Hotel The Midland (Manchester)
This weekend my husband and I had a very rare weekend. For the first time since having our children we had a night away without them! Because we haven't had a night away sans children since our honeymoon over 5 years ago we really wanted to make the most of it and do something really special. It also marked our 10th anniversary of having ... met so it was a really special weekend. We toyed with lots of ideas before deciding to have a night at The Midland Hotel.
=== Choice choice choice! ===
We live 20 minutes away from Manchester and thought having an overnight stay in a city we knew would be a great idea so we didn't waste our precious time travelling anywhere and we would get to see it from a different prospective not having to worry about getting the last train home and so forth. Once we had decided that we would stay in Manchester the next choice was which hotel and as you can imagine there is ample choice of hotels in Manchester. We were literally overwhelmed with choice and spent about a week reading reviews and looking at websites and photographs trying to establish what it was we wanted and which hotel seemed to have it. We eventually chose The Midland as we know it has a very grand reputation with it being on a pedestal somewhat and so we would expect a really grand time with being waited on and in luxurious surroundings. We liked the idea of the fact royalty stay here, that it has such a history to it, that the majority of reviews on this place are extremely favourable and the formality of having doormen that carry your bags and so forth. We then searched around for the best deal and managed to find it through a price comparison website which showed if we bought it through Hotelsclick.com it would be £89 for a room which was a huge saving as if you booked through Midland direct it was £149! This is just for the room, if you want breakfast you pay another £30 on top (£15 each) and if you wanted dinner it was £225 so we just opted for the room only option. We were really excited about our stay and couldn't wait to have some time just the two of us and in a really wonderful hotel.
=== Our arrival ===
The Midland Hotel is situated in the city centre but not on the main shopping strip or right against the stations. It is probably nearest to Deansgate station but it's really only a 10-15 minute average-paced walk to Piccadilly and it's right next to the metrolink station. There are lots of ways to get here and we found it no problem whatsoever. When we arrived we were really excited. We were told check in was at 3 but we arrived at 2:30. When we got there the red carpet was out with little ballards on so we couldn't walk up it so someone must have been expected to arrive soon, this was quite exciting! There were about 5 men on the door wearing their smart gear but not one of them offered to take our suitcase we were carrying. One did open the door for us though and wished us a good stay which was nice.
First impressions were that it was a grand hotel! There was marble flooring and a very spacious reception area with concierge staff standing by ready to help. To the left was what looked like a bar area and there was seating around in the reception area but it wasn't all that ample really. There were three reception desks and we checked in at the middle one. The lady on the desk was quite young and had a less formal manner than the other staff members. She said she would upgrade our room seeing as it was for our anniversary and that was lovely of her. She then advised us on places we could go in the evening. What surprised me in hindsight is that she didn't explain the hotel to us. She didn't tell us where the evening meals could be served or where the breakfast would be or the pool or spa... it was a mystery!
=== Our room ===
Our room was on the 6th floor which was good, this meant the noise from traffic couldn't reach us... it couldn't anyway as we were at the back of the hotel so the view from our window was of the rest of the hotel! Our room had a little hallway area with ample wardrobe space and a trouser press. Opposite this was the ensuite and then through the hallway and to the right was our room. We were really impressed by the size! It had a huge double bed- which was actually two twin beds pushed together but with a mattress on top so that it wasn't like you had a big gap to fall down! The bed had lots of cushions on it. There was a seating area to the left which had a sofa and an arm chair, by this was a large coffee table and a smart TV. We also had a dressing table which doubled up as a desk, two bedside tables and a mini bar with tea making facilities on top.
Now we were impressed with the amount of space we had and it was very clean with quite retro-style furniture which certainly gave it character but there were several disappointments where you would expect better from this hotel. The bathroom was only just slightly bigger than a Premier Inn and the bath was just normal, nothing fancy. You did get some nice toiletries but there was nothing extra like cotton wool or things like that which would be useful. I had been hoping to treat myself to a relaxing bath in luxurious surroundings but this bathroom was certainly nothing special at all. The tea-making facilities were also somewhat lacking. When we have stayed in much, much less expensive hotels we have had a variety of tea and coffee and hot chocolate but on offer here was just tea, coffee and decaf coffee. I was really expecting to see hot chocolate and de-caf tea. I only drink decaf so we had to go to the shop and buy our own teabags. The mini bar buzzed away but we couldn't even open it to see what was inside! I have no idea how it was supposed to open, we kept trying it but it just would not open whatsoever no matter what we did! There was a note on the bar saying that if we removed anything from it it would automatically be added to our account. I'm not sure if that meant if we just lifted it out of the fridge to read the ingredients and then put it back it would be charged but it was worded in that manner... like I say we couldn't open it anyway so have no idea what would happen or what was in there!
