Richmond Place Apartments (Edinburgh)
I was recently in Edinburgh for the night with two friends meeting up with a couple of other friends who live in the city. As there were three of us we decided to look for a triple room but these seem to be few and far between in Edinburgh and the ones we could find were extremely expensive and we may as well have just booked separate ... rooms. In the end we decided to forego a hotel and book an apartment after having a look on booking.com. We decided to book ourselves into Richmond Place apartments as it was only coming up as £79 for a superior studio apartment that could sleep four people. As this was a Saturday night in Edinburgh this seemed a real bargain.
***** Location *****
Richmond Place apartments are part of Edinburgh first's property portfolio and are a selection of self-catering one bed and studio apartments located in the old town part of the city.
We arrived in Edinburgh by train and decided to walk to the apartments instead of getting a taxi because we are a bit miserable and didn't want to spend the money on taxis. Finding the apartments was easy and although they were a little further from Princess street than I imagined they are still really central especially if you are going to be spending a lot of time in the old town and around the Royal Mile.
If you are coming from Princess Street or the train station you just need to cross North Bridge and continue in a straight line for about 10 to 15 minutes and you will find Richmond Place on the left. The location is excellent for exploring the city and is quiet enough to feel as though it is out of the hustle and bustle but it is literally a 5 minute walk to all the action of the city.
***** The apartments *****
Richmond Place apartments are located in a large building with several floors. The apartments for tourists are actually only on the 3rd floor of the building whilst the rest of the building is taken up as a halls of resident for university students.
Now this really worried me when I found out but to be completely honest if I hadn't read that the rest of the building was student accommodation there is absolutely no way that I would have known it. The only students we seen were Japanese and they were all without exception polite and quiet and I think we probably made more noise than they did. Besides the only time we ever saw any of them was when we went outside for a cigarette and they were entering the communal areas of the building.
When we arrived the receptionist informed us that there was a problem with the sofa bed in the apartment they had allocated us but as there were three of us they were going to give us two apartments. I thought this was really good of them to be honest especially as we were only paying for the one.
They didn't take a deposit from us either which was a surprise but good as it meant I didn't have to worry about there being a hold on the money in my bank account.
As I mentioned the apartments are all located on the third floor and you needed your key to be able to enter the floor.
We decided to just drop our things off at the first apartment we came to and when we entered we were pleasantly surprised by just how nice the apartments were. It was a spacious one bedroomed apartment and was a lot bigger than I had thought it was going to be. As well as a separate bathroom and bedroom the apartment had a good sized living room with well equipped kitchen, dining table and four chairs and a leather sofa.
The décor was neutral and modern throughout with wooden floors and everything was spotlessly clean and in excellent condition.
We went to have a look at the other apartment and this was a lot smaller but I actually loved it and would have been happy with it had I been staying on my own or with my partner. It was a studio apartment but had a mezzanine level containing the bed and although small it has been really well designed and managed to fit everything in including a dining table, couch, desk and loads of storage space.
I was especially surprised with just how well equipped the apartments were. There was the usual cutlery, plates and cups as expected but extras which I wouldn't have expected included tea pots, salt and pepper, sharp knives and scissors, irons and ironing boards, hairdryers and even some kitchen scales.
We didn't actually use the kitchen but it had a fridge, oven and hob and it would have been extremely easy to have cooked a meal there.
The bathrooms both only had showers but these were up to the high standards of the rest of the apartments and had excellent water pressure and plenty of hot water. There were also some Arran aromatics toiletries which I thought was a nice touch.
One thing that I really liked was that the controls for the heating were all in the apartments so we could control just how hot or cold we wanted the temperature which was important as the only thing that annoyed me about the apartments was that the windows were all designed so that we could only open them slightly just like a hotel.
Facilities are limited at Richmond Place apartments but if you are choosing to stay in a self-catering apartment you aren't going to be expecting a lot of facilities. There is internet available but this is charged and you need to buy a pre-payment card from reception. There isn't any sort of dining facilities but as you have a kitchen and plenty of shops and supermarkets in the immediate vicinity this shouldn't be a problem.
