Thistles Hotel East Midlands Airport Castle Donington DE74 2SH * Hotel Information* Check in: 2pm Check out: 12 noon Cleaning services available. Wifi: free We stayed in the Thistle Hotel East Midland airport last Saturday, whilst visiting relatives in the area. I booked the hotel online rather last minute on the Friday night, but there were plenty of rooms available to choose from. We decided to treat ourselves to a "Deluxe King Size Room" at £109, standard rooms were available for around the £89 mark. East Midlands Airport is just 15-30 minutes away, there are plenty of parking options should you wish to leave your car there whilst on holiday. Rather annoyingly, we were charged a £5 car parking fee for our 1 night stay which we payed for on our departure. My boyfriend knows the area quite well and although we had not stayed at the Thistles before we had stayed at some of the other hotels in the area, so we had no problems arriving at our destination. The hotel was well sign posted as well and directions are given on the Thistles website. On our arrival we had a little trouble getting into the car park as the barriers were broken, we waited around ten minutes continuously pressing the call "help" button on the ticket station before a member of staff eventually answered and opened the barrier for us. By this time there was a queue forming behind us and we noticed that the car behind us was also left to sit and wait for help entering. The reception area was large and very inviting, there was comfy looking leather sofas and coffee tables to the left but we headed straight to the check in desk. There was only one lady at reception and when we arrived she was dealing with a rather disgruntled customer complaining about the car park barrier, which she dealt with in a quick professional manor. Check in was relatively easy and after giving my name and some general information I was told that the room had been pre- paid online, but that breakfast was not included. We decided to add breakfast to our stay, rather strangely I was told I could either purchase Breakfast coupons from her at £10 each, or pay for the breakfast at the restaurant in the morning which would cost £16 each. I don't really understand how they can charge two separate prices for the same thing, obviously I chose the cheaper option and was given two tokens to hand to staff at breakfast. I was told the times for breakfast, check out and the Leisure facilities. Overall, I found the check in process quick and easy. Finding our room was easy enough, the corridors were well sign posted. I felt the room was nice enough, it was decorated with framed Derby car racing pictures displayed on the walls. There was a wooden desk against one wall with a large mirror above it, there was a small hairdryer located in one of the desk draws which I didn't use as I had brought my own. There was also a kettle, two cups and some tea and coffee sachets on a movable wooden tray, the kettle was rather small and took forever to boil but it still served it purpose well enough. A large table in the corner housed the LCD TV which we found really easy to work, it had all the usual free-view channels. The bed was absolutely massive and I was quite pleased that I had decided to book the king size option, the bed was on the hard side but comfortable enough and we both slept well. We had a lovely view of a stream from our window. The bathroom was well equipped with all the usual complimentary shampoos, soap and body wash. It had a large mirror above the sink and a power shower above the bath. The room and bathroom were fine for our needs, it was clean and modern looking, After checking into our room we decided to visit the leisure facilities, again this was easy to find by following the sign posts. On our arrival we were asked to sign into the guests book before being given a small padlock and key for the lockers. The female changing rooms were incredibly small and cramped, there was just one communal changing area which was rather full so I ended up changing in one of the toilet cubicles. The lockers were large enough to fit my bag, coat and shoes in and they were free to use, so no need to search for a pound coin. There were two shower cubicles with complimentary shower gel, shampoo and conditioner. Hairdryers were also available, I think there were around three or four. The leisure facilities were on the small side, especially the pool. When we entered the pool there were already quite a few people in there, along with a number of children. There was a nice jacuzzi, we found it difficult to get a turn using it as for most of our stay it was taken up by children jumping in it. We enjoyed the sauna and found it very relaxing, the heat was checked by a member of staff on a regular basis. Unfortunately the steam room was out of order so we were unable to use it. There was also a solarium, but its not something I would be interested in trying so I cannot comment on how good it was. The leisure facility staff were friendly and approachable, the pools, changing rooms and sauna were all well kept and clean. We found the facilities to be just okay really, they certainly weren't exceptional or anything special. After our swim we went back to our room to get freshened up, my boyfriend rang reception and booked us a table for 8:30 at the "Sherwood" restaurant. The restaurant is located just past the bar, we were greeted by staff who showed us to our seats and took our drink orders. It was rather quiet but there was a lovely ambients and I felt comfortable and at ease during our stay. I was pleased to discover that they offered lots of vegetarian food, in fact the food served at the Thistle was Vegetarian Society Approved, something which I think they should advertise on their website! I ordered a Vegetarian mushroom and hallomi burger with fries and my partner ordered a curry, both meals arrived quickly and we thoroughly enjoyed them. Staff were polite and friendly, we had a nice chat with one member of staff whilst we were paying for our food at the till. The restaurant was really nice and the food was delicious and reasonably priced. We paid just over £35, for two main meals, one side, a bottle of beer and pint of beer. We finished our evening by having a few drinks in the Lord Byron bar, drinks were a little on the pricy side but not overly extortionate. Bar food was available but I didn't really take note of what was being offered. Breakfast was served in the restaurant, we handed our Thistle breakfast coupons to the staff who quickly shown us to our table and asked whether we wanted tea or coffee, before serving up our choice. The breakfast was buffet style and had all the usual croissants, pain au chocolate, fruit and cereal. There was also a hot breakfast food section with a chef cooking eggs, my boyfriend chose some fried eggs which he said tasted yummy and were cooked exactly as he likes them. I asked the chef if they did any vegetarian sausages, at first he looked rather blankly at me before showing me the meat sausages, which I declined. In the end I had beans, hash browns and mushrooms on toast. We found the breakfast enjoyable