“ Address: Highfield Drive / Ayr / KA8 9SH / Scotland „
On a recent holiday to the Outer Hebrides, we needed somewhere to stay overnight before undertaking the mammoth drive up to the far north of Scotland. As my boyfriend and I would be travelling from different places and meeting there it needed to be somewhere convenient for both of us and not too far from Stranraer. We settled on the Travelodge in Ayr solely because it was handy and they were happy to let my dog stay.
Before we get started on the review proper, here are some things I have learned about Scotland and the Scottish:
- The Irish could drink them under the table. I drove through every wee town and hamlet between Stranraer and Ayr on a Friday night at around 9pm and I didn't see a sinner. All the pubs looked closed and no one was having a fight in the street. Tsk.
-The Scottish LOVE a road sign or twenty thousand. Seriously. In Ireland, we assume that a bit of praying and the luck of the Irish will get you to where you want to go, and warning signs are thin on the ground unless the car might actually blow up under you. On the road to Ayr there was a veritable forest of signs at the side of the road that cautioned me about everything from ducks to deer to old people. Now, I appreciate that hitting a deer may perturb both me and it, but the elderly can take their chances.
- The Scottish LOVE speed cameras. In Northern Ireland we have 4 and everyone knows where they are. One of them keeps getting firebombed because they stupidly positioned it right outside a bad boys' home. By contrast, between the hotel and the airport I counted eight speed cameras. That's excessive, surely?
- Glen Coe is one of the most impressive places on Earth. Everyone should go (although not all at the same time. It's only a wee road.)
Anyway, now that I've informed you about all things Scotlandish, here's what the hotel was like.
=== Location, location, location ===
I'll admit early on to not being overly familiar with Ayr, but even I could tell that this isn't exactly in a prime location. As I drove to it (whilst swearing at Sat Nav Bint) I didn't get the impression that I was even close to the town. It's definitely more of an out-of-town business park kind of place. Mind you, it is handy for the airport and I don't think it's so far out that it's going to cost you a month's salary in taxi fares to get to the pub and back.
The parking is sufficient without being ample. The site is shared with a Bannatyne's gym (why would anyone entrust that gurning Scottish curmudgeon with their fitness?) and a Frankie and Benny's so you could get parked there if desperate. The parking is not secure but the site is set far enough back from the main road that we had no worries about leaving our cars there.
=== Check In ===
Check in was reasonably straightforward. And when I say 'reasonably', I mean 'not at all'. The man at the desk mumbled an incomprehensible blend of consonants and grinned; I said my name. He said more incomprehensible consonants; I smiled politely. He barked incomprehensible consonants even more loudly, waved at the dog and pointed at the lift; I dropped my key card and failed to make the lift work 3 times. He showed me how to make the lift work whilst muttering incomprehensible consonants and then showed me the blood stains on the carpet from where there'd been a fight earlier; I did my best to look suitably impressed and consternated. Via means of visual aids and semaphore, I managed to convey that I'd like a key card left on the desk for my boyfriend; he showed me the bloodstains again.
In fairness, whilst his accent was mighty to tricky to understand, I had worked late the night before, got up at 6am to pack the car, been at work all day, spent three hours on a ferry and then driven an hour and a half to get there, so I was pretty spaced out. Despite our spectacular failure to understand each other I managed to get myself and the dog to our room without too much mishap.
=== The Room ===
If you've seen one Travelodge room, you've seen them all and this one fitted the mould nicely. The little convection heater had obviously been on all day and, as it was pretty mild in October, the room was like a sauna. I turned it off and opened the window but as they have those annoying anti-suicide catches on the window the fresh air that got in was seriously limited. Am I alone in finding that irritatingly nannyish? Admittedly, the average Travelodge is just about bleak enough to tip you from 'a bit down' to 'goodbye cruel world' but surely that should be individual choice? And, has anyone who really wanted to end it all had their minds changed because they couldn't open the window far enough? Anyway, I've digressed. I like a cool bedroom, temperature-wise, and the stuffiness was unpleasant.
