Balmaha Lodges:A Review

We stayed at the lodges last week, here is my trip advisor review… please ignore grammatical mistakes etc but I am seething with rage due to how we were treated by the management.

pic courtesy of tripadvisor

We stayed at the lodges last week and had booked back in July as we wanted a nice place to celebrate our young cousin turning 18. 
Upon arrival, we were met by the manager Lillian and another member of staff. They were unable to find our booking at the start but tracked it down a few minutes later. The booking was made with a family members credit card who would be along later, after work. 

We were told that the balance needed to be paid and that they would “just take it as long as you could sign it on their behalf”. I did this and when the other member of staff was processing the booking, she had absolutely no idea on the price and almost charged us double until I corrected her. 

We were told very sternly that the hot tub required vacating by 10pm and that no glasses were to be taken in which was completely understandable. However, being told this by the manager, I felt that I was in school again and felt she was very condescending bearing in mind that the youngest member of our small party was 11, the oldest in her 50’s and the majority were mother and daughter. 

When we got into the lodge, we were impressed by the cleanliness and would have recommended people to stay here.. that was until after we had checked out and the accusations and lies came through with additional charges for supposed damage.

Before I explain what happened and despite us letting one or two things go, I have to say that there were things which couldnt be ignored.. There wasn’t enough cutlery, glasses, plates, the heating made so much noise throughout the night that it kept everyone awake and there was no one to speak with on check out, and there was a broken window handle with no light on the cooker hob which meant when cooking, we had to use the torch from our phone. Some of the dishes were also dirty and there was a lot of dust. On the welcome email on booking, it stated that there was shower gel and shampoo… unfortunately not in the shower!

We still had a lovely night though as a family despite this and we did vacate the hot tub by 9pm. At this time it was noted that the manager was leaving despite saying that she would be on until 10:30pm but if we had an emergency it would need to be a good one as she stayed 30 mins away!

During the night, my 11 year old was unwell and had vomited but it was cleaned, with windows left open over night and when clearing the lodge out. This was going to come back and haunt us apparently…

We had checked out, went home and then came together again on Saturday evening where I received an email saying that they had charged us for cleaning and a broken drawer. We responded with shock as no one broke anything and the vomit was cleaned from the bathroom.

I was told that “The document that was signed by the guest who checked in on your arrival clearly states that any damages occurred during your stay will be deducted from the card”. 

No, this was most certainly not the case. I was not told that this was a disclaimer but I that I was signing for check in. I was signing for another persons card… I asked on many occasions for proof of this drawer being broken and was never provided with it. My picture of that drawer is included. We also asked for the bill of repairs as it was stated the £50 for cleaning the odour of vomit and repair to the drawer.

This was another response to a query in relation to signing on behalf of the card owner, “The reason you signed the check in document was that the original person that made the booking was not present yet. We usually take full payment on arrival before guests can check into there lodge and it was the guest that signed the check in document called the guest that made the original booking and told us to go ahead and take payment so we could check 
you in.” I did not make any call to the card holder as stated, and this can be proven via mobile phone records. 

Another inconsistency is referring to the cost of repairs..”Dear Angeline, The £50 that was deducted from the guests account that booked the lodge does not cover the damage that has been done to the lodge or the extra cleaning that was needed done.” Sorry, what? But you said this: “Due to the damage to the kitchen drawer and also extra cleaning charges for sickness in Lodge 7, we have deducted a further £50.00 charge due to this“, I’m quite confused about this email and her contradiction.

Here is the kitchen drawer in question

Once Lillian decided that I had proof of everything that was lied about, she then decided that she would no longer converse with me. This is pretty poor customer service Lillian. I asked again for proof of damage, the bill and also for info so that we could discuss this with the owner. All of this was ignored. I also note from a previous guest that this isn’t the first time that she has lied, and the proof was recorded via his mobile phone.

A few days later, I called the lodge and I was able to speak with the owners wife who really was lovely. She listened and said that she had heard bits and pieces and that she couldn’t comment until speaking with the manager which I felt was fair, as there are two sides and she hadn’t seen the emails exchanged. She said that she would take my number and have her husband call me that evening. 4 days later, I’m still waiting. 