and well cooked, there was plenty of choice but I think some veggie sausages could have been made available. The Check out process was easy enough and the lady in reception was nice and chatty, I mentioned that we were planning on going into Nottingham for the day and she suggested a few places of interest to us. She informed us that the car park barrier was still broken, I was therefore a little surprised when we were still charged the £5 parking fee which I felt should have been wavered. On our departure from the car park we had to wait around 15 minutes for a member of staff to answer our call at the barrier to let us out. Overall we enjoyed our stay at the Thistle East Midland Hotel. The staff were friendly, efficient and cheerful which was nice to see from a chain hotel. Our room was nice, but perhaps a little on the expensive side - I have stayed in similar rooms in other hotels for much cheaper. The leisure facilities were nice enough, albeit a little crowded and on the small side. There was plenty of choice in the restaurant both for breakfast and evening meals. My boyfriend and I were able to have a nice relaxing break and I would certainly consider staying again.
Grand, impressive and commercially alluring, the Thistle Hotels sparkle, on first sight with all the Georgian style of traditional English excellence. One could almost imagine Kevin McCloud striding through the grounds decorating its themes with sheer grandness in his usual, colourful prose. Perhaps one could be slightly misled as to the very actual whereabouts of each magnificent structure. The hotel which I will embark on in this particular review is a classic example of such misleading quantities. However, what we found, apart from the little annoying things one always cant wait to find, we found our half way halt exactly what we had had in mind of a pleasant stay at a good price and this included free parking of which there is ample and all of 170 spaces! Relaxation on the Hard Shoulder The 137 roomed Thistle Hotel in Haydock stands proudly at Junction 23 of the North/ South corridor that we lovingly know as the M6; the very point where the A580 from Liverpool to Manchester crosses it. The picture from its home website (featured below) gives the impression of solitude, peace and tranquillity, far away from the fast lane which carries the dense amounts of traffic from one great Northern city to another. Although boasting its attractively landscaped gardens it is a large bank, like an inverted moat running around the outside of the Hotel to dull down the noise, it would appear, from the motorway. What actually appears, to the arriving guest is that this Hotel, in all its glory, sits, snugly just off the roundabout of the Junction. The one great advantage to this is that if one was to overshoot the slip road on arrival, then dont be discouraged. Youre place of peaceful relaxation is will quite happily stand out, giving a wide view of all passing at great speeds along the motorway and for those who are wheelchair users One thing that is important and should be mentioned here is their lack of disabled arrangements. According to this years Thistle Hotel brochure (which can be found free in any Thistle Hotel reception), this particular Hotel comes under a category 2, which means that the public areas are accessible for wheelchairs but the rooms may be a bit of a problem. There were no, it seemed, to be any rooms designed especially for wheelchair users. One should look out for a category 1 Hotel, but these seem few and far between. Two people and their child . Tired, drained and secretly wanting to never see another motorway again, our long drive from the Western Highlands of Scotland to the South Coast where we call home screamed out for an over night stop. Having nearly come to the end of our honeymoon, we left a burning desire to seek pampering, peaceful rest before embarking on that depressing last trek home back to dull normality. We wanted something luxurious, yet cheap, or at least, damn good value for money so after stumbling across the Thistle Hotels main website, we were surprised to see that they could offer a reasonably priced two night break. What concerned us the most was our five year old. After having been turned away from dozens of B+Bs like Joseph and Mary on Christmas Eve simply because owners cringed at the sound of the words, small child, we welcomed that warmth from the operators voice at the Thistle Hotel booking line when she said, oh yes, a small child is no problem at all, I shall book you straight away into the family room! I could have cried with joy . It has to be mentioned that it was this very tiny fact that swung the whole idea of a Thistle Hotel break for me. What they gave us was the family room; which appears as accommodation on the bill we paid on the last day at the very impressive £79 per night (per night; NOT per person, per night) with our young ankle biter eating breakfast every morning at £5 only. What we did notice, on arriving home, a couple of days later, is that they had failed to charge us for our son at all! (Some breaks can start from as little as £39.50 per person per night, although when these are, appears to be a mystery!) Either way, its a day at the Races Boasting its loose connection with the famous Haydock racecourse (not one that I had actually heard of before, being brought up in Epsom, you would think I would have heard of every flippin racecourse!) The Hotels many suits are named after racecourses or actual races themselves - every apt! It seems, that the only thing that the Hotel does have in relation to the near by course is that they can offer you a special deal named A Day At The Races, which, at a snip of only £145 per person, per night, will get you your two nights stay at the Hotel, transport to and from the racecourse after youve drunk enough Champagne with Canapés, actual enclosure tickets, dinner, the Racing Post paper and breakfast (as you know, that last one would be included per Hotel guest anyway!) The booking facilities can be found on the website (see below) but this stunning offer ends on the 31st of March 07. No doubt, they will think up another offer by then Yes, its along the mile long corridor and on the fifth floor We had arrived on a Saturday afternoon and went straight up to the room. Being a two floor Hotel, we are surprised not to see a lift of some sort. Our luggage from a week self catering plus a five year olds enormous toy collection was not a welcomed thought of having to lug the whole lot up the two flights of stairs ourselves. Still, no matter, we saw our room to be fairly fit with an already made up double sofa bed for youngun and a good sized bathroom, although the shower was somewhat powerful. Perhaps the idea had come from jet washing fire engines, everything had to be covered up before switching on, and I do mean, everything. Luckily, the maids were generous with the towels, perhaps they knew Another thing I noticed, and perhaps it is just me but it was nice to see a separate alcove for the tea and coffee making facilities. There is nothing worse that waking up the next day to splashes of coffee