If you are going to be arriving by car then look first where you are going to park as there is no parking facilities. There did seem to be a lot of parking spaces in the surrounding area and I did see a couple of secure parking garages in the area.
***** Recommendation *****
I would really recommend Richmond Place apartments. They more than lived up to my expectations and actually surpassed them. Not only were the apartments in a great location but were of a really good standard throughout. The fact the rest of the building is taken up by student accommodation shouldn't be a concern for people as we stayed on a Saturday night and never seen any hint of parties or students hanging around outside and if not for the fact I had read somewhere about it I really would have had no idea.
The apartments all seemed to be sound proofed and we heard no noise from either the neighbouring apartments or from the rest of the building.
Security was also top notch and our keys had an electronic fob on them which we needed to scan to enter the main building and again to enter the inner hallway, the lift and then our floor.
We had a great night in Edinburgh and I am already planning my next visit to the city and fully intend on staying in Richmond Place apartments again when I am there.
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New County Hotel (Gloucester)
Now, before I begin this review, I should probably mention that this hotel stay was free of charge courtesy of one of the high street bank's incentives for moving bank account. This could explain why we weren't allocated the best of the bedrooms, but the overall stay and our impression of the hotel would apply to anyone staying there, ... regardless of the room, so I think my review will be valid for anyone considering a stay here. Looking on booking.com, a double room would normally cost around £75 for a Friday night.
The hotel is based in the centre of Gloucester. This makes it convenient for going out in Gloucester, although driving in Gloucester is a bit of a nightmare due to all the one way systems. It looks very stylish from the outside, I'd describe it as boutique and contemporary. It has its own restaurant and bar which is used by the locals as well as guests, although I can't comment on this as I didn't use it.
The hotel have an arrangement with an NCP car park at the back of the hotel, meaning you can park there for 24 hours costing £5. You just park up, then tell the hotel your car registration number and pay the £5, they then give the car details to the car park managers so you don't get a ticket, as it's normally a pay and display car park.
On arrival, it took about fifteen minutes to check in, despite the fact there was nobody there except ourselves. The staff didn't seem to have much idea of what was going on, and the fact I wanted to pay for the car parking by cash but didn't have the correct money seemed to cause chaos. The lady on reception spent about five minutes looking for a piece of paper which she had just handed to us to write our registration number on, I think there had just been a shift changeover because the receptionist didn't know which rooms were ready and which weren't. We finally got our key, and were told which room number we were in. The hotel is a bit of a rabbit's warren, with stairs on split levels, and it was like a maze trying to find our room due to the confusing signposting. We must have nearly ended up in cleaning cupboards several times during our stay!
Something I should point out here is that the hotel is not wheelchair friendly, and it actually states this on their website. Apparently it's because it's a listed building, so they are restricted to the alterations they can make.
Anyway, the corridors are narrow, and there are stairs aplenty. The room we were put in looked out directly onto a fire escape, and was so close to the room next to it (on a corner) that if we both opened our windows we could have shaken hands. The windows were open when we arrived, we tried to close them but one wouldn't shut properly. I guess this is to do with the listed building thing, they can't put double glazing in so they have those single glazed shutters which you have to pull up and down. We weren't too worried from a security point of view because there were anti-burglary spikes going up the fire escape, and luckily it wasn't a cold weekend so as we were only staying one night we didn't make a complaint.
The hotel boast on their website that they have recently undergone refurbishment, but to be honest the room was looking a bit tired and wasn't finished to the highest quality. It looked great on the website but this was obviously very clever use of photography. The walls were painted cream, which is nice and neutral, but around the sockets you could see the bright red paint which had obviously preceded it. The carpets were fresh and new, and the bathroom was basic but clean. I just think a little more effort could have gone into making it really nice instead of just ok.
Facilities in the room were perfectly adequate, we were only there for a night so it was fine for our needs. There was a double bed which I suspect was a three-quarter size rather than double, as my partner's feet dangled off the end and he's hardly a giant! There were bedside tables each side of the bed, and a chair in the corner. There was a flat screen TV on the wall opposite the bed, and underneath a table with tea and coffee facilities. I have to say, the refreshments were probably the best thing about the room with a very good choice of teas, coffees, hot chocolate, and a couple of different types of wrapped biscuits.
