“ Address: Main Street / Gifford / East Lothian / EH41 4QH „
If my title is anything to go by I may have been magicked away by a host of goblins to their enchanted den. Maybe whilst I was there I came across a David Bowie-esque goblin king, his package finely accentuated in his tight spandex? Perhaps we would dance the night away to the perfect 80s soundtrack enclosed in a giant bubble? Or maybe girls named Sarah should lay off the rotten bewitched peaches or hallucinogenic mind-altering drugs. Sounds like a sensible idea...
Returning to the real world, I'm in a sort of piss poor situation when it comes to my days off work. I never get two consecutive days off so when the rare occasion arises that I do get some time off, I feel the need to do something. On this occasion my boyfriend and I decided to go away for a night in exotic Scotland. Spying a deal on Living Social for the Goblin Ha', at £36 for a night for bed and breakfast, it was exactly the cheap deal we were looking for!
The very name of the hotel, the Goblin Ha', intrigued me enough to want to visit. It takes its name from an underground vault attached to the ruins of Yester Castle, built in the 13th century. Sir Hugo de Giffard built the castle and was known to be a warlock and necromancer. Folklore suggests that Hugo made a pact with the Devil who sent a goblin army from hell to help him build the castle and the cavernous vault of the Goblin Ha' where he supposedly practised his sorcery.
Even today, the Goblin Ha' is associated with the mysterious and mystical. Visitors, locals and paranormal investigators have claimed that the chamber is haunted and there have been reports of various ghostly going ons including strange lights and shrieking. From the sound of it, I wouldn't want to spend a night there. However, did I want to spend a night at the Goblin Ha' hotel?
*~AN ENCHANTING EVENING IN EAST LOTHIAN?~*
We drove to Gifford in the late afternoon as, living on the outskirts of Edinburgh, we only live 20 miles away. When we arrived I was awed by how pretty and traditional this little parochial village was with its quaint village square, majestic clock tower, old church and parish graveyard. I even saw a little bunting over the church yard entrance. It was like a village from Midsomer Murders, had Midsomer Murders been set in the somewhat staid Scottish countryside...
The Goblin Ha' sits right next to the village square. Right away I loved the look of the hotel from the outside. Its exterior decor is a distinctive white and goblin green. Hanging on the side of the building is a sign with a goblin sitting cross-legged with two pints in its hands. Well, what else would you expect?
We arrived outside the hotel a little confused as to where we should check in. As the entrance to the hotel accommodation was unoccupied by staff we came to the conclusion we would need to check in at the pub. We went in and made ourselves known to the bar staff and after a few minutes we presented our vouchers and were taken to our rooms.
Entering the hotel lobby, it was quite clear that the place was in the middle of refurbishment and it would be quite unfair to criticise them for this. This was probably why they were offering a discounted deal on Living Social in the first place - something to keep the business going whilst the hotel didn't look it best. I remember they were pulling up carpets in the hallway on the day we departed the hotel and nobody would want to pay full price for that...
We were taken to our room and given our key by a member of staff who also told us to notify her or another member of staff should any issues arise. After she had gone we entered the room and dumped our stuff. At this point we didn't spend much time looking round the room. We were quite hungry and much too interesting in heading downstairs for some pub grub.
*~GOBLIN HA' PUB GRUB~*
The pub that night was quite lively with people. Going by its popularity, I assumed that it was the place to be for locals and people passing by. Unfortunately as we entered the pub it seemed that maybe staff were a little bit too preoccupied with current clientele and we had to find our own seats and wait to be served.
I'm going to be completely honest and say that service was fairly average. Staff were pleasant and polite enough but it did feel like they were just going through the motions. I also felt that at some points it was a little difficult to get service, such as when we were trying to flag a staff member down to get some tomato sauce.
Before we got our food, we ordered some drinks. My boyfriend had some cider and I had a Raspberry Mojito. I had originally asked if it was possible to get a single glass of Strawberry Daiquiri but they only offered it as a pitcher. However, the Raspberry Mojito was delicious so much so that I ended up ordering another and at £3.45 it wasn't too badly priced (although I am admittedly used to Edinburgh prices where a cocktail typically costs me six to nine quid).
The food itself was quite average for what you were paying. We got 'Nachos Fiesta' to share as a starter and this cost £4.95. The nachos were stacked in a circle, topped with cheddar cheese, mozzarella, jalapenos and salsa. The middle of the circle was filled with sour cream and rocket. All these ingredients tasted rather nice and I loved that it came with rocket, my favourite leafy vegetable. On the other hand, I have never been able to justify spending almost a fiver on a plate of nachos which I always saw as quite cheap to make, unless these nachos were absolutely laden with ingredients and included guacamole. These nachos didn't come with it and its just not the same without a bit of guacamole on the plate.
