It is a tricky thing, choosing a B&B. You can look on TripAdvisor.com and ask on Twitter, but when it comes down to it, you are on your own. A highly recommended B&B might have had a change of owner, or the owner may be having a bad day. You may simply not like the place, or find the pillows too hard.
Trawling TripAdvisor only takes you so far – you have to weed through the reviews a bit as there are some people who are slightly hard to please such as this reviewer of a Spanish hotel. In Spain:
“The staff were friendly enough but the food was very continental, lots of fish with bones and wierd looking dishes. The guests were 99.9% spanish”
The problems with TripAdvisor (and other similar websites) is that guests base their review on the “norm” in their country. Which is why you find reviews from Brits who holidayed in Europe not liking the “Continental food” or Americans complaining about the small rooms and lack of air conditioning. Or Germans who could not sleep due to the lack of black out blinds.
For all the “international standards” of hotels and guest houses, there are still differences. We might expect to find towels and shower gel in the en-suite bathroom, but what about a hairdryer? We were in two B&Bs during out trip to Scotland that did not offer this, which I would have thought to be basic kit in Germany/Switzerland. We did have a hospitality tray, something that bemuses and amuses our German friends – why would you sit in your hotel room and make yourself a cup of tea or coffee? Would you not go out and go into a bar if you wanted a warm drink?
So what makes a good – nay, a great B&B? What is it that makes you determined to go back, that makes you recommend the B&B or hotel to your friends?
Having lived in both UK and Europe, I find that when we are travelling there is almost always something missing. The British have the hospitality tray, the Germans have their powershowers and black-out blinds. Finally, we have found a B&B that offers everything, and more.
The Aird Hill B&B is in a remote area of Scotland, in picturesque Badachro near Gairloch. When you come into the village, your eyes are drawn to the hill behind the harbour and the white house. At first glance, I thought it was an old cottage that had been converted – in fact it very much reminded me of the Ron Lawson watercolours that we had looked at the week before.
Skirting the harbour, we drove nearer to the house, opened the gate and drove up the drive. A friendly (is there any other kind) black labrador bounded up joyfully, tail wagging and a doggy grin on his face. We let Daphne out of the car and his pleasure increased, he was besotted by her and desperate to play. Sadly the size difference made this slightly difficult as he kept treading on her.
His owner, Vanessa, called him to heel and greeted us warmly. She is German, so we chatted away in German – a novelty for us after so many months in Geneva – while she showed us to our room.
It was a pretty and inviting room, filled with light. Vanessa gave us some tips on what to do in the area, and offered to book a table at the nearby Badachro Inn for dinner before leaving us to settle in. We were delighted to discover a kettle with hospitality tray, the aforementioned black out blinds and a fab shower with actual water pressure, something of a rarity in Scotland for some reason. It seems the mix of German and Scottish hospitality is a great combination.
We decided to forgo a sightseeing trip, since we had driven all day, from Skye to Applecross, along Loch Torridon and Loch Maree. We were tired. Making use of the hospitality tray, we brewed two cups of tea and took our books up to the decking area at the top of the garden. From here the view is spectacular, behind us the mountains of Skye, before us the pretty Badachro bay.
We sat entranced in the late afternoon sun, relaxing more with every minute. Daphne finally sought asylum on my husband’s knee from her admirer who hung around hoping she would get down and play before bounding off to play with the other black lab who had returned from a walkabout. Chickens and geese wandered about the large garden, pecking at the earth.
When it began to get too cool to sit comfortably we showered (our first proper shower for days! Bliss) then made our way out to find Vanessa welcoming other guests. She gave us directions to the Inn, taking a more direct route along the side of a wooded area rather than the longer way down the road we had driven up. When we got down to the harbour, we realised the route would take us past the cows that roamed free in the village. My husband climbed the steep bank while I winded my way through the cows – they are really big when you get up close – pleading with them just to keep still and do cow-things. We laughed like loons at escaping Death By Cow and made our way to the Inn.
Badachro Inn is virtually unchanged from the pub that my parents once took me to for a bar lunch when I was a child. The open fire, the cosy benches, the friendly folk. The addition of a sun room and decking area is in keeping with the style of the Inn and a great place to have a meal with a terrific view of the harbour and the bay. The food is not fancy – just plain good cooking with lots of local ingredients, delicious and fresh. The staff are friendly, the boss a bit on the cheeky side – one of those publicans who gently insults his customers and they love it. “Right you lot, clear off”, he said to a local couple with their kids who had lingered too long. It feels like a good old fashioned “local”.
The way back to the B&B was cow-less and uneventful, unless you count the stunning sunset. The next morning we woke to the sound of silence. Opening our blackout blinds, we rejoiced in another sunny day in Scotland. Our host, Gordon was on breakfast duties, he chatted about the area and the B&B while serving us the most scrumptious breakfast. Eggs from their hens, honey from their own bees, jam from their garden, and the most delicious sausages from their own pigs. The dining area is in the sun room, from which guests can look over the bay and beyond to the islands.
Vanessa and Gordon were perfect hosts, making us feel welcome without being intrusive. There is a small self-contained cottage behind the house that at present sleeps two, but will be extended to sleep four and we hope to return next year with the children. I could just imagine my kids playing in the garden, wandering through the village, searching for crabs in the rocks in front of Badachro Inn. There is no nightlife, no cinema, not even a cafe but it is such a restful and serene place. We felt refreshed after just one night there, imagine what a whole week of Badachro would do to us!