The hotel offers free WIFI which it says on the website can be obtained by asking for a code at reception. My partner managed to get this on his phone without asking for a code which probably shouldn't have happened but it saved us the hassle of going to see reception.
The bathroom had a shower which was over the bath. The shower head was square and huge, which made me think it would be a great experience, but unfortunately the shower pressure was pretty poor, the only way to get good pressure was to have a freezing cold shower. It was either that or have a trickle of hot water.
The toilet flush was also very poor, it struggled to flush a single sheet of toilet roll which could have potentially caused embarrassment if you were staying away with someone for the first time! You could also hear everything that was happening in the bathroom, far worse than other hotels I've stayed in. You could also hear everything the people in the next room were saying, I couldn't help but hear a couple discuss the weather at length before check-out the following morning.
In the afternoon, we popped out to check out Gloucester, which incidentally didn't take us long. When we got back, we headed to our room and were warned by several staff that there may be things in our way in the corridor because they were carrying out some repairs. Each corridor we walked down seemed to be like Krypton Factor, with duvets, bedside cabinets, folding mattresses, all scattered along the corridor. Although they warned us, I didn't think this was a particularly good thing to be doing without isolating it to one part of the hotel. Surely doing one room at a time would be a better approach rather than emptying rooms out and causing trip hazards to the guests?
I think the worst thing about this stay, taking into account the other annoyances which we tried to laugh off, was that in the evening we tried to get an early night as we faced a further drive to see family (we used the hotel as a halfway stopping point). Unfortunately, the hotel were having a "Plenty of Fish" singles disco, which made the floor of our hotel room vibrate because the music was so loud. Coupled with the fact the window didn't shut properly, we ended up facing the fact we weren't getting to sleep until the disco finished, and watched a bit of TV until the party finished. It went on till about 1am, which is quite late considering the hotel had guests trying to get to sleep.
Breakfast wasn't included as part of our deal, I think if it had have been I would have skipped it because I was very keen to get out of the hotel by the morning. The bed was actually quite comfortable considering the size, and once the noise from the hotel function room had stopped and we finally got to sleep, it was actually a decent night's sleep.
Although we weren't paying customers, I still feel our experience in this hotel was hugely disappointing. Ok, you might expect to not get the room with the best view, but the other annoyances would have applied whether we'd paid or not. I would struggle to recommend this hotel to anyone, unless it was being used as a one night stopping point as part of a longer journey, and even then the tariff is very expensive for what it is. It's also worth checking on their websites whether they have any functions planned, although they also do weddings so the chances are if you go at the weekend, you're likely to be kept up all night with loud music.
I award this hotel two stars, one star for each plus point. The first being for its location, which is right in the middle of Gloucester so very convenient for going out, and the second for the bed which although wasn't full sized, was comfortable and not creaky or saggy like some hotel beds can be.
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The Star (Alfriston, East Sussex)
***THE STAR, ALFRISTON, SUSSEX*** **WEEKENDERS COME TO THE VILLAGE** My husband and I decided to have a weekend away in Sussex. We chose Sussex because my son's fiancée is from East Sussex and we thought (as she lives with us at the moment) that she, and our son, could come along and we could see something of her ... parents. It's really nice that her parents have become our friends.
When discussing where exactly to go In Sussex, my son mentioned Alfriston a village he had been to whilst staying in Sussex. I had a look on the internet to see if I fancied this; it looked good to me and so I had a further look online to search for suitable places to stay in this village.
There were several places to stay in Alfriston but The Star was the one that appealed the most to me. I thought at first it seemed a little on the expensive side but on having a good look on the website, I saw that there was an offer for rooms in March for £59 for a room or £79 with bed and breakfast included (for two). My son assured me that Alfriston was a small village and anything we wanted to see would only be a short walk from The Star. This seemed ideal for a short break.
