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The Inn at Lathones: St Andrews’ Answer to Wembley

You might not think it as you drive up to the small, whitewashed renovated coaching inn that lies just south of the golfing town of St Andrews, but these walls have seen (and heard) a lot of musical talent over the past few years, much to the delight of tourists and locals alike. Okay, so the Inn at Lathones might not quite match Wembley in terms of size and scale, but still, its gig list reads like an A-list music agent’s resume – impressive, and long.

So why have talented artists like, Bob Catley, Peter Tork and Mick Taylor made their way to the east coast of Scotland? Well, a few years back the owner of the Inn, savvy businessman Nick White, wanted to find a niche market for his business. Something that would set his small Fife tavern apart from everything else in the area. And with music providing the perfect reason to travel, he set about turning his Inn into the music venue for St Andrews and the east coast of Scotland. And so the gig nights were born, and given the name Rocking at the Stables, or RATS for short.

It wasn’t long before the list of celebrity artists grew to a notable size, and that’s seen the venue grow in popularity as well. In 2009 it was awarded the title of UK’s Best Music Venue 2009, and in the following year The Publican listed it as a finalist. And its popularity continues to grow. This year sees the arrival of more talented artists like Lizanne Knott and Bob Cheevers, and they’ve even found the time on their gig list to open some space for one of two little-known talents as well.  There have always been plenty of reasons to travel to this part of Scotland, whether it’s for the golf, historical tourist sites, or the plentiful and fresh seafood that’s a mainstay of the tourist trade here. But now there’s another reason to visit, and music fans everywhere should put the Inn at Lathones on their travel list.

Forthcoming Rocking at the Stables events in the Inn at Lathones can be found here:

http://www.mundellmusic.com/gigs_inn_at_lathones.php

And to see a full list of previous artists, click here:

http://www.theclaymoreproject.com/uploads/hotel/39/file/gigs%20played%20at%20inn%20%202009%20to%202011.pdf

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Village Urban Resort Dudley, England

The Village Urban Resort Dudley sort of took me by surprise. I’m not sure what I imagined it would look like, but when a hotel is situated in the middle of the industrialized heartlands of the English West Midlands, urban luxury appeal doesn’t usually spring to mind. It was clear that my fanciful impression was way off the mark the minute we turned into the Dudley’s private car park. The modern building before us, entirely devoid of smoking chimney stacks or wrought iron gates, is a thoroughly contemporary design, despite being in its 12th year. And stepping inside, it quickly became clear that the Village Urban Resort is possibly one of the best named hotels I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.

Before you even make it to your room, you’re greeted with a modern pub and grill, an up-scale restaurant and a Starbucks coffee shop. Downstairs, a fitness centre makes up much of the lower level with a large swimming pool and a gymnasium that puts most local sports centres to shame. Next to it, and for the hotel’s less energetic guests, a modern and relaxing spa offers tranquillity and solitude from the outside world. And don’t forget the function suite, regular monthly entertainment evenings and live music on a Friday night. It truly is a whole village in one neatly-packaged, fashionable box.

Upstairs, and the bedrooms are equally well-appointed. Dark woods and bold colours create the urban feel that works so well here, and the images of local attractions and landmarks that appear throughout the hotel are a welcome touch. We had the privilege of staying in two connecting rooms, and when you’re travelling with kids and you’re in dire need of sleep the extra space is a definite bonus. And of course, two rooms in the Dudley means two televisions, keeping the children’s channel blissfully out of earshot.

It’s hard not to be impressed. With every detail so well thought out, peaceful and incredibly comfortable rooms (I’m not a towel thief, but if I could have taken that mattress away with me, I would have) and modern bathrooms with showers that give you so many options you’d be in them all day, you can’t help but love this hotel. My only reservation was the glass-fronted bedroom furniture. Sure, it looked great, but one hour of constant assault by two little boys and their sticky, chocolate-covered fingers (see my post on Cadbury World for that explanation), and they weren’t looking so shiny.