Whilst we understand that running a business is time consuming, I think 4 days is more than adequate to contact a paying customer.

As no one will return calls or emails, we have decided as a family to take things further. We explained that we would do so and made no attempt to add reviews, and gave them the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately we are too kind and we now have no choice but to warn folk against booking in what is lovely accommodation. 

As an aside, I noticed damage to the hot tub cover from lodge 7 and saw in a previous review that another guest was charged £150 and accused of causing that damage. It’s still broken… so theypaid for nothing..I was told by the owners wife that they decided not to repair the covers anymore due to the hassle. It also states in other reviews from other guests about the poorly stocked kitchen which they haven’t obviously taken note of and when asking Lillian about this in another email, she stated that the kitchens are fully equipped… There aren’t even any tea towels to dry dishes with! 

Anyway, I realise that this is war and peace but I don’t want anyone else being party to such horrible treatment. The money we paid could have had us be elsewhere and hassle free. Thanks for ruining the memories of what should have been a memorable ocassion. It could still be a lovely place if you could employ a manager that doesn’t lie.

West Highland Way Part 1

I haven’t written in quite some time! I did mean to update everyone and post pictures etc but I have been busy. I cringe every time I write that as its like my catch phrase and will be put on my grave stone I think!

So, did I do the WHW? Yes… I started on a rainy Monday morning with apprehension and a bit of fear, I won’t lie. I couldn’t sleep the night before and had been at work until 22:00, where people had been wishing me well but also planting seeds of doubt in my head. No, they weren’t being nasty but they were concerned about my safety as I was doing the walk on my own. I am a feminist.. usually stuff like that doesn’t phase me but it was starting to this time.

I waved the kids, husband and dog off, got my stuff together, had my breakfast and bid farewell to a friend who was good enough to drop me off in Milngavie which is the start of the walk.  I have to say that I started to have doubts.. how was I going to deal with the alone time that I so craved since planning to do this, the time to think and just be on my own for the first time in a long time? Was I ready for such a big and momentous task with minimal training? Would I sleep at night in my tent and not be scared of the noises throughout the night? Only one way to find out…

Off I walked and walked, and walked… you get it… As I walked, my spirits and the weather lifted. I ran into two guys who were over from Israel and I think they took me under their wing. They wanted to give me their number in case I found myself in any trouble and needed someone in an emergency. I started to feel the camaraderie of the “Way” that I had often read about.  I was part of this amazing experience and it really  felt quiet empowering.

As I walked, I noticed that I would pass the two guys and catch up, they offered me food, chat and friendship and it felt like they were making sure that I was ok whilst doing this on my own.  I took pics on their phone for them and I really regret not taking their details. I wonder how they got on and if they completed it as the last place that I saw them was in Rowardennan Youth Hostel.

My first day got me from Milngavie to Drymen where I had the best steak pie in the universe at one of the most friendliest places in Scotland, called “The Clachan Inn“. I go here regularly an I always order the same ting because it is amazing and despite looking like a drowned rat with no reservation, they took me in, gave me warmth and provided fantastic hospitality.  At the end of the first day, I was tired and emotional and my bones were killing me. I had wanted to walk further but I just couldn’t manage it. One of the owners spoke to me as she could see I was full of self doubt and I called her when I came home, to tell her just how much her words meant. Her words made a difference as did two other women I met when finishing up and who were also doing the walk, (more about them later).

That night I decided to stay in one of the hotels, The Drymen Inn and I tried to get to bed early but I got restless legs and was tossing and turning all night. I didn’t mind as the bed was comfy, hotel clean, shower much appreciated and weather turned out nice again. I also decided to get baggage transfer which a lot of folk had told me to do but I wanted to do everything on my own. That’s just  who I am.. I am stubborn and I am strong but I knew that the walk would be much more manageable had I just done all of that in the first place.