The Star was built in the thirteenth century (1260s) and this can be seen from its style of building which is half-timber framed. Inside the old part shows off its oak beams and stone floors.
Taken from the hotel's website:
"The Star at Alfriston is reputed to be one of the country's oldest inns. Built in the 13th century, it has served as a hostelry to pilgrims, smugglers and even royalty.
Known as 'The Star of Bethlehem' until at least 1520, the hotel was then run by the monks of Battle Abbey and offered shelter to friars and pilgrims on their way to the Shrine of St Richard at Chichester. Considered at that time to be a Holy House, a wooden 'Sanctuary Post' gave fugitives, and very probably smugglers, instant church protection. The Post can still be seen in the bar today, its powers of sanctuary, however, are long past.
At the front of the building stands a lion figurehead, thought to be from a Dutch warship, which sank in the English Channel. It is believed that the lion was washed ashore in Cuckmere Haven and then brought into Alfriston by a gang of well-known local smugglers. The figurehead was restored in 2003 by the local rector and re-positioned on the opposite corner of the hotel for its own protection!"
Around the hotel can be seen nooks and crannies with several places to be seated. I must stress that although only part of the hotel is thirteenth century the character seems to carry through into the much more modern part of the hotel.
I could have booked online but I prefer to book by telephone. I find that most hotels and inns will sometimes further discount their rooms if they have availability. Also, I sometimes have a question or two to ask, which can be most easily answered over the phone. And it seems to me that as one of the first members of staff that one comes across when staying at a hotel their receptionist should be efficient and polite. If these criteria weren't filled when speaking on the phone I would be put off staying. But in this case I found (Ali Carter) the lady I spoke to was polite, helpful and friendly. And so my first impressions were good, before we had even arrived.
I requested two double rooms and I think we had the last two available. I asked if the rooms could be further discounted and the price was slightly reduced. I had to pay the agreed price on booking as this was an offer price. I did this by debit card. I was asked to supply an Email address so that my booking could be confirmed straight away. I did this and Ali said that she looked forward to seeing us at the weekend. I received my confirmation email and all details were correct.
I then realised that I hadn't mentioned that two of us were vegetarians. I emailed back with this information. I had a further reply saying that this had been noted and their chef would be informed.
On arriving at the hotel we parked in the hotel car park (to the side of the hotel-Star Lane) and we then walked through the hotel to reception. I was surprised at the layout of the hotel and thought it larger than I had expected. From the front The Star appears as if it consists of a rather small olde worlde pub with a small block of more modern rooms next to it. But when the hotel is accessed from the side (from the Star Lane entrance) it is modern and airy and larger than it seemed (to me) at first.
A short walk along an airy corridor brought us to the reception desk.
I had expected the newer block of rooms to be separate from the older building and thought we would have to enter our rooms from the car park but I was pleasantly surprised that the old part and new part of this hotel were merged and, in my opinion, this has been done to very good effect. I had thought the newer rooms would have perhaps felt like second best but this just wasn't the case as everything blended so well.
We were asked to give details of our car registration and informed that breakfast (between 8-10 a.m.) was to be in the lounge and bar area rather than the restaurant as a wedding open day was to be held in the hotel the following morning (I had already been informed of the fact that an event was being held this weekend). Part of the restaurant was in the process of being set up to display a wedding breakfast.
We were given our room keys, along with directions. It was simple; back along the corridor and up a few carpeted steps.
The hotel has thirty-seven rooms, two of them are single. Some rooms are inter-connecting.
I was very pleased with our rooms. I thought they looked considerably better than they had when viewed on the internet.
Our room was mainly blue.
The room had two windows with attractive blue curtains and pelmets.
Our bed had a white duvet cover and four matching pillows with blue cushions placed on top. The bed had a soft mattress but I found it comfortable and slept better than I usually do. The only problem with the bed was when sitting up and leaning against the headboard (whilst reading in bed) my husband realised he was losing his pillows. And then mine started to disappear too! We saw the funny side of the bed moving (only slowly) a little away from the wall.