The thing about the Dudley is that this is a truly family-oriented hotel.  Staff told me that their kids love coming to work because there’s plenty for them to do. Families around us were evidently enjoying their stay, and even our own two children, normally an embarrassing handful to take anywhere, were on relatively good behaviour. But even when they weren’t, the staff simply smiled and helped out. That included an episode of bribery when we ate at the Verve Bar and Grill – something along the lines of ‘if you’re quiet for your mummy and daddy, I’ll give you some Smarties for later.’ Talk about all-round great service!

And it’s not just the overnight guests that have fallen for the appeal of the Dudley – the locals appreciate what they’ve got here too. The leisure facilities, spa and eateries are all firm favourites in the surrounding area. The hotel also has great connections with local attractions, and the General Manager, Darryl Holdnall, has obviously built up excellent relations with other service providers. They’ve gone on to provide packages that include entry into some of the area’s most popular visitor sites, taking all the hassle out of planning your break away.

It all adds up to one great Resort, and a great family experience that’s really worth the visit.

The Dudley isn’t too far off the M6, the main arterial route through the UK, making this a fantastic location for visitors to anywhere in the surrounding region, as well as a great place to stop overnight on a journey to either end of the country.

Stone House Hotel, England

The Stone House Hotel in Stone, Staffordshire, is a welcoming and relaxing location for travellers to the area. Just a short distance south of historic Stoke-On-Trent, with its endless potteries, factories, cycleways and history, and only a few minutes away from popular family fun parks like Alton Towers, this hotel makes an ideal base for touring the area.

As the editor for Candidtraveller, I visited the Stone House Hotel recently to see what it had to offer, and I was far from disappointed. There’s nothing I like better than good customer service. Forget a hotel’s star rating, because a true reflection of the service you can expect to receive becomes obvious the minute you step up to reception to book in. Personally, I’d rather be treated well in a three star hotel, than completely ignored in a 5 star resort, and that’s exactly the kind of great service that my family and I received when we arrived at this Oxford Hotels and Inns property on a busy Friday afternoon.

The hotel was once a family home, and it’s clear to see that it would have been an elegant country house in its day. The interior stylings certainly lend themselves to the original design of the hotel, and the Garden Restaurant in particular has an air of the old fashioned about it (that means elegant, not stuffy). Some of the rooms in the new wing are a standard, modern design, without the trappings of the original part of the house, but they’re exactly what you’d expect to get in a good 3 star hotel.

Taking the family means staying somewhere that caters well for children. It’s all very well planning things to tire them out during the day, but if they make it back to the hotel with excess energy you’ll need to have something there to entertain them.  The Stone House Hotel has a swimming pool and gym, both ideal for older (and much older) children. Ours were fascinated by the internal garden, with it’s winding paths and natural ‘dens’ to hide in. So fascinated, in fact, that they played away for hours, leaving us a little downtime to enjoy a coffee on the terrace and take in our surroundings.

The Stone House Hotel is right on the main road into Stone, but where it’s situated means you barely hear any noise from the passing traffic, let alone see any. And from the garden in the back, there’s a gentle hum to let you know the road is there, but you’ll only really notice it if you’re trying to.

The hotel is clearly a popular venue for weddings, and the Friday evening we stayed was no exception. The function room upstairs had been taken over by the wedding party who had the benefit of the private gardens for their photos and champagne reception, but even with the large number of guests, the hotel still didn’t feel overrun. Another great feature of the hotel is it’s proximity to the M6, the main arterial route through Great Britain. The hotel is so close to the motorway (without actually being in walking distance of its populated lanes) that it serves as an ideal stopover for travellers making their way to or from Scotland. In fact, if you’re travelling to Scotland via London for the Commonwealth Games in 2014, this is the ideal location to take an overnight break from all that travelling.