grains, slightly moist in tea stains scattered all over the table. It was a wonderful concept to splash your tea and coffee over a wall next to the bathroom instead We were also told that we had Sky TV in the room. We later found that this meant only Sky news, Sky sports one to three and any film had to be paid extra for, up to £10 extra in fact. After getting a little tired of asking for remote control batteries and getting offered ones that were completely the wrong size, we gave into the dullness of ITV ..I imagine that this is also a ploy to get you down to the bar to spend some money instead Feeling obliged to step out of the room that evening and after being refreshed in a car wash n wax sort of way courtesy of the power shower, we headed down to the bar for a quiet drink. We glided gracefully along the long corridor to the stairs, our son, skipping happily along, all full of excitement at his first stay in a proper hotel (Travelodges, not counted). I had smiled fondly at him that evening and perhaps in the back of my mind I thought that it wouldnt really matter what us adults thought of the place, to a child, such a place it magical and magnificent. All We wanted to do was find fault in it, because thats what us great British public do on holiday! We spotted the leisure facilities on the way down, but that was for the morning to follow Would mad am like the Duck ? We engage in the evening meal that Saturday night in the Hotel. Sitting somewhere between one large blue sign outside and another, we felt that it was to be a toss up between the all expensive, and unpronounceable restaurant or Burger King at the local motorway services. Fed up with greasy burgers, we craved for something a little celebration and considering it was the last bit of the infamous honeymoon, we plunked for the Hotel All dressed as could be expected after a mountain trekking holiday two hundred and fifty miles further North, we drifted into the every so swanky restaurant and felt immediately intimidated by the array of Silver Service, I almost asked the waiter for a crash course. Not a Hotel, officially stated as being child friendly, they did their very best in the kitchen to accommodate a small person with a fussy appetite. Whilst his parents played apprehensively with foreign lumps swimming in something looking like lemon curd, our child eager romped through fish fingers, beans and chips. Us adults felt hard done by .With ponsy ice cream on square ash trays to follow and no starters, the meal for all three of us came to a very cheap £29. See, it can be done . Dinner at The Haydock; Monday to Saturday 7pm to 10pm Sunday 7.30pm to 9.30pm. Lunch, if youre interested is served in the restaurant as follows; Monday to Friday 12.30pm to 2pm Saturday closed (Burger King then ) Sunday 1pm to 3pm. The Co. Motion Brewshop Café (which is basically the bar where you can order and pay for snacks) is open daily from 8am to 5pm for tea/coffee and other refreshments. You could literally eat all day if you really wanted to .. Take your partners please for the two bride two step! .. After swanking into the bar confidently at the thought of not having to count up all our spare pennies for a drink and three straws after the expense of dinner, we discovered to our amazement two wedding receptions being held at the same time. In a large Hotel, one can understand that to keep both parties separate, it wouldnt be at all difficult. For heavens, one can practically loose your bearings in such a large venue, but these receptions really did seem to be side by side. As one bride walked in, another walked out and that was how the evening went. Quite farcical and comical, it became the evenings entertainment by guessing who was with what reception party. This was followed by two simulations discos which, we were relieved to not be too disturbed by whilst in the spotlessly clean restaurant. Unfortunately, this was not the case when we arrived back in the room for that night. Trying to get a small child down to sleep when there is bass pounding through one wall and the delights of some drippy duo similar to the one at one reception in Four Weddings And A Funeral, it was no wonder that I was beginning to feel like it should be someones funeral . Apparently, according to the bar man that evening, this was quite the norm on a Saturday night, stating that two receptions was fairly quiet as they normally housed more. The Hotel actually can host all sorts of gathering all at the same time and offers 17 air conditioned rooms for such events, as well as eight more smaller meeting rooms with their own bathrooms. These can be catered for all individually, which, you have to hand it to them, it quite an accomplishment! They certainly pulled it off that evening, with, what it seemed, no hiccups what so ever . Ill have scrambled eggs followed by marmite and whats that over there Mum ? After passing out at around one in the morning from the joy of silence and ending reception parties from downstairs, we awoke with a more than simply lack of zest on Sunday morning wishing we had ordered breakfast in bed. This could have been done up until two in the morning at a £3 extra charge on top per room. Anyway, that eat as much as you can idea of the typical Hotel breakfast if enough to get down stairs and make as much crumbs as possible for! This was a sheer delight to our five year old who found it a complete novelty to try a mouthful and anything and everything. One has learn over the years to eat as much as you can possibly stuff into your face so that you dont have to fork out on eating pricey bar food for the rest of the day. The serving times where as follows; Monday to Friday; 7am to 10am Saturday; 7am to 11am Sunday ; 8am to 11am. All these times are very suitable and with breakfast being dished out until 11, then you dont have an excuse to miss out on the only freebie meal that youre going to get! Book yourself in to the receptionist in the restaurant and give her your room number, then dive in! Fancy a dip ? Not all of the Thistle Hotels are equipped with leisure facilities such as the Hotel at Haydock which houses a fairly well organised Otium Health And Leisure Club. This actually means, in this Hotel, a 14 foot large swimming pool, a childrens pool and Jacuzzi. Free of charge to the Hotels residents, which means anyone staying for more than one night or £5 for anyone else. With their opening times changing from Hotel to Hotel, you can quite literally soak into a prune state for an entire day, which is the feat that we all tried to accomplish in the Jacuzzi. This was to be one of our sons favourite things apart from the small, but friendly playground outside, (just enough for a small child to race around for half an hour.) The changing rooms are separate and come well equipped with free usage of towels, showers including shower gel dispensers and hair dryers. I also spotted a spin dryer to dry out your swimming things in and a build in sauna in the changing rooms too. I was told by my husband that the gents also supplied these things too. Also, for both ladies and gents, you will need a pound con for your locker! This