I would think it would be better if the duvets in hotels were made from synthetic fibres rather than feather as some people have allergies to feathers or down. I don't have this problem but my future daughter- in- law does.
Our room had a double wardrobe with plenty of hangers inside. This robe also had shelves and full length mirror on the inside of one door-a nice touch, I thought.
The wardrobe was also home to a decent steam iron with its water container, extra blankets, a trouser press and ironing board.
The room had a chest of drawers, dressing table with drawer, and two bedside tables, with a drawer and storage space in each. One table had a telephone on it. Both bedside tables had a reading lamp on them. There was a further lamp on the dressing table and a standard lamp in the corner of the room. There was an attractive light fitment on the ceiling. But, even with all these lights the room was a little dim in the evening which made it difficult to apply make-up. I find this is usual in most hotels.
A hair dryer was on the dressing table; the usual type which you have to keep the switch pressed in for it to work.
An upholstered chair was provided to use at the dressing table/desk.
There was also a table and an armchair.
A small table by the door held the hospitality tray with biscuits, tea, coffee, sugar, milk and sweeteners plus kettle and, another nice touch, a teapot.
The room had a controllable radiator under the window.
The en suite was small but adequate-over bath shower, heated towel rail, shaver point, rubber bath mat, towelling bath mat and towels.
Toiletries supplied were shampoo, body wash and soap.
Our son's room was different in colour and a slightly smaller room but bigger bathroom. However, both rooms were of a good size,
Our friends had decided to stay for Saturday night so we could enjoy a meal and a drink together. They had a twin room and I went along to look in my persona of reviewing spy! It was, again, slightly different to ours but with attractive runners on the beds and two armchairs. The bathroom was larger than in our room. All rooms are furnished very similarly with dark wood furniture and similar soft furnishings.
**CREAKY FLOORS IN OLD ROOMS BUT ANY OTHER STRANGE NOISES?**
Low level Noise could be heard in the corridors at times, only what would be expected, such as a child crying, but I didn't hear anything when I was in my room apart from my husband's snoring. I understand the newer section of the hotel may be quieter than the old.
As this hotel accepts dogs I thought there might be an occasional bark or two but although I saw (and spoke!) to a couple of dogs in the hotel, I never heard one solitary woof! Obviously the doggy guests staying here are better behaved than my Westie, who I left at home.
I had looked at images of this hotel prior to visiting and had seen a photo of the rose garden. I was pleasantly surprised when at the hotel and going into this area as it looked better and larger than I had expected. It looked attractive but I would think that to get the most from this a summer visit would be necessary when the roses are in full bloom and therefore full glory. I would think the pergola with roses trained around it would be very pretty indeed.
Prices vary as the room type varies, but all rooms seem to be of a good standard. I saw a total of six rooms whilst here (I had a nose whilst the wedding open day was on and some rooms were then on display).
All rooms are en-suite and prices vary to the time of year but an idea to pricing is as follows:
Standard double/twin room £59
Standard double/twin room with breakfast £79
Standard double/twin room with breakfast and evening meal £125
For August (4/8/12-5/8/12) with breakfast included
Standard single room £85
Standard twin room £120
Standard double room £120
For more information on The Star, Alriston see its comprehensive website: http://www.thestaralfriston.co.uk
The bar is quaint and cosy, very olde English. There are several tables and chairs dotted around; some sofa type chairs and some straight back chairs, some are cushioned.
A large coal fire with swinging grate looked very welcoming indeed.
Down one step and a further comfortable seating area is available.
We had dinner here. We hadn't booked and were quite late dining here but were made welcome. A table for six was prepared for us and very nicely too. I couldn't d fault the look of the place with crisp white linen on the tables and gleaming glassware.
The menu was quite good and there were a few vegetarian choices which looked interesting. I wouldn't say it was cheap but then we weren't expecting or looking for cheap here, just a nice meal in nice surroundings.
Service was attentive and polite.
A couple of our first choices weren't available but then we were a little on the late side so expected this.
We all chose to have two courses which was either starters and a main or a main and dessert. This was an offer price of £18.95 each.
