“ Address: 312 Midsummer Boulevard / Milton Keynes / MK9 2EA / Buckinghamshire / England „
* Prices may differ from that shown
Points to those who guess the author!
As part of a little sojourn to Milton Keynes we needed to stay in a hotel, as the rest of our friends were staying in the Ramada Encore it made absolute sense to stay there with the rest of them.
The Ramada group has hotels all over the country and they seem to be part of the new breed of hotels which offer decent rooms but at those Premier Inn type prices. Indeed the Premier Inn in Milton Keynes is more expensive and less conveniently placed then we wanted.
We didnt actually book through the hotel website but through booking.com and I must admit they had quite a range to choose from. Family rooms, doubles and twins, smoking, non-smoking and executive versions of the above. Rather sneakily on their own website they dont advertise they have smoking rooms, booking.com give it away but you do have to send it as a seperate request. You also have to request it again when you get to the hotel.
The hotel is a mere 5 minutes walk in a straight line from the train station, and I really do mean that it's 5minutes walk. It's situated in the The Hub complex next to the Jurys Hotel and several restaurants and pubs. The entrance is actually down the side of the building, theres no directions to this but thankfully I'd already read this on a review. Parking is outside the hotel on a first come, first served basis at a cost of £10 for the day, but theres only 4 spots! There is an NCP car park opposite the hotel and on the complex itself. It's free between 7pm and 7am, for those other 12 hours it's going to cost £12! So make sure you factor that in to the cost of your trip.
The foyer of the hotel is fairly small but bright and airy, theres a massive table advertising their Christmas deal but rather annoyingly no other seats. When theres a queue at booking out and in theres nothing worse then having to stand up for 10 minutes.
The staff were impeccable and extremely helpful, we were booked in swiftly and with our request, were up on the 7th floor which had nothing but smoking rooms. I'm glad to see a hotel which acknowledges that quite a few of its guests still partake of the evil weed and dont shove them down at the end of a corridor.
Quite often when you go towards the smoking rooms or get off in the lifts on those floors, 2 huge lifts by the way, excellent when you have lots of luggage. And even better for those hen parties who squeezed 10 people in along with huge inflatable penis's. But back to the subject I started with! You cant smell that you are in the smoking area at all, I can only presume that they have some great air freshners or some damned strong air conditioning!
The room itself was quite nice and large, it had a larger than double bed, laminate flooring, a red leather sofa that turns into a bed, desk and chair. They also provide towels, hairdryer, tv and tea and coffee tray. It's not an over-large bathroom this is probably due to the fact that half of the room is taken up with the shower (no bath) which easily fits 2 people in it! Theres no complementary toiletries but tubes of shower cream and hand cleanser stuck to the walls.
The room itself was clean as were the sheets and pillows, however I didnt really notice the dirty great long black hair on the shower wall until the Sunday morning! And it definitely wasnt one of my purple ones or partners blonde locks! Ordanarily I would have raised it with the hotel but with a few hours to go I couldnt be bothered!
I didnt have any problems with the laminate flooring but then I was on the top floor. I did hearfrom people on other floors that you could hear people walking about particularly if they were wearing heels.
There was a rather annoying event in the bathroom, it was pretty much a wet room with the shower cubicle having a slope towards the drain. Except it doesnt drain quite quickly enough and goes out onto the bathroom floor leaving you nowhere to dry your feet! With my damp feet I walked towards the tea tray intending to have a decaff coffee except I had to boil the kettle twice as it only boiled to warm the first time. Safety feature or just flipping annoying?
I loved the bed though, not too soft or hard but just right, giving me a perfect sleep. Well, when I could finally get to sleep. The hotel is right next to the Wetherspoons pub which doesnt close till gone 1 am, you then have people wandering around for a couple of hours being generally annoying and loud. Thankfully we were on the further side of the hotel so didnt get too disturbed too much. I did hear that it was horrendous for the people whos room faced onto the pub and also had the taxi queue right underneath their windows. So thats well worth considering if you are intending to stay here.