There was a good variety of different types of food on the bar menu from British to Mexican to Indian. For my main course I decided I'd be especially Scottish and have myself some Chicken with Haggis. The haggis was inside the chicken and topped with a creamy white drambuie sauce. It also came with a side of winter vegetables (carrot, broccoli and cauliflower) and they were good enough to let me have chips. All in all, it was quite an enjoyable meal although I thought that at £11.85 it was a bit pricey for what it was. My boyfriend had some Spaghetti Bolognese which I tried and thought it was pretty average and he was pretty disappointed that they didn't offer any parmesan cheese to go with it.
After we had finished our meal we were asked if we would like any dessert or anything else. As much I would have enjoyed a bit of pudding we both decided that we were far too full and had spent quite enough. We decided to pay and retire to our rooms...
*~DISENCHANTED WITH OUR ROOM~*
Possibly the biggest disappointment of our visit was the room that we spent our night in. For an establishment which has the name, the 'Goblin' Ha' it did not have me under its spell. Certainly the bedroom and bathroom were very clean. The bed was comfortable and I had a good night's sleep. Additionally, there was a decent selection of refreshments in a tea caddy - tea, coffee, biscuits and a couple of bottles of sparkling and non-sparkling water. However, it merely felt like a place to stay for a night, a roof over our heads. The decor and the amenities were very basic. There seemed to be a love affair with beige and brown in both rooms. I was also disappointed that the side tables were clearly IKEA - it just seemed really cheap and common. Moreover, the room just didn't have the same cosiness and comfort that I have experienced in other country hotels and B and B's. It had a tiny wee portable heater which I suppose did the job but I didn't understand why they couldn't have a proper central heating system in both the bedroom and bathroom. It would just seem much more sufficient to do so.
The other thing that bugged me were the washing facilities. The bathroom had a bath but no proper shower facilities, just one of those shower heads and nozzles that attach to the tap so you have to plonk yourself on your bum or knees and hold it over your head to wash yourself. I think most people like to have a proper shower in the morning. To make matters worse, I was going to run myself a bath as it's something I love to do when I stay in hotels. However, I couldn't get any hot water. I spent about ten minutes wondering if I should go down and mention this to the staff. Eventually I was so keen on having myself a nice bath that I went downstairs and brought it up with a member of staff. The staff member I spoke to, who I think was the manager, was very apologetic and said that quite often on a Sunday evening the hot water gets used up by the kitchen and two of the rooms don't get much hot water, one of the rooms being ours. He did offer to provide me with keys to another room which he said should have hot water or to wait half an hour or so as the water would get hotter as the kitchen staff had finished up. He also told me that they were actually going to be replacing the boiler eventually as they needed a better one.
I was thankful that he apologised and offered to give me the keys to another room but I preferred the comfort of using a bathroom attached to our room. I decided I would wait till later to run my bath. However, I ended up falling asleep before I could even consider running a bath...
*~COLD BEANS FOR BREAKFAST~*
We woke up in the morning and very leisurely headed down for breakfast which was included in our stay (from 8am to 11am). When we got down to breakfast there were two other couples there but again, no staff member came to greet us and so we found our own seats again. On a table was a selection of cereal and orange juice. I decided I'd have a little cereal. I had read there was a hot breakfast on offer but a staff member didn't come out for at least five minutes to offer this along with teas or coffee. It took quite a long time to get our cooked breakfast and when it did come out my beans were cold (they had obviously cooked these too early). I also would have liked if there had been a little bit more choice. At most hotels and bed and breakfasts you get the choice of what you want to have in your plate and whether you wanted your eggs fried, scrambled or poached. I was given fried eggs which I don't like and would have liked them scrambled or poached instead. It would also have been nice if they had offered us toast instead of us having to ask for it. All in all, breakfast may have set us up for the day but it was not the best breakfast I have had at a hotel.
*~THINGS TO DO IN THE EAST LOTHIAN COUNTRYSIDE~*
We headed out the Goblin Ha' hotel with the intention of visiting a few locations. For anyone who does find themselves in the East Lothian area, it may be because they are on their way to Edinburgh. However, I think that East Lothian is worth visiting in itself. In just one day we visited one town and three castles. Places worth visiting include:
~ Hailes Castle ~
A romantic ruin, we actually came across this by chance on our way to Tantallon Castle. The ruin is quite gorgeous and sits quite majestically next to the River Tyne. Entry is completely free.