was something we didnt know about until we had actually got changed into swim wear. Thankfully, we had some change on us! If that wasnt enough for any guest, they can then enjoy the run of all the weight training kit in the gym next door, although we found that a letter from your GP is required before you are allowed to run riot in there! Trainers are on hand to give you a quick run through of any type of kit youre not sure about. Also on offer were facials, make up lessons (!) waxes, mud packs, massages and goodness knows what else for the ladies. Price guides and offers where only to be found in the guest welcome packs in the rooms. And finally . Due to another long drive home in front of us on the Monday, we felt the need to not leave the Hotel all day on the Sunday. I have to admit, it was pretty difficult to kill a day in the Hotel, although, the brochure informs us that we would find it hard to leave. Having a small child to entertain at the best of times is pretty hard going, but in a Hotel that is not designed for children, it can be even worse. What did amuse our son was being allowed by his parents to charge around and around the corridors, stopping every one in a while at the bar for a refreshing orange juice. An event that even I didnt mind doing whilst the drive of the family clan, lay re charging his batteries in the room. In total, it had been a fairly depressing time at Haydock, only because it was the last leg of a wonderful holiday. Had it been another time, I would have enjoyed our stay even more. What I will mention is that as the usual idea goes, Hotel staff are young, over worked and incredibly underpaid. I know, that was me in my youth, struggling to get to the Hotelier top, but throughout our stay, we found everyone single member helpful, polite, friendly and charming, right from the chambermaids to the heads of staff. There was indeed a warm atmosphere although the receptionist managed to accidentally charge a vast amount to my husbands credit card then promptly put it back again. It is these little things that can be overlooked very quickly. I had always had a good impression of the Thistle Hotels, simply as it had been a chain that my Hotel had kept aspiring to. The very essentials of a good Hotel where all there; cleanliness and friendliness. Once you have that, then the finer details dont seem to matter. All information can be found on; www.thistlehotels.com/haydock Manchester Airport ; 18 miles Wigan rail station; 7 miles 0870 333 9100 booking line www.thistleleisurebreaks.com Thistle Haydock Penny Lane Haydock Merseyside WA11 9SG Tel; 0870 333 9136 ©sam1942 2006 Also on Ciao
I recently spent 2 nights at a graduate job assessment centre in the ultra exotic location of Middlesbrough. Our venue for our stay way their local Thistle hotel which, though national, is a chain I had not experienced before. The directions on the website were reasonable and though a short detour meant it took me twice as long as planned to get there from the station, the fact that it was located just moments away meant I was still there within 10 minutes of stepping off the train. Checking in took a few minutes as a group of us seemed to have arrived at once, so I had chance to look around the lobby. This was small as they go, with only 8 seats available - meaning that when out group of 11 assembled there in the morning some were left standing. The lobby area was not a particularly interesting one, housing a few free newspapers and essential local tourist information leaflets (though I use the word "local" in the loosest possible way since one was for attractions in the Blackpool area - quite a treck from this area of the country). When my turn came I managed to check in with very little fuss and was quickly assigned a non-smoking room up on the 6th floor - floors 2 to 8 are bedrooms with level one being the restaurant area and the 9th floor the conference area, full of boardrooms and coffee corners where we would soon find ourself spending our days. In fact, the only trouble arose when the girl on reception enquired "Guardian or Express, Madam?" to which I replied "No, thank you", and immediately notice my mistake in not realising it was an either or question, and not an option to be declined. Leaving her still bemused (but really, do I *look* like a Guardian reader?) I took the lift up to my room. I had expected this chain to be somewhere between Ibises and travel lodges in the hierarchy of chain hotels, and this turned out to be pretty much the case. The bedroom housed all the usual suspects - large double bed, p lenty of drawer and wardrobe space, two tables and a desk, lounging arm chairs and so on. The bathroom was sparkling and though compact (if I'm being nice - cramped if I'm not) had a bath as well as a shower, lovely large basin and temperamental toilet. The complementary toiletries were lovely and even came with a note saying you were more than welcome to take them home. They were Otium branded which is the name of their Pool / Gym / Spa set up, and in a change from the usual impossible to open sachets, came in adorable single-use bottles. The room seemed clean and all my belongings were tided the second day leaving me quite guilty about the way I'd left my papers scattered across the bedspread that morning. Hidden inside one wardrobe was a trouser press / ironing board combination, and an extremely hard to figure out iron that didn't want to switch off for a good 40mins after I politely suggested to it that it did so. There was also a free in room safe that could be easily programmed with the 4 letter security code of your choice. A note in the room politely requested that you store any valuables in it at all times, so it became home to my GHDs and portable DVD player for the duration of my stay. I would have liked a minibar if only to store my brought-with-me drinks in, but apart from that I was lacking for nothing. The room was a good temperature - not hot and stuffy as some can be - and the window opened easily though only in the tilting way - no doubt to stop you plunging half a dozen stories to your death if the view made you feel a bit despondent and you started looking for a way to end the torture. The television provided was a large one but the channels disappointing - only sky sports as well as terrestrial. Pay per view movies were charged at £7.50 per channel so if you wanted to watch more than one production the bill quickly added up. Choices were limited to semi-recent cinema / DVD releases - Finding Nemo, Sea biscuit and Calendar girls were all on offer, along with 4 adult channels offering such quality titles as "little lace panties" among others. The hotel has a gym and pool area open Monday to Friday from 6.30am - 10pm, and 8am - 8pm at weekends. Both were small but acceptable for hotel places, and I quickly fell in love with their cross trainers, fitting in a worrying 4 visits in the day and a half I was there. I also made it to the pool once and from there to an ultra relaxing 10 minutes in the Jacuzzi where I was entertained by a young lady (16ish) who told me all about the time her and "the boyf" stayed over in the