All in all, this was a great stay at the Stone House Hotel. We were well looked after by helpful and friendly staff, something that’s top of my list wherever I stay. If you’d like to read what we made of the hotel restaurant, then follow this link here.

More information on the Oxford Hotels and Inns, or to book a stay at any one of their hotels, can be found here.

Lastly, I’d like to say a big thank you to Lily, the very smiley receptionist, and to Jess, who looked after us wonderfully well at dinner and breakfast.

Hotel Reservas Sandos San Blas, Tenerife

It was late evening by the time our plane touched down at Tenerife South airport, and like most travellers we were far from overjoyed at the prospect of a long transfer to our hotel.  Luckily for us, though, we’d chosen to stay at the Sandos San Blas, a five star resort hotel only then minutes or so from the airport.  It was possibly one of the shortest and most relaxed journey’s I’ve ever taken on a package-style tour.

I was travelling to Tenerife with my friend, Lynsey, to check out the new luxury Sandos hotel.  Designed like a stand-alone resort, this fabulous accommodation sits on the coast a little to the west of Tenerife South, edged between some private golf courses and a very unique nature reserve.  In fact, the hotel helps sustain the work carried out on the nature reserve and staff conduct guided tours through the volcanic landscape several times a day.

The hotel itself certainly met my expectations.  The entrance hall is somewhat confusing to begin with, and you come across the reception desk almost by chance, but everything after that is well laid out and intricately planned.  Designed in two long stepped-down sections, the apartments descend either side of the hotel’s five swimming pools, stretching out towards the sea.  Each room has a balcony or patio that looks inwards, but they’re angled enough that you’ll always have a view, and they boast comfortable furniture, relaxing beds and even the bathrooms are worthy of their five star accolade.

Dining in the Sandos San Blas means eating buffet-style, which is typical of most package deals I suppose, but while I normally reserve judgement on daily buffets, dreading having to eat the same food seven days a week, I can confirm that not only does the Sandos offer you a choice, but it’s a great choice.  Locally caught fish, fresh seafood, meat carved at your table and so on.  The occasional themed evening pops up now and again, but on the whole the food is fresh, tasty and interesting!  If you really can’t manage all seven nights on buffet food, then the hotel does have a ‘proper’ restaurant to enjoy.  The Proa Restaurant sits in a unique wooden-slatted building at the end of the resort, overlooking the pool and just a stone’s throw from the pebbled beach.  The food served here is definitely more gastronomique than in the main restaurant and you can forget the large portion sizes you’ll be used to from the buffet.  Fresh lobster is always on the menu, fois gras might make an appearance, and the deserts are nothing short of fabulous creations.  If you’re on the all-inclusive plan, you can get one evening booked in the Proa free of charge.

We spent our week lying by the pools, enjoying unimited cocktails from the pool bar and watching the more energetic tourists over-exert themselves on the outdoor climbing wall and beach volleyball court, but to take a break from the hotel, not that you’d ever really need one, we headed out on a few coastal walks to stretch our legs.  Sandos San Blas is ideally located for the best that Tenerife has to offer.  A fifteen minute bus ride takes you into Playa de las Americas, where we whiled away one afternoon on a scuba diving trip on a nearby reef, and another bus journey arranged by the hotel took us to the Teide National Park, where we tried to avoid sunburn on the craggy slopes of the Canary Island’s most famous volcano.

But seriously, you really wouldn’t need to leave the hotel if you didn’t want to.  The bars are open late every night (or early morning), the evening entertainment is really quite good, and the on-site spa and gym take care of your hollistic and exercise needs.  Although we were travelling as friends, families, couples and groups all seemed to be enjoying the same experience we were having, so no matter what type of holiday you’re looking for, the Sandos San Blas is going to be a great choice.

We booked our trip separately, but you can arrange a holiday to this outstanding hotel with a range of popular tour operators.