When it came to working the television it was a bit complicated because it was a smart TV so was really fancy but when you haven't used one before it takes some getting used to and when you're in a rush as you just have the one night together you don't want to spend 30 minutes getting acquainted with the workings of your television!
=== Facilities ===
I wish I could tell you about the facilities this hotel offers but I'm afraid to say my knowledge of them is extremely lacking thanks to... well simply not being aware of them! We knew there was a bar-type area so we went to sit there. This was up some nice steps and seemed to be broken into sections which I assume were all the same bar. We were expecting a waiter to come and seat us but all the staff just seemed to walk past us. Having not been here before we weren't sure what the etiquette was. In the end we just sat down on a sofa and I had to send my husband over to ask a member of staff for a menu. It is all very secretive and mysterious as the menus are very mysterious- the staff seem to want them back right away and only give you the first basic menu. The menu was rather sparse with a few selections of sandwiches which were quite nice sounding and some soup. There were some meals on it too which didn't include much to choose from but that is what you expect. There were a few desserts which sounded nice and then a choice of drinks some alcoholic-some not.
Nobody came back to take our order so again I had to send my husband up to get a waiter's attention. We ordered a de-caf tea and a cappuccino. This was served after about 10 minutes along with some nice biscuits, however, the waiter forgot the milk with my tea so went off to get it and it took another 5 minutes to bring it back. One thing I realised is that on the menu it said 'leaf tea' but the tea I got was just a tea bag of a brand you can get anywhere. This was disappointing again. We asked the waiter for the wine menu as when we looked at the menu we had been given we realised it only listed various alcoholic drinks but there was no sign of wine or cocktails. When he brought the wine menu over he apologised that it was a sticky menu- yuck! There were lots of cocktails and wines to choose from, you could get a cocktail for around £8 which we thought was actually quite reasonable.
When it came to paying the bill again we had to wait for a long time for a member of staff. This was so frustrating. They seemed to be busy talking to other guests whilst we lingered around the till area. I really was disappointed by this service but whilst we were waiting to pay we could see other diners having what looked like a platter of little cakes and other things that we hadn't seen on the menu. I have no idea if they had a different menu to us or what but it looked lovely and it was such a shame that we didn't know about it. Again another mystery of The Midland!
We opted to eat out in the evening but I'm not sure if we would have done or not if we had known anything about the restaurant for the evening meal. I still don't have a clue where it was or what was on the menu as nothing was advertised anywhere in the foyer. It may have been in the instruction book in our room but we didn't do much more than a quick flick through it. I do feel like the receptionist upon check in should have said something about it and you would expect there to at least be a menu on display in the foyer or something but we don't even know where the restaurant was situated let alone what it served!
There was a sign on the lift to the spa/swimming pool but we didn't go there as we wanted to go to the shops and things but we don't know if any of it was included in the price we paid or what was offered there. I don't know if there are any other facilities as that all seems to be a mystery too!
=== The Area ===
There is plenty to do around Manchester so you won't be bored! The hotel is well situated for going to the shops and looking at tourist attractions and because of the metro link it's easy to get around to places which are a bit further afield. We just visited the shops and restaurants of which there are plenty! The staff in the hotel were very helpful with suggestions of where to go so if you don't know the area then there will be plenty of advice given. There were leaflets available too in the foyer but to be honest some of them were a bit far out like the Yorkshire Sculpture Park which is a good 50 minute drive away. There are theatres, comedy clubs, cathedrals, museums and lots of other places all within walking distance for you to acquaint yourself with so you won't be bored here!
=== Staff ===
The staff here seem to vary enormously. When we arrived we had expected a bit more of a welcome with bags being taken and so forth but I think the staff were too preoccupied waiting for the red carpet guest. The staff in the bar area were really lacking and this let us down hugely. The concierge staff, however, were really on the ball in a way which was a little bit too much if I'm honest! When my husband and I had checked in we stepped aside and discussed whether or not we were going to go to our room first or go straight to the bar area and a concierge member of staff interrupted our conversation to ask what we were planning on doing. I'm not sure if he thought we were making the foyer look untidy or if he was just trying to be helpful but it was a bit much really and the next morning he was the same when we had checked out he tried to get us to check out again when we said we were leaving. So in our experience it seems like we only got one extreme or the other.