I called up Greg from Baggage Freedom and he couldn’t have been more accommodating. He was resourceful, hilarious and his dog Spike, who was in the van with him, really cheered me up. I wish I had known about him before but thankfully I do now and I will be using his baggage transfer services this summer. He also transfers pets too so I can bring Allie , my border collie and she can explore the great outdoors with me.

Boot Camp!

I had mentioned in my last post that I had something to reveal… Well here it is! I have been given the opportunity to attend a week long boot camp to review and blog,  in the beautiful settings of a luxurious estate in Galloway. That’s right folks, I am heading to “The Camp“!! It’s like a dream come true and I can’t wait. I attend the boot camp from the 2nd to the 9th of May and I have slowly been getting body ready! It tells me that I could lose a dress size in a week and up to 6/7lbs.. under their watchful experienced and well educated eye!

I have heard many great things about “The Camp” and was really impressed by the history and why it got started , to the many qualified instructors and staff who are employed by the camp itself.  It is a woman’s only boot camp and I think that many are attracted to this as you feel more self conscious when in a setting of mixed company due to confidence issues and I feel that it creates a feeling of closeness and bonding (nothing against men, honest) and I am really looking forward to making new friends. The camp offers 2, 3 ,4, and 5 day flexible week boot camp as well. So if you’re needing a touch up to your already established fitness regime or just want to try it out to see what to expect on a 7 day course, the option is there.

 

I spoke with the lovely Pauline who arranged my stay for me and who I have been corresponding with since I was invited to come along.  She has been in touch to tell me about the items of clothing and equipment that I need – which really isn’t that much at all as most people who lead an active lifestyle will have. I will need to bring walking boots, clothing for outside/inside, indoor and outdoor shoes , swimming costume ect. just your usual workout gear which is comfortable and water proof for outside training.

So what’s a typical week like in The Camp? Have a look here and see what I will be up to!