hotel for a valentines day treat. How lovely. The amount of chlorine in both the pool and Jacuzzi made me glad that body lotion was one of the products provided in the bathrooms as well as the usual bath foam and shampoo. The hotel claims to have a café and restaurant though in actual fact these are located in the same room. We were on full board (not usually on offer) so ate 6 meals there during our stay. Breakfast was acceptable though the buffet tables were a sincere let down after the menu guide provided on the table The "baker's basket" of croissants, baps, bagels and muffins turned out to be a tatty rattan affair with a pitiful number of half baked rolls. Cereals, cold meats (lots) and cheese (2 kinds - Cheddar and Cheshire), fruit salad and yoghurts were also available. A cooked breakfast was on offer but had nothing vegetarian either morning - just limp looking sausages and pieces of bacon swimming half-heartedly in a pool of grease. Toast (obviously the thistle term for "warm bread") was brought to tables whether you wanted it or not. Drinks were mainly self service and include apple, orange, grapefruit and tomato juices. I asked for a glass of water one day since the jug containing it had been taken off to a table by a rather thirsty looking guest, but this took a while to materialise. The second morning all the jugs were full of other things, but my request for l'eau was met much quicker. A reception style problem occurred once more when the waiter offered "tea or coffee?" and I came back with a "no thank you" once more. He looked quite put out, but obviously remembered the next morning because I wasn't offered either again. Both mornings I was met with an "are you dining *alone*?" which was followed by a silent but very much implied "surely not". I have eaten alone at restaurants and in hotels all over Europe and America, but have to say it only ever seems to be an issue within the UK. Lunch was buffet service and a limited one at that - a small selection of salads and meats, some rolls and a couple of hot dishes - such as rice and chicken curry one day. Luckily the pudding selection was outstanding - so much so that on our last day I felt the need to have 3 trips to that table, chowing down on chocolate mousse, cheesecake and chocolate fudge cake in turn. The evening was more of the same - we were on a limited version of the main menu, and though not much appealed to me, I made up for it at chocolate bombe and cheese and biscuits time. Those eating proper meals said the food was ok if not outstanding. The menu is described as MediterAsian, incorporating a mix of the two types, but all menus were noticeable lacking in vegetarian options. Drinks were unbelievably expensive for the north east, so aside from breakfast most of us stuck to water. Room service can be ordered, but the prices are high and the selection not very extensive. The conference facilities seemed ok with all rooms full of pads of paper, snazzy Thistle Hotel pens, flip charts and OHPs. The coffee areas were well stocked at all times and a small selection of biscuits constantly available, and I never saw so many bottles of mineral water in one room as I did during our sessions there. Security in the hotel seemed good, and the li fts themselves don't work in the evening unless you swipe them with your room key card which seemed a good idea given the location. I would probably not have chosen the hotel any more than I would have chosen the city in question, but for an all expenses paid trip I think we were all happy to tick good in the "verdict on accommodation" section of our feedback questionnaires. My bill said £102 per night dinner bed and breakfast which was ridiculously high - but probably one of those rack rates no one ever pays. I'm almost certain the company were paying no more than half that for the group of us. The location in town was good - a cinema and several pubs were nearby, and the shopping centres were just a stone's throw away. Overall, a fine hotel for business travel, but a little over priced and under equipped for me to choose to stay at if my own credit card was being charged. Whether or not I get the job (results out at the end of the month, so fingers crossed) I am glad I got to try this place out, and must say I felt lovely and secure in the hotel despite the surroundings.
Well here I am , back from the hot weather of Tenerife, seems like the UK has a good spell of it too. When I book a holiday, one of the first things afterwards is always how do we get to the airport. We usually use a Taxi service who charge £60 return for about a 50 minute drive. This time though, the owner of the company was trying to dictate to me what time he wanted to pick us up, when in fact, I wanted to tell him, afterall I am the customer, right? I lost my patience and told him to forget it, then hurriedly went on the internet to find an alternative. Not knowing what I was really looking for, I typed into Google, airport parking. The first site I came across was ABC Holiday extras, this company came up with a hotel for a night and car parking for up to 15 days for a price of £84. What a good idea I thought, we could drive to the hotel the night before we flew and stay there all refreshed, then get up in the morning and get on the plane. The hotel I fancied the best, or was it because it was a well known name, was The Thistle near Manchester airport. We have already stayed at a Thistle Hotel in Manchester city centre, and after swapping rooms once, we found it ok. This time, we hoped for something a little more luxurious. Jumping the gun a bit, I booked with ABC holidays and a week or so later, I received the accomodation voucher. Dave and I was expecting the hotel to be in the airports surroundings and to leave the car there, but when we arrived, it was at least 5 miles away from the airport, but actually felt about a lot more. We found the hotel quite easily with written directions on the voucher. It's actually on Wilmslow Rd off the M60, then you follow signs for Heald Green. Go through the town, then it's not far from there. It's actually set on quite a busy road, and when you pull into the grounds of the hotel, there is a building which looks in need of repair, this apparently is staff quarters, which we found out off a Spanish waiter, wouldn't like to swap accomodations with him. The hotel is within seconds of entering the grounds, there are a few car parking spaces at the front of the hotel, then it looked like there was underground parking too. We parked just outside the door as we needed to unload the car with our suitcases and Dave's bicyle which he always brings on our hols, grrrr. The first thing I noticed, was the ramps for the disabled access and wheelchair users, also there weren't too many steps for the able bodied. That was a good thing, as I don't always see this happening in hotels. *THE ENTRANCE* On entering the hotel , it always gives me the first impression of things to come. It was not massive but looked very clean and inviting. The floors were marble, there was a small reception area, with very friendly staff. They welcomed us, and even though David had a bike