=== Sleep ===
We slept really well in this hotel. The bed was extremely comfortable. I have no idea what they put in their pillows but they are a perfect density and so, so comfortable. The curtains are really thick too so no light came through which meant for the first time in years we slept in until gone 8am which was amazing! We really enjoyed our sleep and were surprised by how quiet the hotel was, we didn't hear a noise from any other rooms and I guess being on the top floor had that going for it as it meant nobody was above us.
=== Breakfast ===
What a big disappointment breakfast was! I can honestly say that a Premier Inn breakfast is way better than this. When we went downstairs in the morning we were escorted into the breakfast suite which was downstairs and again it was rather mysterious- you weren't told how much it was or what options you have we were just taken to a table. We then realised it was buffet-style and that we automatically had to pay £15 a head even though I don't eat hot breakfast. I felt like this was rather unfair and it was disappointing to have to serve ourselves especially when paying such a lot of money per head. Cereals were terrible! You had a choice of several but they had 'watered them down' - The Frosties were mixed with cornflakes! I mean that is just really poor when you're paying so much money! There were various kinds of bread and croissants and there were little pots of dried fruit you could sprinkle on your cereal but these pots were tiny so you kind of felt like you could only have a tiny bit. Hot breakfast wise it was all kept in big metal containers so the hashbrowns were soggy and the eggs had gone a bit congealed. My husband said the sausages tasted really cheap and that he much preferred the Premier Inn. I tried to enjoy my bowl of cereal which was absolutely nothing special so looked around the room to try to appreciate the atmosphere but it was rather lacking. We could have been in any large room having breakfast. I can imagine if the room was done up for an event it could look quite good but there was nothing special about it bar some carvings on the wall- the lights were really standard ones and the tables nothing special at all. I was so let down by this. We would have given it 4 stars if it hadn't been for this poor breakfast experience.
=== Conclusion ===
I had high expectations about this place and sometimes that's the problem- that you think of something to be amazing and then you're let down but I had hoped that this wouldn't be the case for a hotel which has such good reports. Perhaps if we had celebrity status we would have been told about the restaurant in the hotel and we wouldn't have had to stand around for ages wondering if we seated ourselves or if someone would show us to a table in the bar, maybe that's the problem here we're just 'ordinary'. I really was let down i was hoping for much better. There is no denying the room was a lovely size and was furnished and the bed extremely comfortable but the really standard bathroom and the lack of special touches- fresh flowers, a welcome note, de-caf tea... did let it down.
If we ever get the chance to have a night away child-free again I don't think we would stay here again. Part of me wants to to see if we just had a bad weekend of poor staff who liked to keep menus and facilities secret but I wouldn't risk paying another £90-£150 to do so and we certainly wouldn't have breakfast again that's for sure! We paid £120 in total when you include breakfast and I don't think it was worth that and I certainly would not have been happy if we had paid full price. If the service had been better and we were really welcomed like you would expect with a breakfast that wasn't so poor then we would have been happy but there were just so many little faults that really let this down. I really do feel disappointed as we had saved up and spent a long time looking forward to this.
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Beaumont House (Old Windsor)
This past weekend we have been visiting Legoland in Windsor. My husband was given the task of booking the break, and in his research he came across a deal with this hotel which allowed you to get entry into legoland included in the price of your hotel stay. Originally we were going to use Tesco clubcard vouchers for legoland and book a ... premier inn or similar basic hotel, but when we spotted the deal here it seemed too good to be true.
For a sum of £360 we got two nights of hotel accomodation alongside two days legoland entry for a family of 4, with breakfast included. We couldn't turn that one down. The only negative was we needed to pay in full at the time of booking and if we had needed to cancel, it was tough - you can't get your money back or rearrange.
The Beaumont Estate is located on Burfield Road, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 2JJ. Sat Nav almost got us to the driveway of the hotel, and it was clear to my husband where he needed to drive to get to the hotel.
Before our visit we had been researching our stay and been very impressed by the facilities available on the site. There is a swimming pool and gym, tennis and squash courts, a football pitch, a childrens play park, and a childrens room with games. It was obviously geared up to dealing with families, and there were plenty of families there during our visit, most of whom seemed to be using the same deal we had done.
Arriving at the hotel, we could have checked in from about 2pm I believe. We didn't arrive till after 7pm as we had to pick our children up from a stay at their grandparents house first. Check in was quick, and we were presented with a kids activity pack for each of our children to use during their stay. This consisted of colouring books and pencils and a little game like you get in pubs/restaurants for children to do.
We were given two keycards for our room, a map of the hotel (needed as it is a huge hotel) and directions to our room.
At first glance, the room was pretty good. The family room we had was on the second floor. We had a double bed, and two sofa beds assembled and ready to use. Our room also had a TV, drink making facilities, safe, ironing facilities, and a hairdryer. The room seemed clean, and comfortable. It was a little crowded with both the kids beds out and we found there wasn't a lot of room to walk around.