Day 1 – Saturday

16.30 Introduction Brief in the Main Lounge

17.00 Chief Instructors Brief in the Stewart Lounge

17.30 Weigh in the Staff Room

18.30 Dinner

19.15 Intro to PT

20.00 Ice Breaking Session at the Fire Pit

Day 2 – Sunday

06.00 Morning PT. PTI’s Fitness Test

07.00 Breakfast

08.00 Lecture on Fitness Principles and HR with Swiss Balls

09.30 Trim Trail Outside

10.30 Snacks

11.00 Stretching Lecture and Session

12.00 Lunch

13.00 Walk in Penninghame area

14.30 Snacks Outside

16.00 Intro to boxing and foam rollers

17.30 Dinner

18.00 Injury Clinic in the Clinic Room

Day 3 – Monday

06.00 Morning PT/Insanity

07.00 Breakfast

07.45 Personal Training Lecture

08.50 Trim trail Outside

10.15 Snacks

10.45 Boxing Circuit

12.00 Lunch

12.30 Hike to Glen Trool

17.00 Abs, Stretch and Foam rollers. Walk to river

18.00 Dinner

18.30 Injury Clinic / Stretch Class

Day 4 – Tuesday

06.00 Morning PT/Run around loch

07.00 Breakfast

08.00 Navigation Lesson

09.00 Swiss Ball session

10.00 Snacks in the Common room/Outside

10.30 Strength Circuit Outside

12.00 Lunch

12.45 Survival Lesson and fire building

14.00 Snacks

15.00 Sprint Work in Penninghame estate

16.00 Stretch Class

17.00 Dinner

18.00 Circuit Training

Day 5 – Wednesday

06.00 Morning PT/Crossfit

07.00 Breakfast

07.45 Self Defence and shooting stance

09.00 Circuits

10.00 Nutrition then snacks

12.00 Lunch

12.30 River Crossing, walk in surrounding area and shelter building

16.00 Boxercise

17.15 Dinner

18.15 Stretch/relax session

18.15 Injury Clinic

Day 6 – Thursday

06.00 Morning PT/Insanity on the lawn

07.00 Breakfast

08.00 Zip wire, grass slides & beach activity

13.00 Lunch

14.00 Boxercise

14.30 Snacks

15.00 Swiss Ball Circuit

16.00 Stretch class

17.00 Dinner

18.00 Circuits

18.30 Injury Clinic in the Treatment Room

Day 7 – Friday

07.00 Morning PT and PTI’s Fitness Test 2

08.00 Breakfast

08.15 Expedition Walk to The Mast

14.30 Snacks at Cree Hall

14.45 Campathalon

16.30 Stretch Outside

18.00 Dinner

19.30 All kit to the store

Day 8 – Saturday

06.00 Weigh out in the Staff Room

07.00 Self Help Breakfast in the Dining room

07.30 Taxis and Mini-bus for Station

 

As you can see, its run with precision and a long with the exercise, I am very much looking forward to the nutrition information/lectures which are provided. I want to see what foods work and why, what is beneficial, what is best in moderation and basically  re educating myself on making better food and exercise choices. From all of the reviews that I have seen already, people don’t just make changes for 1 week but they continue to do so after they leave the camp. I plan on updating on my progress throughout the year and also if any of the ladies are open to sharing their stories too, I will also show their progress.  This is not just a review of 1 week but at least 1 year, because fitness is an on going journey, which we challenge on a daily basis and I want to be able to look back and see just how far I have progressed, after leaving The Camp. A “quick fix” is just that. these magazines which talk about getting bikini bodies within a month are so misleading. Its about exercising and making proper food choices and understanding the body and how it works.. Its about clean eating, health, not depriving yourself, loving food and loving life.

Please do follow my progress!

Sykes Cottages: The Townhouse,Kircudbright

This weekend it was my birthday and I wanted to do something different, go away somewhere nice that I hadn’t been to before… Somewhere that I could relax and put my feet up and big enough for the kids to run about in and play. It was ideal when Sykes Cottages arranged for us to go to “The Townhouse”, in the lovely,  inviting and historic town of Kirkcudbright.

When we approached Union Street and saw all of the beautifully colored houses , we were excited to see what awaited us inside. We weren’t disappointed. The house was absolutely amazing, warm and we felt right at home immediately. The location which is around the corner from the town center, was very convenient for any of those last-minute items we all generally forget to pack when in a rush.

When we walked into the house, we saw an amazing sitting room which was very cosy, with two very comfortable couches, a TV, books, some board games and DVD’s. We really had everything that we needed for a weekend with the kids. The one thing that the house didn’t have, was WiFi but we didn’t see this as a negative at all because we went away to relax and escape the usual hum drum that we have on a regular basis. If we needed to find out any information, it was already at our finger tips because there was a lot of information on what to see and do, a phone book (remember those?), and a very handy booklet located on the table in the hall. If you’re absolutely desperate though, we found free wi-fi in the various little coffee shops and you can pay for it via BT but why waste a perfectly wonderful weekend surfing the net?

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Continuing on our tour of the house, we went to the middle floor where the kids made their own discovery. In the room which we nicknamed ourselves as the “seaside” room due to the lovely bunting, vibrant and fresh colors of blue and white, there sat a lovely bear called “Sam”. He had his own little bag which contained his clothing and various outfits, the children were captivated and played with him all weekend. He went everywhere with them when we were in the house and they wanted to take him with them when we left. He was a fantastic addition  and a really great idea. It made the experience  even more family friendly and added character to such a wonderful and old house

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Next there was a single room and then a bigger room which we chose to be ours for the weekend due to its brightness, color scheme, and view of the street. The floors were beautiful wood and there was an old fireplace inside which added to the rooms character. I wanted to further investigate the history of this house because when you are inside, you can almost imagine being transported hundreds of years back in time, The owners have done a wonderful job of restoring the house and keeping many original features such as wallpaper  samples which have been put into frames and old photographs from the 1800’s.

On the top floor of the house, there is a bedroom with an en suite, which is the master and normally we would have opted to stay in there but with the children being with us, they always want to be close by. The room at the top was nicknamed the “Rose” room by my eldest due to the decor and there was a hint of a red rose smell in the room as well. It’s a beautifully decorated room and very large too, but I think that the one we chose was our favorite by far.