We didnt use the bar or restaurant but our friends did on the previous evening. Apparently the service was a little slow, well, they actually had to go and get someone from reception to come up and serve them. I'm assuming that they dont place much emphasis on their bar and restaurant with all the different places around them.
Checkout was like booking in, quick, painless and very polite.
All in all I was perfectly happy with the hotel but I think that was quite by chance. I dont think I would be quite as happy had I been on a lower floor facing the pub, and I have to say was I to stay here again I would request the same rooms I had been in this time. For me it was worth the £59 but it could easily have been worth much less.
So make sure you know exactly what you may be letting yourself in for should you book into this hotel!
Information about the place.
Check in 2pm, check out 12pm
* 159 bedrooms
* Direct dial telephones
* Tea and coffee making facilities
* Interactive colour TV with Sky, radio channels and pay movie channels,
* Internet access available
* Ensuite bathrooms
* Hairdryers are provided
* Same day laundry and dry cleaning service
* Irons and ironing boards can be borrowed from Reception.
The Ramada Encore is situated in the heart of Milton Keynes and is an ideal base when visiting the town. So far, I have stopped there on two occasions (once as a stop gap on a journey down to Brands Hatch and another when I went to a concert at the MK Bowl).
Reservations for the hotel can be made online at www.encoremiltonkeynes.co.uk or by telephoning 0870 428 1438. I made both my reservations online with ease. You can check room availability and prices before going ahead with your booking. In June 2007, I paid £50 for a twin room (accommodating 2 adults) for 1 night, this was a special web rate and booked 2 weeks in advance. In September 2006, I paid £139.95 for a twin room, booked a month in advance. Why the jump in price? Hotels (not just this one) have a tendency to up the prices when there's a big event on as they know they can fill the rooms. I was going to see Robbie Williams at the MK Bowl and most of Milton Keynes was booked up that night. The Ramada Encore has various offers available, however, so I would advise checking them out on the Offers page of the website.
The hotel can be found within walking distance of the train station (come out of the station through the main exit and walk straight forward onto Midsummer Boulevard and follow the path straight up to the hotel (you'll see the hotel sign on the side of the building). Walk straight past Jury's Inn (which is next door) and turn right to find the entrance. If you arrive by car then there is limited on-site parking at £7.50 a night as well as on-street parking (which is pay & display, but can be free during certain periods such as bank holidays).
I found checking-in to be simple and swift, and the staff friendly and helpful.
The Ramada Encore is a modern hotel and I've found the rooms quite stylish and contemporary.
To get into your room, you're provided with a keycard (as per most hotels these days) which you put in the slot in the door and pull out (and a green light should indicate that you can enter the room), then open the door. For energy saving purposes, you then need to put your keycard in a slot in the wall to activate the lights. This means that when you leave the room (and take your keycard with you), you can't accidentally (or, for that matter, purposely) leave the lights on (wasting energy). You also remember where you put your keycard the night before!
The bedroom floors are wooden (no grubby carpet here) and tend to have the minimalist look. As well as the bed/s (I've only stayed in the twin rooms, but I believe the "Standard" rooms contain a double bed and a fold-away sofa bed with room to accommodation 2 adults and 2 children under 18), the rooms contain a desk, telephone, TV (with Sky, radio channels and pay movie channels), tea & coffee making facilities and a hair-dryer, as well as space for your clothes/luggage. There is also broadband access, but I can't remember if this is included in the room price or if it's pay as you go (as I had no use for it).
I found the beds very comfortable (which, in all honesty, is the most important thing during a hotel stay) and had a sound night's sleep on both occassions.
A same-day laundry and dry cleaning service is provided if needed and an iron & ironing board can be borrowed from Reception.
The ensuite "bathroom" is more of a wetroom with a walk-in shower (separated by a screen) as well as a toilet and sink. Toiletries are provided in the form of a soap dispenser and shower wash dispenser attached to the wall (Lux branded, if my memory serves me correctly). The bathroom can be a bit on the small side, but I find this common to a lot of hotels.