in a rather large box, they offered to lock it up for him in a secure room. They reasssured him, he could gain access to the room whenever he wanted, but no, you don't know my husband and his precious bike, he had to take it upstairs with him to our room. No problem said the receptionists, if it will fit in the lift. We were given an electronic card for the key which is really much the norm nowadays, they are really much lighter than a heavy key and it's fob. Didn't get asked if we wanted a newspaper, or wakeup call or breakfast, but then they probably forgot with me waffling on. What surprised me though, was the fact that we couldn't leave the car there for the week we were in Tenerife. They said because we had booked with ABC, the contract is with them and the company Airparks, this meant driving another mile or so in the morning to park the car. Parking at the hotel which you book with them, was £3.50 a day, how I wish I had known first. Walking through the lobby, I noticed there were quite a lot of comfy chairs, near a window overlooking the garden area, it even had a little wooden balcony if the weather had been nice. In the middle of the entrance hall, was a table with leaflets to read, and some sort of newspaper. To be honest, I can't remember much else, couldn't say if there were any vending machines or not. Overally though, it was a pleasant and welcoming hallway, with carpeted stairs leading to the restaurant and bar area. One thing I noticed which I've never seen before, was a Stenna stairlift chair on the balcony rails, this was in case they had disabled people unable to use the stairs. What a great idea, I was even tempted to have a go myself. There wasn't too many stairs though, but would have been awkward for those struggling to walk. *THE BATHROOM* We went up in the lift and was told the room was 47, think it was on the second floor. The signs on the wall told us which direction our room was in, still I seem to get lost. The corridors were quite wide, much wider than The Thistle at Piccadily Manchester City Centre. The carpets was a lovely blue, which was in good condition, we only noticed a few threadbare bits later on. Overally, it was lovely. On entering the Non Smoking room of number 47, I squealed with delight. The room looked lovely, the same blue carpet was in the bedroom, but looked brand new. The first thing I noticed, was it was rather larger than I first expected. The room was in a corner, so it had a bit more room, it was like an L shape first, then quite a large area for the bed etc. The bathroom was the first room we came to. God knows why, but I always have to check this room out first, I look forward to relaxing in the bath with their freebies. Girls you will know what I mean. The bathroom was a nice size, not too small, not too big. The Black and White tiles on the floor were shining, and clean. The tiles around the bath and the rest of the room, were ivory Marble, which were all intact, something which i'm quite fussy about. I can't stand tiles that look dirty and half hanging off, don't come to my house then!!!!. There was a bath with shower over, the shower curtain was white and felt like Silk, no stains or marks was on it. It felt luxurious. The normal sink and toilet was also there. There was an added bonus of a heated towel rail, which came on in the evening, lovely touch I thought. There were plenty of towels, even though i hadn't found them all straightway, they were hidden in some drawers in the bedroom. On the wall was a shaver point and a funny contraption which was a hairdryer in disguise. It reminded me of a hand dryer you find in the loos with an attachement. I used it once, but I wouldn't rely on it if you like to blow dry your hair prfectly. I looked like Wurzel Gummidge afterwards, it blew it all over the place. On the ledge were a few toiletries, which consisted of a Shampoo, a bath and shower gel and a bar of soap. Really just the basics, a body lotion would have been nice. But then I only nick them and put them in my handbag, still I've paid for them haven't I?.Plenty of loo rolls too. Overall a beautifully clean bathroom, which I'm sure even The Queen would use. *THE BEDROOM* After the bathroom, you come back out into a little L shaped corridor, where you pass the mirrored wardrobe. The wardrobe is made from a lovely Light Oak and when you open it, it lights up inside. There wasn't so many coathangers, but then this hotel is really only for business people who stop over for a night or two. Inside was the luggage holder, which you can rest your suitcase onto if you like, didn't bother as we wasn't really staying long. There was also a spare pillow which I always use and a blanket if needed. The trouser press was a clever gadget, as it was a combined ironing board too, you could iron your clothes, there was a Phillips iron provided, non steam and the trouser pr ess if only needed to iron the trousers. It was compact and didn't take up any room as it was built into the wall, cleverly stowed away. The bed was a double which we had asked for, it had a pretty blue patterned through over on top, with crispy white sheets and matching pillowcases. David is 6 ft and struggles with his feet hanging over the edge, this wasn't too bad he said. Me, well I'm only a wee 5 ft, and roll up into a ball anyway when I sleep. Next to the bed on each side were drawers with light switches built into them. They were also in the lovely light Oak finishings to match the wardrobe. Above the bed was a massive mirror, great if you want to jump and down on the bed and see yourself. Made the room look bigger I think. In the drawers was the usual yellow Pages and telephone directory and bible. The telephone too was placed upon the cabinets and in a handy place in case of emergencies, or your early morning wake up call. The dressing table, could be used as a desk where there was a reading lamp situated for the business person doing late night homework. The 14" portable sat proudly at the end with the remote control intact, that's another thing, most remotes in hotels are broken or the backs off. I glanced at the Tv and noticed it said Welcome Mrs Metcalfe, what a nice touch. Along with the usual channels were the choice of Pay per View channels, not sure what they cost sorry, didn't bother to find out. There was a menu which detailed prices of room service, there was a laundry service with plastic bag to put your dirty clothes in, and some stationary and pencil in the drawers. A kettle and plenty of tea and coffee were placed on the shelf near the window. We even had two packs of yummy biscuits, which were Fruit and Lemon and Stem ginger, nice they were too. You only had to contact reception for more supplies, free of course. The pottery which came with the tea set, were nice qua lity white bowls and a tea pot, plainly decorated, but everything looked nice and new. There were two large windows in the room with clean and white net curtains, and those lovely curtains, I nearly pinched them for my home. They were tie backs, but set the room off nicely. Little did we know how noisy the room was going to be. During the day, I suppose the