“ Address: Cross Hall Road / Eaton Ford / Saint Neots PE19 7DB / Cambridgeshire / Tel: 01480 219555 „
Picture the scene; it's a Friday morning, 6.30 am. I have precisely one hour to breakfast, shower, dress and pack a bag for the weekend. Make that two bags as there's also food for the train to be organised and a handful of books I've promised to give koshkha to be tracked down.
Voucher for chilli farm tour: check.
Train tickets: check
Confirmation of tonight's stay in Travelodge.......erm......just a sec.....no
I was utterly convinced that I'd booked a room in the Travelodge at Chawston but there was no confirmation in my inbox and when I logged in to the Travelodge website there were no open bookings in my account. What's more, there were no rooms available at the Chawston Travelodge that night. Our train tickets were booked to St. Neots and the nearest alternative Travelodges were too far away from there to be practical.
In a blind panic I logged on to hotels.com (not so blindly that I forgot I had a discount code for 10% off and to first go through topcashback.co.uk, of course) and booked one night's bed and breakfast at the Eaton Oak Hotel a place that appeared to meet my requirements
- not too far from St. Neots train station
- en suite bathroom
- not stupidly expensive
As you can see I'm not a picky traveller.
Nor am I very attentive when it comes to the small print. As I picked up the confirmation from the printer I noticed the check in time: it said that guests could check in up till 9.00pm and our train was due to arrive at St. Neots at 9.20pm. I decided to take a chance and telephone the hotel once I got to work and beg them to extend the check in deadline.
Happily when I called they told me that there'd be someone there until 11.00pm. I'd thought that, given that this accommodation is attached to a pub-restaurant, 9.00pm seemed a bit early to stop checking guests in.
I was a little concerned that there might be some noise from the pub, especially on a Friday night but I needn't have worried.
The Eaton Oak's nine guest rooms are situated in a one storey extension and there's a lobby way between the main part of the pub and the accommodation corridor. This corridor can only be accessed with a key so there's no chance of pub customers wandering around making a nuisance of themselves. There's also another door, accessible to guests only, that leads directly outside so you don't need to go through the pub to get to the rooms.
The Eaton Oak looks to have been originally a fairly modest inn that has been significantly extended in recent years. The main building looks very traditional and pretty in a cottage-y way with trailing plants and a big old front door. The pub is on a roundabout which could be busy on weekday mornings but over a weekend there was minimal traffic. Unfortunately all the rooms face the road but we found that once the windows were closed we couldn't hear any traffic sounds at all. If you've come by car there are dedicated car parking spaces for hotel guests just at the back of the accommodation extension so while you can't see your car from the room, you can look see them from the corridor. The surrounding area is mainly residential and I got the impression that cars parked here overnight would be safe.
I have no spatial awareness so it came as no surprise to Himself that the hotel was a little further from St. Neots station than I had originally imagined. The journey by taxi didn't take more than five minutes but would have taken about twenty on foot. The Eaton Oak is in a part of St Neots called Eaton Socon which is handy for access to the A1.
We were dropped off in the car park at the rear of the building and made our way to the bar where we were greeted by the general manager Michael (I think; I do hope he'll forgive me if I got his name wrong), who, it turned out, had been the person I'd spoken to that morning. He showed us straight to our room which was the first one along the corridor.
The Eaton Oak describes its rooms as "wonderfully comfortable" and ,while I can't say I really cared for the décor, it was a very comfortable and cosy room with everything I needed for an overnight stay. The colour scheme was a little unusial and the strange padded wall behind the bed had me wondering whether some was having a laugh but once the lights were turned low you could almost forget all that. Boasting a television, a CD/stereo, a modem point, hairdryer and an electrical clothes brush (how I've managed to live to nearly forty years of age without one of these I really don't know), nobody could argue that the room wasn't well equipped. We had read that the hotel had wifi throughout the bar area but when we asked the manager gave us the code so we could connect wirelessly in our room. However, as well equipped as it was, a couple of issues did crop up.