The minute I sat down on the bed I knew I was in for a bad night as it was so ridiculously soft as to be like going to bed on the Stay Puft marshmallow man out of Ghostbusters. I'm not a masochist who likes a bed made out of bricks but I find a really squishy bed uncomfortable and it makes my lower back ache. On the plus side, the bed linen was nice and clean and there were enough pillows.
The space was well-appointed with a couple of built-in bedside tables and reading lamps, and a long wooden vanity unit. We were only staying one night but there were enough power points to make it suitable for laptop use and there was also tea and coffee making facilities. There was no wardrobe as such; a hanging space with fixed hangers stood in instead. Travelodges must be the only chain to still offer CRT tellies but the one we got was of a decent size and did the job for one night. More importantly it offered football results which kept the boyfriend happy.
The bathroom was nothing special but a decent size with good water pressure. The shower was over the bath and couldn't be detached from the wall, which is awkward for leg-shaving purposes. From what I recollect there were absolutely no toiletries provided other than a couple of weeny bars of soap. The towels were fluffy and clean but were what I would describe as a large hand towel: grand for wrapping your hair up in but not really big enough for entire body. The best bit is the magic demisting mirror which clears a little face-shaped space enabling you to put make-up on no matter how steamy the room is.
Overall the room was fine for one night, but any more than that and I'd have found it a bit depressing. It wasn't awful by any means, more a bit scruffy and in need of a really thorough clean and sprucing up.
=== Noise ===
It wasn't exactly a silent night, but nor was it so bad that I felt the need to complain. The halls are carpeted which makes a big difference to noise levels but we still heard a few people returning to their rooms in the middle of the night.
=== Breakfast ===
Costs around a fiver and comes in a bag. Don't even consider it if you have any sense. You can put together nicer noms by shopping around in the nearest Spar or garage.
=== Check out ===
I'd pre-paid when I booked so it was just a case of leaving the key cards at the desk and hitting the road. The cost for the two of us and the dog was £45.50 which is stupidly cheap (and would have been even cheaper without the £20 pet surcharge). As always with these kinds of chains, the best deals are to be had by booking a bit in advance.
What's that I hear you say - another Travelodge review? Well, yes, I am afraid I am going to review another Travelodge.
I was going to resist but this one is significantly different from the London ones I have reviewed in the past and I think justifies a write-up.
I stayed at the Travelodge in Ayr a couple of weeks ago after our Stena HSS had docked back in Scotland following our day trip to Belfast.
The reason I chose to stay in Ayr was because I had done an 83 mile drive from my sister's house to Stranraer that morning and if anyone is familiar with the A77 road south of Ayr, they will know it requires concentration and care for a driver. The road is single lane, takes in some beautiful scenery, is full of sharp bends and is, quite frankly, not what I am used to.
I decided I couldn't face the entire return drive to Edinburgh once we got back to Stranraer and I also didn't want to put my sister out - she lives in a small flat - so I decided to book a hotel in Ayr, which is just over an hour's drive north of Stranraer.
The problem was I left it too late to book anything - all the hotels were fully booked - except for the Travelodge. My instant reaction to this was "why?" and looking at the map realised it must be the location.
The Ayr Travelodge is located on the outskirts of the town, but is visible from the A77 road, making it ideal for travellers wishing to rest their weary heads. Yes, it's not called Travelodge for nothing.
So I booked the room for the rather high Travelodge price of £60 for a family room - I say that as I tend to take advantage of sales the company has periodically so I do realise that £60 isn't exactly expensive for a hotel room.
We arrived in Ayr around 9.00 pm just as it was starting to get dark. After I had booked the room I realised that this Travelodge has no catering facilities so before we arrived at the hotel I went to a nearby Asda which is open 24 hours for some drinks and sustenance.