traffic was quite noisy, but when at night it sounded like the window was open, I went to investigate. I lifted the net curtain up, and found the window closed, but there was brown tape all round the bottom bit of the sash window. Don't think it was double glazed as it let too much noise in. The lovely effect of the room overall was let down with this unslightly brown tape and noise from the roadside. We only stayed one night, so we put up with it, afterall the room was lovely, just needed a new window. You never would have known until I went to investigate. *ROOM SERVICE* This was mostly 24 hours, with some of the menu only available until a certain time. The surcharge I think was £3.00, don't quote me there. This is some of the choice. Minute Steak and Onion Baguette £4.10 Tuna , Mayo and cucumber sandwich at £3.50, on baguette £4.20 Smoked Salmon on bread £4.75, baguette £6.00 Smooth Liver Pate with Cumberland Preserve and baked Garlic bread, £3.95 Fantail of Sweet Melon with Atlantic Prawns £3.95 Wine Chardonnay, Moondarra £17.50 Red, soft fruity , Vin de Pays £12.10 a bottle Champagen (Lanson) £39.95 By the glass White Wine £4.95 Red £4.95 Beers included Rolling Rock, Stella Artois and Heinekin. In the room was also a Do not Disturb sign and a dressing table chair and another chair which we always shove our clothes on. *THE RESTAURANT AND BAR AREA* In the afternoon to kill a bit of time we went into the bar area, which was up the stairs from the entrance hall, and even though it was quite small, it felt nice and cosy. There was a TV with sky news etc, free newspapers and a Spanish waiter behind the bar. I felt as though I was already on my holidays. I ordered a coffee and a beer for David. It came to £4.20. When the waiter came, he brought me a pot of coffee which I could have got three cups from, sugar cubes and milk, quite a little tea party, the only thing missing was a biscuit or two. He then gave me 75p back as he had overcharged me, I thought it was expensive, but never queried it, not like me. The bar has some comfy settees and chairs, with coffee tables, it also overlooked a lovely garden with small decking area for the warmer weather. The restaurant which is called The Pinewood was open 7am until 9.30 midweek and 8 until 10 pm for the weekends. You can either have a bar snack sat in the bar or take the food into the restaurant. There's also a restaurant menu which ranges in prices. We opted for the three course menu for £19. Starters consisted of Soup, quite a large bowlful, Melon with a few strawberries for me and Dave. I had Chicken, with Bacon bits, and Onion in a lovely sauce, roast potatoes, and veg, David had Roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding, but the psoh way of course. For dessert, we had Lemon Meringue and cream and some sort of Chocolate Mousse cake. Then came Coffee, and Mints. I must say the room, was gorgeous, the waiters were mainly spanish and very friendly. I chatted them to death wanting to know where they came from. apparently they came from Madrid,and Alicante and one of them was staying to learn more english living in the staff quarters, to which he pulled his face. When I sat down, they pulled the chair out for you, which I must say embarrasses me a little, as I'm not much of a lady. There were only a few people in there, two of which were German and American and who had the biggest mouth, bitch aren't I?. They probaly wondered what this riffraff lot wanted, as everybody seeme d to be businesslike. Also if you were lucky you get see out of the window loverlooking yet again the lovely gardesn, it really was a sahme we only stayed for one night. The restaurant was split into two parts, we never got to see in the other side. I wondered if it was a smoking part, not sure though. Overally the service was very efficient and probably one of the best meals we had, had all week, it really was delicious. The portions were just right, not overfacingly large, but not Noveau Quisine either, (not sure if I've spelt it right). I really did enjoy the fuss and the waiters were friendly and still came across as professional, maybe they appreciated a little banter instead of some stoney faced business men dining there for a change. Breakfast was also available there for £10.50 a head, but we didn't take them up on their offer as we were going to eat at the airport for half the price, that's a change isn't it? I really think paying £10.50 is quite expensive especially when I don't eat much at this unearthly time of the day. If you wanted it in your bedroon you could, at a supplement of another £3.00 on top. Choice was Full English with Two eggs, fried or scrambled or even boiled, Back Bacon, Tomato, Mushrooms, sausages. There was orange, Tomato, grapefruit Juice, Melon, Prunes, fresh Grapefruit, Cereals, croissants, toast with preserves, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, the list goes on. The price isn't bad if you could eat a lot in the morning, but I can't. *FACILITIES* There wasn't anything fancy like a Gym, or swimming pool, but the facilites they had were all adequate. You could send faxes,to the UK at £2.00 a page, Eire and Europe at £3.50 and the rest of the world was £5.00 a page. You could access and retrieve voice mail, from your room free of charge, and if needing a doctor there was also a number provided.You could vacate your room at 12. 0 clock which was nice a s sometimes 10 am is the norm. The Stairlift, was an extra touch I've never seen before. The only thing wrong was the noise from the road and the make do brown tape for the window. I presume some of the other rooms are not near the road, and if we do it again, will be requesting a quieter room afterall there are 58 of them to go through. There are 19 Non Smoking Rooms to choose from, some with single beds, some with doubles. There is air conditiong throughout and not once did I feel cold, it was heated just nice and comfortable. There were several rooms for meetings, but I didn't need these, not this time, ha ha. Including parking and the one night stay over it cost us £84 for the whole thing, car parking overnight was free, but if you just booked the hotel room and wanted car parking for the rest of your stay whilst you are on holiday, it was £3.50 a day. It was very secure too. To book the hotel direct, please visit www.thistlehotels.com, prices range from £52 per room including breakfast right up to £125 per room. I would definetly recommend this hotel, it's sister hotel in Manchester City Centre needs to take note, this hotel is much nicer. The first impressions when going into the reception, always count for me. Lovely throughout, without being overpriced. Normally I wouldn't splash out this kind of money for a one night stay, but David thought spending £84 for the room and parking, and the £38 for the meal, plus tips and extra drinks was a little bit extravagant, to me it got the holiday off to a great start. He thought the money would have been better spent in Tenerife itself, tight git.
