“ Address: Stathpeffer / Ross-Shire / IV14 9DN / Scotland / Telephone: 0870 950 6264 „
First things first. Why was I there? My brother was finally getting married at the grand old age of 32 and this was the chosen location for both the ceremony and the reception.
The Ben Wyvis Hotel is in the lovely old Highland spa village of Strathpeffer which is about 20 miles north of Inverness. It is affiliated to the Crerar Hotels Group and has been awarded a three-star rating (ie very good quality). Unlike England's Crown system, the Scottish and Welsh Tourist Boards award one to five stars with four and five being excellent and exceptional respectively.
Six weeks before the big day, I was passing the hotel on the way to another destination so popped in to book rooms. You turn off the main A834 road, which passes through the town, between stone pillars and up the winding drive to the hotel with its very impressive grey stone façade and beautiful gardens. I needed a double and a twin. Because it was for a wedding, there was a pre-arranged bed and breakfast set rate of £35 per person per night to be paid on check-out. The staff were friendly and quickly organised my booking. I also observed that there was a fair amount of parking space around the front of the building.
On the day, we arrived, (check in time between 3pm and 11pm) parked, and were handed the Yale keys to our rooms. Despite asking when booking, it turned out my children were in a room on a completely different floor from mine but they are teenagers and were okay with the arrangement. If they had been younger, and if my family weren't dominating the building for the purposes of the wedding, I'd certainly have complained. Incidentally, children are considered children up to the age of 17. Am I alone in thinking this should be standardised everywhere - hotels, cinemas, travel tickets?
There are 92 rooms on four floors in the hotel which include twins, doubles and executives. I then found my way through a labyrinth of corridors and, after a few wrong turns, eventually found my room through some rather heavy (but probably essential) fire doors at the end of a narrow corridor. I put the key in the lock, turned it, pushed the door open and WHUMP. The door hit the bottom of the double bed. The room was long and narrow and I would definitely have rearranged the furniture as this moment is my enduring memory of the hotel.
The room looked as if it would have been tastefully decorated if the finish hadn't been so shoddy. One corner of the wallpaper was in quite a poor state of repair - not damp, just scruffy. The skirting boards had been painted but had a rather sloppy finish with splotches on the walls.
The en-suite rooms had an old-fashioned, dark brown, two-door wardrobe and a sideboard with the usual tea and coffee making facilities and hairdryer but there is also broadband/Wi-fi facilities in each room and a satellite TV. This last was essential as it was the same day as the Scottish Cup Final (Dunfermline v Celtic - Celtic won 1-0). It turns out they were also showing it in the mini-cinema close to the dining room and several of the male guests kept excusing themselves for a few minutes during the meal. I didn't have my laptop so did not test the broadband connection.
The private 32-seater cinema which, at the time, was advertising a 'Ladies Pyjama Party Night to view Bridget Jones's Diary' claims to show all the latest DVDs. There is a putting green on the grounds which the kids fancied trying their hand at when boredom began to set in while all us old codgers caught up with relatives we hadn't seen since time began, but the clubs weren't available.
I had time to have a shower (electric shower over the bath) before the big occasion kicked off but couldn't get it to work - there were no instructions - and no amount of knob twiddling would get it to produce more than a trickle of cold water. The toilet flush, on the other hand, produced a tremendous amount of water and an almighty howl emitted from the plumbing that went on for nearly five minutes. Yes, I timed it.
So I donned the gladrags, spared a thought for Ariadne's clew (the thread that guided Daedalus back out of King Minos's labyrinth) and found my way back to the reception area down a graceful staircase which disappointingly lands in the ground floor corridor. There are also lifts for those not willing or able to tackle the stairs.
Next stop, the large bar which was well-staffed and service was prompt. The room was furnished with a good few large comfy sofas arranged around low tables and had a lovely relaxed atmosphere.
The civil service was held in a beautiful room which I think may also serve as a very large conservatory. Multiple windows had long, cream curtains which gave a light and airy feel. The service over - no need to go into that other than to say it was perfect and met all the requirements - we milled in and out of doors for the photo session, some of which was held in the grounds (the day was sunny but very chilly).
We were then guided into the large dining room - again the furnishings produced quite a light and airy feel and this is also where we had breakfast in the cold light of the next morning.
During the delicious meal, chosen by bride and groom, we were served by waiters and waitresses for whom English was not a first language. They were polite and patient but it was slightly embarrassing as the guests tried to whisper possible translations. The kids didn't understand a word they were asked. I will not lower the tone by revealing where the staff came from, suffice to say that this is an observation I thought might be a consideration for other potential guests. The food, which included such delights as haggis-stuffed chicken, was exquisite, beautifully prepared and presented.
After the meal, we returned to the bar where a sizeable dance floor and disco had been set up. An enjoyable evening was had by all and the bar staff remained cheerful and efficient.
The ladies' toilet was spacious, very clean and smelled lovely. Can't tell you about the gents - I'm not that kinda girl. Although now I think of it, I might check them out for my next hotel review - maybe I am that kinda girl!
The following morning, the dining room had been transformed into a rather cold and austere breakfast room. The service wasn't great. I waited for so long that I decided it must be self-service and helped myself to some of the cereals and juice which were laid out on a table on the far side of the room and were not immediately noticeable. Eventually someone arrived at my table to advise that I could help myself to cereal (!) and would I like a cooked breakfast. I did, and it was well-proportioned and delicious. It's described as a full-Scottish breakfast but basically it's a fry-up. I was also given a silver pot of lovely hot tea. I can't fault the hotel when it comes to the grub and the service - although a bit slow - is fine once it starts.
Checking out was quick and painless and, despite everyone checking out at roughly the same time and amid much confusing mingling and farewells, the staff stayed on top of it all and maintained a friendly demeanour. I handed in the keys along with my credit card, was given a computer-printed receipt, and pleasantly invited to have a safe journey.
Although the price for our visit was low and, having checked the net, seems consistently so, I'd rather have paid a bit more for smarter surroundings.
Since my visit to Ben Wyvis Hotel, I seem to have been added to their mailing list and receive quarterly offers. While writing this review, another one came through the door offering Winter Breaks including:
GIRLS NIGHT IN, THE ULTIMATE PYJAMA PARTY! January - February, 1 night £75pp DBB - Get your nails done and enjoy a relaxing massage. Watch Bridget Jones (again - how original) in our private cinema, we'll even provide the tissues and popcorn.
Single: Room with one bed suitable for single traveller only.
Twin: One room with two single beds.
Double: Room with one bed suitable for two people.
Triple beds: Room with either a double plus a single or sofa bed, or three single. These rooms are often not suitable for three adults but are appropriate for family bookings.
Family rooms: Room with a combination of beds suitable for four people including children. Rooms may have two double beds, or one double and two singles or four singles. Single beds may be sofa beds or fold away beds suitable only for children.
Rates seem to vary greatly between internet sites. The Crerar Hotels own site isn't that great so shop around. There are some good deals out there.
The hotel is a non-smoking facility. Pets are 'considered' with a £10 supplementary payment.
Ben Wyvis Hotel
Tel: 01997 421323
Fax: 01997 421228