Among our choices of starters were tomato and basil soup, smoked chicken and hock of ham. I can say that I thought my choice of soup was a good one.
The mains we chose were: grilled cod with bubble and squeak, mushroom risotto, lamb cutlets.
Two in our party chose desserts.
I thought the food was well cooked and attractively served (definitely restaurant fayre and not pub grub!) but we all agreed that the portions weren't large. I would say the meal was enjoyable but when I dine here again I'll remember to order a side dish. I think we rushed our choices a little as we were running late.
For drinks over the course of our meal we ordered a bottle of house red wine (enjoyable), a few pints of lager and bitter, and a couple of soft drinks. We also asked for water which was served in a glass jug with plenty of ice.
The meal came to £151 for six people and service was included.
**BREAKFAST-COMPLIMENTS TO THE CHEF**
Tables were nicely laid in the bar and lounge area. We had a large table by the window. Coffee and tea were brought to us.
Breakfast was buffet in style.
I had mentioned that two of us were vegetarian twice and was assured that there would be option for us, such as vegetarian sausages. But there weren't any waiting. I mentioned this and was told by the waitress that there weren't any. A few minutes later she returned to say that she had been informed that actually they were available. The veggie sausages were soon cooked for us.
We chose among various items such as fruit juices, yoghurt, cereals and fresh fruit. We ate his and drank tea or coffee.
Soon the vegetarian sausage appeared and we chose from the hot breakfast of bacon, sausages, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, baked beans and fried eggs.
Kippers and boiled eggs were cooked on request.
We did have to wait for a while for eggs but I feel because of the wedding open day and food being served differently to usual, the challenges on staff probably slowed things down a little. I will say that the food was delicious and taking into account what was available it was very good value. We all seemed to agree on this.
Service was polite and pleasant.
Free car parking is available in the hotels car park but it is not guaranteed that a space will be available. We had no trouble parking; there were plenty of spaces and the hotel was nearly full. Car registration had to be given to reception when checking in.
I asked staff about disabled access as, with these olde English buildings, floors can be uneven and there are steps to be found here and there which can be awkward, especially for wheelchair users. I was told that disabled guests are offered ground floor rooms with level access and ramps are used for wheelchairs to gain entry into the bar area or wherever necessary.
These looked clean and well equipped. There were three cubicles in the ladies toilets.
** WHERE IS THE STAR?**
The Star is located in Alfriston which is a small quaint East Sussex village, by the South Downs. The area is one of local beauty and popular with walkers. Also in its favour is the fact that the village is within easy reach of Brighton and Eastbourne.
There are nearby sights to see and places to visit as well as there being quaint shops, pubs and historical places to see in Alfriston.
We travelled from Essex and travelled from the M25 and A26, A27 and A22.
Polgate station is three and a half miles from The Star. 3.5 miles away, or 10 minutes by car. Mainline trains run from London Victoria to Polgate.
Dogs are welcome in the hotel and, as the area is popular with walkers and their canine companions, I suppose from the hotel's point of view this makes sense. I don't take my dog away with me; he doesn't travel well and I prefer a dog free break for myself, in all honesty, but then I am fortunate that my eldest son is always willing to provide pet care. I would think for many dog owners it can be difficult to find accommodation that accepts their canine friends so this will be a bonus for them.
Taken from the hotel's website:
"Pet Friendly Accommodation
As a traditionally leisure based hotel, we welcome pets treating their owners for a short break and experience the newly designated South Downs National Park. As a pet friendly hotel in East Sussex, we of course offer details on a number of local walks for a leisurely stroll or a full on hike!
For your comfort we have put together a pet package
* Pet Blanket
* Water Bowl
* Treat with a welcome note
* Dog in the Room Sign!"
The cost for dogs is £7.50 per night.
**CONTACT THE STAR:**
Tel: +44 (0)1323 870 495
Fax: +44 (0)1323 870 922
**WOULD I RETURN?**
Yes, I would definitely like to return and expect that I will. I could happily spend two or three nights in The Star and would enjoy more time to explore the surrounding area.
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