Well I have already done an opinion on Crete in general, the hotel I stayed in on the island, and now to continue the series another hotel opinion. This time the Thistle Hotel at Gatwick airport was the first place of stop for the holiday. General ******* Well it may not be the most stylish place to begin a great holiday, but it was sort of essential. We had a flight from London Gatwick airport to Crete’s capital Heraklion for 7:35 in the morning. Coming from the Westcounty it would be a long 3-hour drive to Gatwick to make that sort of time in the morning flight, and not liking early mornings anyway a hotel for the previous night looked a good option. Gatwick airport has several hotels from large chains, so there was plenty of choice. For no particular reason we chose the Thistle Hotel. Ok, so we went of a good reputation and some good experience of other Thistle hotels, so it was not pure chance. The total cost of the one night stay was £119. This included a £20 car fee (see below) and one room for five people. A double bed for mum dad and baby and two other beds. Great. Location, Location, Location ************************ Thistle have hotels all across the country and have one of the most famous links. They even have one in Exeter and in most cities across the country. The Gatwick version is not found in Gatwick, but in the town of Horley. It is still two miles out from the actual airport. This is a big advantage as it is off the flight path and you are not woken up at three in the morning by a Boeing 747 screaming overhead. Getting there is very easy with directions coming off their website it was so easy even I was able to not get lost there. Getting to Gatwick involves going through the M23 from pretty much any direction, via the M25 around London. To get to the hotel itself you have to overshoot the airport then go past three roundabouts following signs for Redhill to get on the A23. It is only a few miles o ff and the hotel is right on the final roundabout. Gatwick airport is signposted from miles out so there is very little chance to miss it. Conditions ********* The Gatwick Thistle Hotel was formerly a Tudor house, and still has the classic black and white look. This makes it not a high rise hotel, but has a little bit of a traditional feel still. However space is well used inside the hotel. The rooms are good and comfortable, if a little small. Well it is very small, there are lots of rooms and not a lot of floor space. It is not exactly the reason why people come, and it is used for sleeping and not for a full holiday. The size of the rooms is a let down, but it still is a pleasant hotel. Overall it is pretty standard but not uncomfortable. Facilities ******** There is very little to do in the hotel. It is a business meeting and sleep over style so does not try and provide for kids with swimming pools, gyms and games rooms. There are comprehensive conference facilities with meeting, seminar rooms and the location to London and the airport makes it popular destination. The rooms have a good bathroom and the beds are comfortable. The TV has satellite and the usual videos and ‘extras’ on paid TV. One of the best reasons for staying at the Thistle at Gatwick was the movement to and from the airport. They run a personal bus service direct from the hotel to both the north and south terminals at Gatwick. Buses leave the hotel every half hour on the half hour, and from the airport you ring up the hotel free of charge and they come and collect you. They charge you £20 extra on the bill for this, but it is well worth it. It saves paying for the long term parking for a week which more than pays itself, but also saves all the time and hassle of moving kids and bags to and from the car park to the airport then back again. They keep your car keys in reception, and your car is kept safe in the hotel car park. An excellent service. Food ***** The Gatwick Hotel has two eating-places. There is a bar and the full restaurant, both open to the public as well as guests. We stayed for just one evening and passed on the breakfast in time for our early flight. The food was good for one meal, but quite pricey as it was not included. The evening meal was very good. A wide selection of good food, a bit more than a pub lunch, but not quite gourmet. I had a salad starter and then a beef main course. They also cater very well for kids with a full menu of burgers and chips and so on. The breakfasts looked to be a cereal and other buffet with hot food to order. Lunches are sandwiches and other snacks but not full meals. The room service menu is similar to the snacks. Conclusions *********** A great hotel, nice and comfortable for a stay. A great place to stay before a flight or any stopover, though not a place to come for a real holiday by itself. The price is very little considering the things you save for not having to pay long term parking at the airport and saving inconvenience. Well worth staying at for flights to London Gatwick.
I have stayed at several hotels in the Thistle chain throughout the country and I must say that standards vary depending on where you stay. I found the Thistle in Newcastle to be somewhat dated and because of it's location on a very busy road, very noisy. The Atlantic Tower Thistle in Liverpool however proved modern, clean and had excellent views over the river Mersey. The staff I found exceptionally friendly and helpful. One draw back however - it was quite a walk to park your car and with two heavy suitcases to carry in pouring rain, it wasn't quite the start I had in mind for our short break. Recently I stayed in London's Tower Thistle. This for me has been the best of the chain so far. Situated adjacent to Tower Bridge on the north side of the River Thames, the location is excellent. From our room we had splendid views of the Bridge, even the rooms towards the rear of the hotel had views over St Katherine's Dock. The rooms were large, airy and modern and with all the usual facilities, hairdryer, tea making facilities, fax machine etc (these were included in the other Thistle hotels) etc. However the quiet location of the hotel meant a couple of good nights sleep which after two hectic days in the city was more than welcome. The eateries in most Thistle hotels have been adequate. I had read an AA Guide book which was two years old but mentioned that the Tower Thistle had an outstanding restaurant, The princes Room. I was greatly disappointed to find that this had changed to a carvery. On a more adventurous note, there is a cafe cum wine bar, The Waterside. You won't find gourmet cooking here but simple dishes ranging from pizza, some unusual pasta dishes, a good range of vegetarian options and a couple of very tasty curries. Note that it isn't a place for dressing up, most people were wearing jeans. None of the hotels have had leisure facilities, although a couple have provided shops and the Tower houses a Haagan Das ice cream shop. This particular chain provides an adequate service with all the necessary requirements but nothing out of the ordinary. Personally I would choose a Thistle hotel for a short break but not for a special occasion. You are looked after but not pampered and if you are looking for somewhere with good restaurants, then you will need to look elsewhere.