The Travelodge is located next to a small industrial estate and has a Frankie & Benny's restaurant next door. My past experiences of Frankie & Benny's have been appalling so this is why we chose to visit the 24 hour Asda before checking in.
Parking was tricky - it is free but the car park was very busy. We had to settle for a space a little distance away from the entrance but given it wasn't raining and none of us have mobility issues, this wasn't a problem. The hotel is a long, white, modern building which has three levels.
What struck me when I arrived at reception was how tiny it was. I am used to Travelodges having larger receptions with bar areas attached but this was very small and consisted of a small desk with a couple of chairs and the obligatory vending machines.
Check-in was quick but the receptionist could only give us one key card, claiming she was "running short". This wasn't a problem for us, but I have to say I was surprised at a company like Travelodge not ensuring there are plenty of key cards on their premises. You also need the key to access the reception area and not just your room.
Our room was on the ground floor but the hotel does have lifts. Obviously we had no cause to use them so I cannot tell you how reliable, or otherwise, they were.
I had booked a family room and was relieved to see it was fairly spacious. As is the norm in Travelodges, the sofa bed wasn't made up, and we were also lacking spare pillows. The room sleeps 4 - the sofa bed can take 2 children and there is a large double bed.
I popped back to reception to ask for spare pillows and was informed they would be brought to my room within the next 10 minutes, a promise which was kept.
The window was open, making the room rather chilly, so I quickly closed it. The heater was reasonably effective at warming the room but it is a basic electrical convector heater and it won't heat the room up quickly.
As it was already late we watched a bit of TV before hitting the hay. The TV only had the 5 basic channels and a handful of extra ones. Despite promising radio, none of the stations actually had a signal.
The beds were reasonably comfortable and given the fact we had been up early that morning we were all very tired and fell asleep relatively quickly.
We were up at around 8.00 am the next morning and all had a shower. Travelodge bathrooms aren't particularly luxurious but they do try to ensure they have good showers and the Ayr Travelodge was no exception. It gave a powerful spray of water and helped wake us up. My only gripe with the bathroom was the fact they didn't put enough toilet paper in there meaning we nearly ran out.
There are no hairdryers in the rooms but we were happy to let nature do the work for us.
Breakfast was available from reception but it was of the continental "make it yourself" variety. Comprising cereal, UHT milk, yoghurt and not much else we decided to pass. I cannot recall exactly how much this cost but it was no more than £5. It would also be quite difficult to eat this as it's designed to be eaten in your room and each room only has one chair to sit on.
So we found ourselves checking out at 9.00 am and heading back on to the A77, now mercifully dual carriageway, for the short drive back to East Kilbride, where we had breakfast at Morrisons and dropped my sister off before heading home to Edinburgh.
For a place to crash for the night this place was fine - it was quiet, comfortable and clean. It is also well located for people wanting a place to stay close to Prestwick Airport.
However if you had plans to go out in the centre of Ayr, the Travelodge is less than ideal - it is located far from the town centre and you would need a taxi to take you there and back.
The lack of a bar or restaurant is also a huge drawback. If you like Frankie & Benny's then you are covered for lunch or dinner, but not being able to sit down for a drink and a chat with my sister was annoying - doing it in the room isn't the same. If you come here you really have to have a car so you can head off elsewhere for something to eat at your leisure.
Like all Travelodges check in is at 3.00pm and check-out is at 12.00 pm. You can pay extra to check in early and out later. Pets are allowed in the hotel but you must contact the hotel directly for permission and pets are charged at £20 per pet per stay. It's also worth noting that all Travelodges operate a strict non-smoking policy.
So for somewhere purely to sleep for the night, this place is fine but if you are looking for even a slightly higher level of comfort this is not the place to go and I would recommend this hotel for the weary traveller staying one night only.
Tel: 0871 984 6321
Fax: 01292 880357