Our window overlooked a courtyard, and had a good blind that shut out unwanted light when we wanted to sleep. However, it didn't block out much of the noise from planes from Heathrow that were going over at roughly ten minute intervals from early morning till quite late at night.
The bathroom had a bath and shower, and we were provided with large fluffy towels and complementary toiletries which were not big brands but pleasant enough to use.
The room was quite difficult to sleep in for a few reasons. For one, it was rather hot, and we couldn't open the windows much due to the noise of the planes. We were also in a room located next to a door in the corridor, and this banged lots as people made their way around the hotel. If it were this bad on the top floor, I dread to think what it would have been like on the ground floor of our block. We certainly did not find it was a restful nights sleep. We also noticed that both of our children had a restless nights sleep. Although the two sofa beds had mattress toppers on, the beds were quite hard and it was not comfortable. My eldest was not very well on the first night, so the second night I let him share a bed with my husband to get more rest while I took the sofa bed, and while I managed some sleep I felt very achey the next day. My youngest could only get comfy lying upside down in the bed. It didn't help that there was only inches between the childrens beds, and every time someone turned over, you were banging the other person.
Thankfully some other aspects of the venue were more satisfactory. We had the breakfast buffet on both days that was included in our package. We were offered a choice of tea and coffee brought to the table by waiters. We could then help ourselves to cereal, fruit, juices, cooked breakfast items, and pastries. We found that the food was cooked well, though it was a bit hit and miss to what was available to you when you got to the buffet. The first morning they had completely run out of bacon and beans when I got my breakfast even though my husband had both items on his plate. The second morning we were a bit earlier I think, and there was no milk at the cereal bar, though a waitress was walking round with a large jug to fill up the smaller jugs at the tables.
The restaurant was a bit loud and the tables a bit close together for my liking, but it was more than adequate especially considering how many people were being catered for.
We had eaten at a beefeater restaurant on our first night before we checked in, but wanted to use the restaurant on our second night. We went to eat about 8pm, but the restaurant was fully booked and they could not accomodate us, so if you want to eat in the restaurant I suggest you book in advance.
Instead, we ate our meal in the second night in the bar. We could choose from a more limited menu here, but there were options for everyone from sandwiches to curry, to burgers, to pizza. It was rather pricy, about £15 per main meal, but the atmosphere was very pleasant in the bar and it was much cooler and more relaxed than the restaurant. From my husband and youngest son eating in the bar on the lunchtime of one day, and 3 of us eating a main meal with a few alcoholic drinks, our bar tab at the end of our stay was over £100. This is what it costs in hotels though, so not out of the ordinary. The food was extremely tasty so we didn't mind paying the price for the convenience of eating at the hotel.
The swimming pool was a nice add on feature. My husband took our youngest son there for a bit in the day while my eldest recovered from being unwell. The hotel provides towels to use the facility, and there are lockers you need some change for. It was just a small fairly basic pool. Children were only allowed to use this between 7 and ten am, and 2 and 6pm. This was a bit limited really when people are buying a legoland package as we needed to leave the hotel by 9:30 and if you were at legoland till it shut, you would be there till after 7pm.
The adventure playground was a nice touch. It wasn't massive, but it had a few picnic benches located near it so parents could supervise their kids, but could also have a drink if they wanted to. I did feel sorry for the parents trying to get their kids off to sleep in the rooms above here though. It was pretty noisy.
We had chance to explore the grounds. The nature trail was a nice little woodland walk with a few things like winnie the pooh's house to spot. There were nice ornamental features like a pond and statues, and benches to sit down. The tennis courts, squash courts and football pitch were less to write home about. Apparently we could get a ball from reception to play football, but there was no-one using any of these features while we were there.
Overall, the hotel itself felt a bit like they were packing us in. The room was ok - clean and reasonably comfortable. The package we got was good value, and it was a brilliant location for being near legoland, though not so good for being a quiet break. I think part of the problem is the hotel is trying to do a little too much. I wasn't sure if it were meant to be a spa type hotel, or a budget break for families. The food and staff were great. I did not feel like it was a good place to rest between two busy days out however, and we left feeling quite exhausted. I'm not sure how big a problem noise would have been at other hotels in the area though, and it could just be that there were some inconsiderate guests about during our stay.
I think the way to judge somewhere is if you would go back again, and I have to say, if we wanted to go to legoland again, I would have no problem booking this hotel again, though I think I would try to book in earlier on the first day to get a better chance to use the gym and pool, and book the restaurant if we wanted to use it. I think I might also take some ear plugs to try and get some more sleep.