There is a bar and restaurant at the hotel, but I can't really comment on either of these as I didn't get time to experience them. Breakfast (hot and continental) is served between 7am - 10am on weekdays and 7.30am - 11am on weekends, so early enough if you need to get off early for a meeting, but late enough if you fancy a bit of a lie-in.
If you don't fancy eating at the hotel, then don't worry as there are plenty of other eateries in walking distance such as a posh burger bar, a Chinese restaurant, Bar One, Wetherspoons and many others.
Don't forget that Milton Keynes' main shopping centre (The Centre:MK) is also a short walk away and provides loads of shops and eateries. Xscape provides the country's biggest indoor real snow slopes as well as climbing walls, bowling and other fun activities including a multiscreen cinema.
The MK Bowl (where such bands as Bon Jovi, Take That and Robbie Williams have played) is also a short distance away and I (and many others) have walked to there & back to the hotel with no problems.
The hotel is also by the business area of Milton Keynes so is an ideal base should you be attending any meetings etc, and I cant forget to mention that Silverstone is just a few miles up the road and so you can use the hotel as a base when going to watch races.
I have stayed at this hotel twice now and would certainly stay in it again when visiting Milton Keynes. In fact, after staying in the Milton Keynes Ramada Encore twice now, I decided to book a room at the Ramada Encore York for my trip there.
My fiancé and I stayed at the Ramada Encore in Milton Keynes for 1 night as we travelled up there from Surrey so I could do my Airkix experience (also reviewed!). We stayed in a Standard non-smoking room. Breakfast was not included.
THE PRICE IS RIGHT
I paid £42.50 for the room for a 1 night stay on a Saturday. Prices vary depending on when you stay and as I booked the room 14-days in advance I got a special rate. You can easily check availability and book online via the Ramada Encore website, but I used Expedia to get some cashback.
~ * ~ * ~ So 10/10 for price ~ * ~ * ~
LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION
As we travelled up to Milton Keynes by train, the location was very important to us. It had to be near Milton Keynes Central train station and it had to be near the Xscape centre which is where the Airkix facility is located. The Ramada Encore ticked both boxes, as it was right in-between both these places. It took us about 10-15 minutes to walk from the train station to the hotel and then it was about the same walking distance from the hotel to the Xscape centre. Milton Keynes seemed to be like one big car park, so if you're driving then I'm sure you will find a space somewhere!
I'd downloaded a map from the Airkix website and it made everything look quite far apart, so we did consider getting a taxi, but we're glad we didn't as everything was so close together the fare would have probably been about 50p and we would have looked really stupid! The big shopping centre, imaginatively called The Centre, is also about 10-15 minutes walk from the hotel. There is also a massive Sainsburys near the hotel if you need any groceries, garden furniture or clothes!
~ * ~ * ~ So 10/10 for location ~ * ~ * ~
The hotel doesn't look amazing from the outside, but there is a big sign which is visible as you're walking from the train station, so it's easy to find. It is next to the Jury Inn hotel, which looked a bit more impressive (and therefore one I would consider trying next time I visit Milton Keynes) and it has a front door, which is easy to find, unlike the Ramada Encore's entrance, which is at the side of the building.
The reception area was very light and airy and the staff were very pleasant and efficient. They explained about the breakfast in The Hub restaurant and gave me a discount voucher for two of the restaurants in The Hub (that's the name of the area outside and not their own restaurant, which makes it a bit confusing!)
We were given a room on the top floor, which was the 7th. Entry to the room is by swipe card, which I always have trouble using and it normally takes me a few attempts before I can successfully open the door! You also have to put the swipe card into a slot in the room to activate the lights.
As it was a chain hotel, I expected the room to have minimalist décor and this is what we got. With the garish "art" on the walls (if you can call overlapping squares of different bright colours "art") and the square wall lights, it looked like it was straight out of an Ikea catalogue. The décor wasn't awful, but it wasn't wonderful either and actually reminded me of my student halls at University! So I wouldn't really recommend it for a romantic getaway, but it'll do for somewhere to rest your head for a night whilst you're in Milton Keynes.