Written by:  Fiona Galloway, Editor

Real Marina Hotel; A Real Portugese Haven

The Algarve region of Portugal attracts British and European holidaymakers by the plane-load, but although it’s a popular destination for tourists, the majority make their way to the lively resorts of Albufeira and Praia da Rocha and avoid the quieter areas of coastline.  On our last trip we ventured in the opposite direction, heading just east of Faro to the lesser known fishing town of Olhao, curious to see what it had to offer instead. The area has that distinctive run-down European feel that you often get in underdeveloped towns; a mass of construction work in the background, dried ground where the sun has burnt away the remains of the grass, and old men with pipes and creased, tanned faces, whiling away the hours on dockside benches.

Our hotel for the short break was the Real Marina which sits on the water’s edge, overlooking the masses of yachts bobbing away quietly in the protected harbour in front of us. The hotel is very new. So new, in fact, that the trees planted out front are yet to grow. It’s actually two buildings; the main building forms the hotel, with the restaurants, bars, pool and spa facilities, and the building next door provides residence-style accommodation for travellers who prefer to go self-catering. The hotel appears a little out-of-the-way, but in fact it’s just a short walk into the centre of town where boutique shops abound, and a taxi ride to the hotel is thankfully quick.

It’s modernity does somewhat mask any traces of Portuguese life. The modern glass and marble decor is a far cry from the warm terracotta we’d normally expect from anywhere within a stone’s throw of the Mediterranean Sea. But what it lacks in traditional appeal, it more than makes up for in elegance and sophistication. We checked into a large corner suite that came with an enormous bed, two bathrooms, three showers and a sitting area with a sofa bed. It was tastefully decorated and well thought out. Outside, a long balcony wrapped itself around our room on the corner, and afforded us fantastic views across the marina towards the nature reserve beyond.

We tried the restaurant on the first evening, the Restaurante Do Real, and were so enamoured by the service and quality of the food, that we tried it every evening after that as well. Fresh seafood featured heavily, but that wasn’t surprising considering the market was just a five minute stroll away. The hotel pool is somewhat unusual – a balcony pool built over a car park – but while you’re lying back on a lounger and relaxing in the Portuguese sun, it’s easy to become oblivious to the comings and goings beneath you.

The Real Marina is indeed a superb hotel.  If I’m being honest, we picked it entirely by accident, but for believers in serendipity, this certainly fits the criteria.

By:  Fiona Galloway, Editor

Monte Do Casal; An intimate boutique hotel in Portugal’s Algarve

Nestling on the sloping hillsides just north of Faro on the southern Portuguese coastline is a delightfully romantic hideaway that you’d have to look twice to notice.  A stone’s throw from the Algarve’s popular tourist hotspots and bustling sandy beaches, the Monte Do Casal is a charming boutique hotel that offers a five star service with all the intimacy of a private European villa.  Hidden behind a leafy driveway, and nuzzled into a fragrant olive grove, the traditional terracotta colors, warm woods and tiled interior give its winding passageways and random staircases a deserved Mediterranean feel.

Hotels that can truly be described as romantic are a fairly rare find.  Offering spa facilities and a nice view, or tagging on the label ‘adult only’, is often the only standard that needs to be applied to a hotel description to attract an amorous couple or two, so it’s exciting to trip over an idyllic bolt-hole like the Monte Do Casal that really does earn the label.

The hotel is an intimate, converted villa dating back two hundred years, and with only 18 individually designed bedrooms, each with their own private terrace and stone-paved entranceway into the landscaped gardens, you could easily spend days here without bumping into other guests.  It isn’t the sort of hotel to visit if you want 24hr room service or valet parking.  There’s no waiter standing discreetly over your left shoulder as you lounge next to the pool, and reception closes at 6pm every evening.  But frankly, being left alone is all part of its charm.