The rate we paid felt more than fair for what we experienced, and it was an enjoyable if expensive break.
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Premier Inn Preston West (Preston)
A few weeks ago we were visiting a friend in Blackpool and staying at her house overnight. We decided due to being off work for a few days, to maybe extend our little break away in the Lancashire area by booking a night in a hotel somewhere for another night, if there was anywhere decent available at a cheap price. I first looked on ... the Premier Inn website as I know you can often book a Sunday night for as little as £29, an offer I have taken advantage of a number of times now. Unfortunately due to the date I wanted being just over a week away at the time, there didn't appear to be any £29 rates available (booking early is usually the best way to secure these) but it was possible however, to secure a Sunday night room for £39 at a couple of hotels and I decided to book one of these rooms at Preston West Premier Inn, which wasn't too far to drive to from my friend's home in Blackpool where we had spent the previous night.
Situated on Blackpool Road at Lea, Preston, this Premier Inn is described as being within easy reach of Blackpool and its attractions. For shops and local amenities it states that Preston city centre is only 5 miles away and the hotel is conveniently located for Preston train station. However, when pointing out further on exactly how far the hotel is from certain places, it states that the train station is actually 3 miles away, so don't go expecting it to be on the doorstep. Maybe 'conveniently located' should be simply replaced with "Preston Station is 3 miles away" to stop any confusion about this.
As we were travelling by car, this wasn't something which mattered to us personally, but this reminds you that it is worth bearing in mind to always read everything carefully when choosing a hotel, so that it meets your needs.
We found the hotel fairly easily after around a thirty minute drive from Blackpool, following directions from Google maps. The hotel is situated on a main road but is set back, which minimises any noise from passing traffic. Adjacent to the hotel is 'The Lea Gate' - a Hungry Horse pub/restaurant. There are plenty car parking spaces in front of the hotel.
Check in was quick and easy. We were greeted by a friendly and very helpful man on Reception who explained about breakast times, should we want breakfast and the hotel's good night guarantee policy. It was a very hot summer day and he informed us there was a fan in our bedroom and if we required extra sheets to use instead of the quilt on the bed, just to let him know and he would get them for us.
The hotel has two floors and we were located up on the first floor. There didn't appear to be a lift that we could see, so we bumped our suitcase up the stairs. Our room was just a little way along the corridor and looked out onto the front of hotel and some outdoor seating from the pub restaurant next door.
The hotel appeared to be one of the older-style hotels, but has been refurbished and therefore looked much the same as many other Premier Inn rooms, which I personally like with their purple theme.
There was a large and very comfortable double bed, with a mixture of soft and firm pillows and it was made up with crisp white linen and a soft duvet. Open hanging space also housed the kettle and tea/coffee sachets, whilst a flat screen TV was on the workspace area. A large mirror also hung over the workspace area and a hairdryer was attached to the wall here too. There was plenty of space to move around and as well as a chair in front of the workspace area, there was a bucket-style chair and small table in the corner of the room.
The bathroom was small but adequate for our needs, with a decent power shower over the bath and large fluffy white towels. Hand soap and shower gel were provided via wall dispensers but I always prefer to take my own toiletries with me.
Everything was spotlessly clean throughout and we had no complaints.
The fan provided was a godsend as there was no air conditioning. It was a floor standing tower-type fan which we turned on right away as it was a very hot day and it did the job helping us to keep as cool as possible. We actually spent a very comfortable night, despite the high tempartures outside and we replaced the duvet with a sheet which was duly provided from reception as promised.
The Hungry Horse pub restaurant 'The Lea Gate' next door was a very nice place to visit and also very cool inside, but also had outdoor seating and a small children's playpark. We enjoyed a meal there and a couple of drinks and can recommend the food and the service which was very friendly.
On returning to the hotel, we did have a problem getting the TV to work as the reception was very poor, which may have been due to the weather I am not sure, but we eventually found that by sitting in a certain position near the TV, caused the picture quality to improve and so we were able to catch the highlights of Andy Murray winning Wimbledon without losing reception by not moving an inch, which to be honest we found more amusing than annoying at the time!
Apart from the slight niggle with the TV, we encountered no other problems and spent a quiet and comfortable night.
We checked out at 12 noon the following day and asked if everything had been okay with our stay and then wished a safe journey home.
I am happy to recommend Preston West Premier Inn and would definitely stay here again if in the area, don't forget by booking early and by booking online at PremierInn.com you can secure the best available prices.
Premier Inn Preston West,
Lancashire PR4 0XB
Tel: 0871 527 8918 or visit www.premierinn.com for more details.
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