~ * ~ * ~ So 7/10 for design and décor ~ * ~ * ~
The bathroom had the usual toilet, sink and a shower but no bath. The room was like a wet room, as there was just a screen separating the shower from the toilet and sink. It was a good powerful shower and the pressure from the tap was also excellent. It was clean but a bit worn around the edges.
I like hotels that are committed to saving energy and water and this one had signs in the bathroom asking guests to do their bit to save the planet. The toilet was one of those water efficient ones and I noticed that it was incredibly quiet when it flushed, so no need to worry when you go in the middle of the night. My fiancé commented that the toilet was a good height, as he has a thing about toilets that are too low - must be a bloke thing!
There were no individual toiletries like soap, shampoo and conditioner. Instead these were in dispensers fixed to the wall, but they were Dove and Lux which are good brands. My only real gripe is there was no toothpaste provided, which most hotel guests would expect, luckily I took my own as I'd read from a review that they don't provide it!
~ * ~ * ~ So 9/10 for the bathroom facilities ~ * ~ * ~
THE GADGET SHOW
Everything was very basic in the room, but it met our needs. TV and Internet were available in the room. There were only the 5 basic terrestrial TV channels plus a couple of Freeview ones, but we hadn't gone to Milton Keynes to watch TV so we didn't mind. You had to pay for the Internet in the room, but free Internet was available downstairs.
~ * ~ * ~ So 8/10 for tech ~ * ~ * ~
HOW CLEAN IS YOUR HOUSE?
The room had wooden floors, which my fiancé didn't really like as he said he wasn't as cosy, but I didn't mind them and they were very clean and I didn't have any fluff on my feet after walking around barefooted.
Overall the room seemed to be clean, including the bedding, the 2 bedside tables, the desk and chair. The cups that came with the tea and coffee making facilities were clean, which is something I always check! Although there was a nice selection of tea and coffee, there weren't any biscuits provided which was a bit disappointing!
The sofa-bed that was in there had a stain, but we weren't using it so it didn't bother us, but I wouldn't have liked to have slept on there!
Even thought the room was satisfactory, we didn't sleep very well at all. We couldn't get the temperature in the room right, even though there was an electronic system to fiddle around with. I felt cold and I was shivering, but every time I woke up (and I woke up about 4 times in the night!) I was sweating hot. My fiancé reckoned it was the bed cover, which wasn't a duvet but it was like a thin but dense blanket and he thought this prevented any hot air to escape from underneath. I also didn't like the bed, as it felt like a futon mattress and it looked quite old. Our bed at home which desperately needs replacing, as the springs are broken and keeps going "boing" was more comfortable!
~ * ~ * ~ So 6/10 for cleanliness and comfort ~ * ~ * ~
COME DINE WITH ME
As I briefly mentioned earlier, the hotel has their own restaurant called The Hub where you can have a hot buffet breakfast for £9.95 or there was a continental option but I don't know how much that was. They also serve meals for lunch and dinner and on the menu they had things like pizza, fish and chips and vegetable bake. Main courses were around £10 upwards or they had smaller meals like wraps from £6. I can't comment on the food as we didn't eat there, as there were so many other restaurants in the vicinity.
The square at the back of the hotel is also called The Hub and there were a number of different restaurants including a Zizzi's, Gourmet Burger, Las Iguanas and Café Rouge. Most restaurants had tables and chairs so it would be lovely to sit outside on a hot summer's day.
~ * ~ * ~ So 10/10 for eating options ~ * ~ * ~
I'd give the hotel 7/10 overall. The room was OK, but not fantastic and I've stayed at better chain hotels for the same price. I've just looked at the Jury Inn hotel and they offer rooms at a similar price, so I will try that hotel instead of going back to the Ramada Encore.
Check in 2pm, check out 12pm
Info taken from the Ramada Encore website:
- 159 bedrooms
- Direct dial telephones
- Tea and coffee making facilities
- Interactive colour TV with Sky, radio channels and pay movie channels,
- Internet access available
- Ensuite bathrooms
- Hairdryers are provided
- Same day laundry and dry cleaning service
- Irons and ironing boards can be borrowed from Reception.