“ Address: M1, JCT 18 / Crick / NN6 7XR / Northamptonshire / England „
I stay at this Holiday Inn quite often when travelling on business, as the company I work for has an office nearby. As an avid points collector, I joined the "Priority Club" loyalty scheme run by the Intercontinental (IC) Hotels chain a few years ago - of which Holiday Inn is a part - and tend to try and stay at one of their hotels whenever I travel. Although the quality of the properties I have stayed at vary greatly, this one has always proved reassuringly consistent.
This Holiday Inn is located just off Junction 18 of the M1 near the village of Crick. It is about five miles from Rugby itself, but, despite its name, significantly more from Northampton (around 20 miles). As such, it's not really practical for anyone who is not driving. There is no local bus service and the closest main railway station is a fifteen minute (and £12) taxi ride away in Rugby.
There also is nothing of interest within walking distance, so its clientele consists mainly of travelling executives and salesmen passing through on their way to points north/south or visiting local business, or conference delegations taking advantage of its easily accessible and centrally located corporate events facilities.
There is a large external car park with plenty of parking, a health club with swimming pool, a non-descript restaurant and bar called "Traders", quick and efficient room service, and friendly approachable staff. A business centre provides a host of printing, faxing and binding services.
WiFi is available in the public areas and there are two computers in the lobby area for public internet access. Neither service is free. You have to buy "pay as you go" cards from reception to access these services.
Decoration is unremarkable, clean and modern. The seating and lounge areas are spacious and comfortable and most of the staff seem to be local (i.e. English) and attentive. The gym and pool appear clean and well attended but, other than poking my head in once or twice while roaming the hotel, I haven't used them, so I can't offer an opinion on their relative merits. Colleagues who have used these facilities extensively have told me that they are as good as can be expected.
Food rarely rises above the mediocre, and is typical for this three star chain, but I have had no real issues with it in the many times that I have stayed. I have not eaten in the restaurant of an evening, but the menu is largely reflected in the room service options (there is a £2.50 tray charge) and offers various pasta's, pizza's, steaks and burgers, as well as a selection of "healthy options" such as king prawn stir fry, salmon on a bed of couscous, and Caesar salad with grilled chicken. I have rarely waited more than twenty minutes for food, even when the kitchen has been busy.
However, the kitchen knows they have a captive audience (the nearest decent restaurant is a cab or car ride away) so the food, although consistent, isn't going to win any awards - and represents relatively poor value for money when the arbitrary "tray charge" is added to the already inflated prices. It's rare to order room service and come away having spent less than £25, but as most residents are likely to expense this, it hardly raises an eyebrow.
Breakfast is your typical combination of continental and English, with the added bonus that the sausages, eggs, black pudding and bacon are (I am reliably informed) locally sourced. However, I wish I could get someone to consistently poach an egg, as half the time, they come out either too runny or hard-boiled. If it is not included in your room rate, it costs £14.99 per person.
Most rooms have a minibar, but as expected, the prices are eye wateringly extortionate. My advice would be to stock up on water and snacks at Moto Toddington services (northbound from London with a great M&S Foods) or equivalent if travelling southbound. Priority Club members usually get a complimentary bottle of spring water, or free drink at the bar, depending on the mood of the resident manager. There are no self-service ice-making facilities, so you have to order it from reception.
Standard rooms are pretty basic, but comfortable. You will get a CRT television with the basic cable and satellite channels (Sky Sports is available in the bar area) and an on-demand movie service that typically costs around £7.99 per film. I can't possibly comment on the naughty stuff, but there is a child lock available if you need it.
Unfortunately, the type of low-budget video distribution system the hotel uses means that the quality of the images produced varies immensely depending on the number of people tuned in, and at times, I have found it pretty poor. On occasion, it has been so grainy, I have asked for my money back - and received it without much comment.
Beds are comfortable and a "pillow menu" is offered. Basic toiletries are available for free from reception if you have forgotten to bring your own. Also, I wouldn't order a paper if you are happy with the Independent, as this is provided for free at breakfast. The bathroom is functional, with bolted on soap dispenser above the sink and shower, and the sort of flimsy white shower curtain that has the annoying habit of being pulled into the bath and sticking to you as you shower. These sorts of curtains really do my head in - I would be happy to front a national campaign to eradicate them.
Executive rooms are a little more roomy and come with the working professional in mind, sporting dedicated desk space with wired internet access (for a fee obviously) and a few other extra comforts such as bathrobe and slippers and complimentary "spa" type toiletries in the bathroom. You also get a package of "Borders" Scottish biscuits with your tea making facilities, which otherwise consists of a few sachets of decaf and caffeinated coffee, tea bags, and if you're really lucky, a sachet of Galaxy Hot Chocolate.
Noise from the M1 motorway - which is less than half a mile away - is not really a problem, as every room facing in that direction is well soundproofed. Black out curtains and efficient AC mean you can sleep in easily and don't need to open windows.
A specific note for business travellers - due to its location, mobile phone coverage can be patchy, and you can forget about 3G service. I have had to, on occasion, roam the hotel with mobile held above my head looking for a few bars of signal, especially when the weather is bad.
RATES & VALUE
I have typically paid £79 per night for a standard room (although this can be as low as £69 at some times) and £99 for an executive room. If you're not working in the room, I would say the extra £20 is not worth the upgrade unless breakfast is included in the rate. To be frank, I would have expected an LCD TV for the higher rate.
I usually opt for a flexible rate (which is dearer) as you can cancel up to 4pm on the day without incurring a cancellation fee. In terms of VFM, it's as good as the experience gets at this level with a major chain, so its not going to blow your socks off, but it won't disappoint either if you know what to expect.
Due to its location and dearth of transport links this property is unlikely to appeal to anyone other than middle managers and executives looking for a step up from Travel Lodge or Premier Inn. I would not recommend it to families, unless purely used for an overnight stopover on the way to somewhere else.
However, it does a fairly decent - if unremarkable job - of looking after its target corporate customers and is a reasonably good option for the budget-conscious executive, particularly given that the only real alternative is an Ibis Hotel - which does not bear thinking about.
© Hishyeness 2009 - parts previously published on Ciao.co.uk under the same user name.