What you do get when you first step through the ivy clad entranceway to the Monte Do Casal, is a warm welcome and attentive service.  It’s not often you visit a 5 star hotel that seats you in a plush, upholstered antique chair to book you in, presses a cold glass of Champagne into your hand and whisks your luggage discreetly up to your room before you even notice it’s gone.  Evenings can be spent on your private terrace gazing into the perfectly clear starlit skies, and mornings here bring breakfast served on the same terrace with just a gentle knock at the door to announce it’s arrival.

Dining at the Monte Do Casal is another reason to visit, and in fact, it’s one of the reasons that its restaurant is often very busy at weekends.  The world class menu offers a degustation tasting menu with tempting delights such as fresh fois gras, stuffed quail and mushroom risotto, and freshly picked mushroom specialities, with all the ingredients sourced from the local area.  Fresh fish and seafood appears on the menu daily from the nearby market in Olhao, and the olives and oranges are picked on their own grounds.  Even the house wine bears the Monte Do Casal label; the white has a beautiful citrus zing that perfectly complements the signature tempura prawn dish and leaves none of that lasting aftertaste.

Although this is a small hotel, it still offers the best of luxury services.  The spa facilities are located in a small wooden outbuilding perched over the Koi carp-filled pond that is gently lit every evening.  Staff can accommodate couples massages and other exotic treatments in the pagoda or in the comfort of guest suites if you prefer more privacy, and if you’re inclined to learn the art of massage yourself, they’ll even throw in a few lessons.

Monte Do Casal is a short taxi ride to Faro with its plethora of shops and dining experiences, and just further west lies Villamoura, the hedonistic marina town of the Algarve, often brimming with high-profile celebrities and rich sailing enthusiasts.  The Ria Formosa National Park, an unusual collection of marshlands and islands that form a barrier to the sea beyond, is the ideal location to get lost in for a few hours, and boat trips or evening champagne cruises are a perfect addition to any romantic holiday.  Adoring couples might consider a trip to the Ilha Deserta (Deserted Island) to indulge in a little quality time alone together before heading back to the Monte Do Casal hotel, one of the Algarve’s largely undiscovered gems.

The Monte Do Casal can be booked through the Small Luxury Hotels of the World website: http://www.slh.com/

Written by:  Fiona Galloway, Editor

The Langham Huntingdon, Pasadena, Los Angeles, California

Part of the Langham group of hotels, The Langham Huntingdon and Spa Hotel in Pasadena is an outstanding spa hotel located in the Los Angeles suburbs with superb views over the San Gabriel Mountains.  This hotel epitomises luxury at every turn, with an elegant facade, high-end furnishings and tasteful decor. 

The hotel offers 23 acres of beautiful grounds that house a myriad of treats for its discerning guests.  Floodlit tennis courts, swimming pool, pool bar, golf course and even bicycle hire is packed into an area that is perfectly hidden from the equally well manicured private lawns of the surrounding San Marino locale.

Every room is beautifully furnished and comfortable, and our modest Lanai room was still more opulent than most 5 star hotel rooms I’ve had the pleasure of staying in.  The perfectly white linen, Italian marble bathroom and french doors onto the private balcony made the room delightful, peaceful and secluded.

The Langham Huntingdon is known as a spa hotel, and although I didn’t try any of the treatments while I was there, it’s no surprise that it plays host to visits by the rich and wealthy.  This is a place you can come and relax in tranquility, although you pay a price to do so.

The bar is a wonderful mix of traditional stylings with a contemporary feel, and the doors open onto a boarded outdoor space that is a fabulous place to while away the evening.  Waiters deliver a range of interesting cocktails swiftly and without intrusion, although the extensive beer list is sure to be an enticement for plenty of its visitors.

Our visit to this hotel was a near perfect as any flying visit can get, and the taste of hospitality we enjoyed here was enough to make us wish we’d stayed for considerably longer.  One of my favourite touches was the obligatory car valet service.  At first I felt a little irritated by the mere fact that I was forced to use a service without choice, until I realised that with parking so limited the valets were taking cars right off the grounds and parking some distance away before walking back, so I quickly changed my tune.  What I will say in its defence though, is that I was regularly impressed by the speed of the service and the civility of the valet staff, who even went to the trouble of turning on the air conditoner before bringing the car to us, or placing two complimentary bottles of ice cold water inside on particularly hot afternoons.  Service like that I can definitely live with.