~ Tantallon Castle ~
This fortification very grandly rests upon the cliffs facing Bass Rock on the Firth of the Forth. It is quite a formidable 14th century castle that is largely in ruins after suffering the past effects of warfare, erosion and age. However, quite remarkably you can still walk all the way to the top by going up a spiral staircase. As someone who is afraid of heights, the whole experience left me jelly-legged but provided us with fantastic views of Bass Rock and the surrounding countryside.
~ Dirleton Castle ~
By this point you can probably guess that I love my castles and as we had bought a couples pass for Historic Scotland at Tantallon Castle we decided we'd stop at Dirleton on the way back to Edinburgh. Dirleton was probably my least favourite of all the castles we visited that day. It didn't quite have the charm and romanticism of Hailes and lacked the magnificence and grandeur of Tantallon. Nevertheless, it was still worth a visit and has a very pretty garden attached to it.
Other Places to Visit:
~ Local Towns like Haddington, North Berwick and Dunbar - We stopped by Haddington and were a little bit saddened as you could tell the town had seen better days. With closed down hotels and pubs and shops with shabby exteriors, it could do with a much needed visitor boost. Going by local campaigns and advertisements it seems like Haddington residents are painfully aware of this.
~ John Muir Country Park.
~ National Museum of Flight.
~ Seabird Centre.
*~SO WHY DIDN'T I VISIT THE GOBLIN HA' OF ALL PLACES?~*
Of all the places, I never did visit the Goblin Ha', part of the ruins of Yester Castle. I will admit that I am kicking myself that I never visited it. It had been the original plan to ask a few locals about its location and head down there in the morning but a few things had put me off. Firstly, when I asked staff members in the Goblin Ha' hotel about it they were unable to tell me of its whereabouts. Then when I went into a local shop the shopkeeper told me that it was difficult to get to, next to a golf course and that the groundskeeper was the 'Get off my land' type who didn't like people wandering over the edge of his golf course. So in fear of getting lost and pissing off a groundskeeper we decided to set off for Tantallon Castle.
It was a great shame because since then I have seen many pictures and videos of the relatively small number of people who have made the journey out there and its seems like quite a stunning structure, even better than Hailes Castle. I would have loved to have seen the wonderfully preserved subterranean hall with its Gothic vaulted ceiling. I would have also loved to find out if the atmosphere was as eerie as some say it is. My boyfriend has promised we will visit some time next summer when it is warmer and we'll at least have a torch with us to explore the dark cavern. We can then hope that we don't bump into any ghosts...
*~NEEDS A MAGIC TOUCH~*
As for the Goblin Ha' Hotel I really try hard to like a place and I'm careful not to make negative comments without taking full consideration, especially when I understand that the people running a place can put a lot of hard work and passion into it. Going by the general manager's responses to comments on Trip Adviser, his passion certainly shows.
However, I think that the Goblin Ha' has a lot to improve upon. Whilst staff were polite and pleasant enough, I thought that service was slow and staff needed to be more attentive and more engaging with customers. I dislike feeling neglected when I am eating in a restaurant.
More importantly, I think the rooms require a drastic revamp. I think that the quality of our stay did for the most part match the price that we paid (only £18 each) but there is absolutely no way that I would pay £79.50 for one of those rooms (this is the normal price as detailed on booking.com). I found that my room back home was cosier than this hotel room, that the facilities were basic and that the room lacked character. The fact that the room lacked character was probably the worst aspect of the whole visit. With a name like the 'Goblin Ha' the rooms should reflect this and I would love to see it take on a twist of the rustic and the modern, with quirky little additions that set it apart from anywhere else. The sad fact is that there are other hotels and bed and breakfasts out there that charge the same or less that have a lot more to offer. One random example is Broseley House in Shropshire:
They charge just £35 per person for a double room, the rooms look stunning and the facilities are fantastic. It just shows you that the Goblin Ha' has a lot to live up to.
The Goblin Ha' has a lot of potential. It has a great name, is set in a picturesque little village, has a mysterious castle near by and is on the road to Edinburgh. Currently in the process of being refurbished, I really do hope that their intentions are to transform the hotel from run-of-the-mill accommodation to something quite special...
Unremarkable and quite average, the Goblin Ha' desperately requires a magic touch and if the Goblin King Jared isn't around to cast his spell over the place, maybe management will get their wands out.
*~Thank you for reading my review :-) ~ Also published on Ciao under username Renza - October 2012~*