These problems centred around the lighting. As is so often the case in hotel rooms these days there was no central light; I'm quite old fashioned in the respect and I do like a good light overhead. There were alternative light sources aplenty, however. First there was a standard lamp that did not work (and, yes, I did check it was plugged in and that it had a bulb). Then there were the lights in the headboard which, rather than being beside your pillow or some way above your head, were exactly where you'd want to prop up your pillow. Working out which switch operated which light was a bit like the fairground game where the frogs pop up at random and you have to bash them down.
The en suite was clean and well maintained. The floor was tiled but it was warm underfoot. There was a shower over the bathtub; when you turned the shower on it made the most terrible moaning sound until you turned the shower on full but by that point the floor was getting very wet in spite of the shower curtain being pulled across. Complimentary Neutrogena toiletries were an unexpected touch.
Although our room had hot drinks making facilities we decided to head back into the bar for a drink. The Eaton Oak is one a loose chain of three restaurants but acts very much as a local in the evenings. There was a small area with comfortable looking sofas but these were all occupied so we had to sit at a table which was a little too formal for the end of a long day. The pub serves some excellent cask ales but I plumped for a bottle of Estrella and Himself treated himself to a pint of Kirin, principally because you so rarely see it on tap. Although it was a Friday evening and it was a mainly younger crowd the pub wasn't noisy and rowdy. One group of twenty-something girls even came in at 10.00pm for coffee and dessert.
The bed must have been comfortable because I slept until almost 7.00am which is unheard of for me. I did avail myself of an extra pillow (there was plenty of spare bedding in the wardrobe) because the ones on the bed were pretty thin but otherwise I was in bed heaven.
I was particularly looking forward to breakfast because a card on the dressing table had listed the option and I had already decided on smoked salmon and scrambled eggs. Breakfast is served in the restaurant and non-residents are welcome to come in too (and several did). The waitress came over and asked what we'd like for breakfast, there was no menu so we had to ask what there was. the only option offered was a full English or parts of that. I asked for bacon, egg and beans: she didn't ask how I wanted my eggs and when the breakfast came the eggs were fried - my least favourite type, alas. Himself asked for the full breakfast and I was envious when I spotted a hash brown on his plate but this amounted to nothing when we discovered that the hash brown was horribly soggy. I did get a one of his two slices of black pudding and it was very good.
Sauces were offered and brown sauce was brought to the table in a little ceramic dish and teaspoon which seemed like a fiddly way to get some sauce. Toast was offered late and was almost cold by the time it arrived. It turned out there was orange juice to help yourself too but we only knew this because we saw someone else get up for it. It was a little irritating that tea came in a pot but coffee was served by the cup; we were asked if we'd like more but it would have been nice to have a pot of coffee rather than have to wait for the lone waitress to appear.
When it came to checking out things couldn't have been simpler: all we had to do was return the key. One of the staff had kindly arranged a taxi for us: I thought it was good of her to call for the taxi herself rather than simply supplying me with a telephone number.
We paid £67.50 after our 10% discount with hotels.com. At the time I was panicking and didn't bother to look at prices through the hotel's own website. Looking today for a room tomorrow night (a Friday) the hotel website gives a price of £50 for a double room with breakfast just like we had. Going first through topcashback.com got us another £6.75 off the price.
I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this accommodation based on my experience but it should be noted that the hotel is a popular venue for weddings and availablity is likely to be patchy.
The location is ideal: easy to get to and ideal for the A1 but the rooms are well insulated from traffic noise. Our room was of a high standard even if the decor was a little eye watering. I'd certainly look at booking directly with the hotel as I'd say that you shouldn't really be spending more than £60 for the night including breakfast though we certainly didn't feel ripped off. The service was generally excellent and we got the impression that although this is really a few rooms attached to a pub rather than an out and out hotel, the owners (can you believe their surname is Beer!) seem to take this side of the business seriously.