The attention to detail in this holiday home is probably by far the best that I have ever seen and we go away quite a lot. I like style but I favor comfort and a family friendly atmosphere which is what we got when we stayed in the Townhouse and we are looking to book again in the next couple of weeks, It’s not far, has loads of things to see and do as well as a lot of history for those (like me), who are interested in architecture and of times past. Go, stay and relax because I guarantee that you will come back feeling refreshed but with a longing to go back.

 

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*Thank you to Sykes Cottages for the opportunity to stay at this lovely cottage.

 

 

Forest Holidays, Strathyre: Review

Right now, I’m sitting in a hot tub.. ,  surrounded by glorious greenery, sunshine and all of this is located outside a beautiful cabin with some much needed, peacefulness thrown in. What more could you ask for? Personally, I wouldn’t need anything else but the folks over at Forest Holidays certainly go that extra mile to make sure that when you stay in one of their cabins, all of your needs are being catered for… Even ones that you didn’t think you had!

When Forest Holidays agreed to let me review this weekend, we decided to turn it into a bit of a surprise for the 6year old and not tell her where and what we were doing. There were clues such as “being in water at night, under the stars” and “sleeping in a forest”. As we turned off the A84, on to the little road leading up(which we later learned in our dusk walk with the ranger,was the old train track from London to Inverness)and she saw the cabins… Her face was a picture. It was worth it and it’s things like this that memories are made of.

We reached our destination and went into the reception/shop where we were greeted by the warm and friendly staff member who told us about the cabin (Silverbirch), the activities such as nature workshops and walks at dusk, bike hire, in house chef, birthday packages, romantic break packages etc to the fresh bread made locally and the pamper services. The staff go above and beyond to make sure that you have all that you need and if forgetting anything, they provide you with a leaflet and printed out fact and info sheet.

After getting the directions to the cabin which would be “home” for the next few days, We drove up to our parking place which was numbered to our cottage and had space for two cars, but if you have more in your party,you can pay for an extra parking for a small fee. We crossed a little bridge where we went over a  stream and entered into the most wonderful cabin, that I had ever had the pleasure of staying in.

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All of us ran around checking out the bedrooms and Thunderpants chose a room which would be hers, the one with the “den” in it. I then looked into our room and was blown away. We had the most comfiest of beds, robes, towels and a fantastic en suite which had a bath even bigger than our own corner tub at home. There were cute little flooring lights and I knew I would be relaxing in this after the kids were in bed, with a book and a glass of bubbly.

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We were so very impressed by what we were seeing and despite the rain, the views were beautiful, so very atmospheric and we felt  cosy in our cabin, especially after we put the log burning fire on. It was exactly what was needed for two stressed out parents and two adventurous children. I could feel my stress drain away, and the fact that we hadn’t any access to wifi was even better because it stopped me from doing any work, checking emails, going on to Facebook and other social media platforms. This was a break from all of that and some much deserved and needed time, without distraction.

After dinner, which we chose to use the  BBQ, we headed out for the dusk walk with the resident ranger who told us all about the local area, the wildlife, plants, and animals. he was a very resourceful guide and he had Thunderpants captivated as well as the adults. You could tell that he enjoyed his job a lot, and really got quite a bit out of educating folk. We took some pictures of where we went , as you can see below.

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During the course of the weekend, we also went into Callander, just to pick up a few things but to be honest, I would have been happy to have stayed at the site without venturing out. I think I will be trying out the canoeing when we hope to visit at the end of the summer with some friends, as well as some of the other ranger led workshops too.

 

There is so much to do here at this location, whether the sun shines or not and we are planning a stay in November for my Birthday and our Anniversary. One night alone, and the rest with friends and family. I have so much to say about our stay because there was so much that we experienced in our three days. I would thoroughly recommend this as a romantic getaway or as a family break. It really is a multi-functional holiday destination! Please do visit, because you won’t be disappointed.

* A special Thank You goes out to all staff who arranged this for us.

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