costs a fortune, I resorted to a coat of gloss paint followed later by emulsion and that did the trick!

Water rates even for Churches

June 27, 2008

The councils have recently extended water rates to a wide array of businesses including churches. A recent water rates bill for a local church included euro 1.95 for water over a six month period plus a six month fixed administration charge of euro 49.50! Some churches don’t even have loos so the water rates cover the water used to clean the chalice and that’s it. Clearly in the States eyes, tough times call for desperate measures and including churches for water rates is a desperate measure.

Failte Ireland registered Bed and Breakfast and Self Catering Accommodation providers now have to pay water rates but the State forgets that there are endless operators existing without Failte Ireland Approval that escape the net. Moreover, there are now countless owners of apartments who are seeking to rent out their accommodation any way they can yet they don’t fall into the water rate regime as they are not registered. What is the difference between renting out an apartment long term and renting it week to week as self catering? Both are businesses and should be taxed equally.

There isn’t a level playing field for this new tax. Tax us all equally or not at all and for goodness sake, leave out taxing churches. If water is such a scarce commodity, why should I look out my window at people washing down their houses, cars, gardens and who knows what else with free water. Even if an accommodation provider only opens for a short season, we are subject to water rates all year around irrespective of whether we are open or not. So to avoid water rates when closed for the season, we either have to use our own wells or move to a private house elsewhere.

A visit to Ballyogan House Bed and Breakfast in Graiguenamanagh

June 26, 2008

I had a day off from Kilbrogan House to visit some friends in Graiguenamanagh in County Carlow. I spent the night at Ballyogan House, a delightful Country House that offers Bed and Breakfast accommodation a couple of miles outside the town of Graiguenamanagh and just a short drive from Kilkenny. Fran and Robert have been running their guest accommodation for the past 8 years and are doing a brilliant job at it.

My room looked out on a beautiful garden with herbatious borders that were in full bloom. If you are a garden lover, you should definitely stay here. I loved my short visit and would highly recommend Ballyogan House to anybody planning to visit Kilkenny and the surrounding area. My room (The Bluebell Room) was extremely comfortable and breakfast was delicious – even eggs from the hens running around outside. Their website is http://www.ballyoganhouse.com.

Ballyvolane Country House

May 31, 2008

I had the good fortune to attend an informal lunch at Ballyvolane Country House in Castlelyons near Fermoy. What a magical place. The house was originally built in 1728 in the georgian country house style with three storeys. The top floor was removed in 1847 to create a two storey house with an extensive west end wing. The Greens have lived here since 1955 and run it as a successful country house guest house.

The gardens around the house include a mixture of deciduous trees, shrubs, both formal and informal areas and a large walled garden with copious amounts of vegetables all planted very neatly. Apparently it takes 9 hours to mow the lawn around the house and the croquet lawn looks absolutely perfect without a hump or bump in site. The garden at this time of year is a dream with bluebells throughout the woods and Rhododendrons, azaleas etc all in full bloom.

For anybody who feels like a quiet country break near the Blackwater, this is the place to stay.