Without doubt The Langham Huntingdon and Spa hotel in Pasadena is one of the finest hotels I have stayed in, and I would be delighted to return there someday.

This hotel receives a great recommendation from the candidtraveller team.

Borthwick Castle, Scottish Borders, Scotland

This Borthwick Castle hotel is the epitome of ancient luxury, the very walls, crumbling from Oliver Cromwell’s attempted invasion, filled with a rich history and tales of fleeing Queens and ghosts.

The main hall of Borthwick Castle

I stayed in this fantastical luxury hotel in the picturesque Scottish Borders a few months ago, revelling in first real stay in a genuine castle.  I was there to seek out the ghost for an article I was writing, but I couldn’t help but lose focus on my task while I was surrounded by such a location.

The history of Borthwick dates back over 600 years, and encompasses legendary visits by Mary Queen of Scots.  The interior is much as I imagine the castle would have looked in those days, with thick stone walls, gaping fireplaces filled with roaring flames, and tapestries hung from the galleries.  The Minstrels Gallery is even still there, and the charming housekeeper played up a quaint tune or two on her flute at the culmination of our meal.

The twin turrets of Borthwick Castle

The bedroom I stayed in, which incidentally is meant to be the haunted one, was the aptly named Red Room.  The ghost of a young girl is said to haunt these walls, and her image is meant to be clearly seen on the stone mantlepiece.  I could certainly see an outline that could have resembled a figure, but I guess I’m not cynical enough to believe in its reality.

The four-poster bed was more than comfortable and perfect if you’re booking in for a romantic stay, but what really got me was the size of the bathroom.  It was tiny, with a shower curtain that clearly didn’t stretch all the way across, and the door to the toilet was nothing more than a curtain hung across the gap.  Somehow, though, all this is acceptable when you realise that the incredibly thick stone walls would have been impossible to fit a door to anyway.

Access to these rooms is via a steep, circular stone stairway, and if you continued up, you’d come to the room that Mary Queen of Scots stayed in all those years ago.

The view over the surrounding countryside is incredible, and despite it lying only a short distance from Edinburgh, you can see very little built up area from the small windows.  Weddings are frequently held here, and it’s no wonder really, given its impossible perfect location and fairytale setting.

Borthwick Castle is a fabulous hotel that has certainly earned the title of luxurious.  It comes highly recommended by the candidtraveller team.

Burnsley All Suite Hotel, Denver, USA

I love staying in luxury hotels just because you don’t have to do anything for yourself.  Room service, bed making and cleaning all come as part of the package.  Sometimes a hotel stay just has that little edge over self catering.  But when you can have self catering accommodation that still offers the benefits of a hotel visit, then you’ve got the best of both worlds.  And that’s exactly what you get when you stay at the Burnsley All Suite Hotel in Denver, Colorado.

This hotel is a residence hotel, which means that the individual rooms are designed for longer stays, and although I was only there for three nights, I could have happily stayed for longer.  The bedrooms are spacious and warmly decorated, the living room was comfortable and offered internet connectivity for laptops, and the bathroom was fine. 

luxury hotel denver colorado

The only complaints were that some of the kitchen cupboards were broken, but as we weren’t staying long it didn’t concern us, and the balcony (which every room gets) only had metal chairs without cushions, so sitting outside on a cooler evening or early morning meant your derriere took hours to warm back up again.  The city view was good though. Luxury hotels eat your heart out – we’ve just arrived in the USA and you  need to be good to beat this residence hotel in Denver!

Breakfast is offered in the restaurant downstairs, and the Eggs Benedict are to die for.  Live jazz is played in the evenings in the bar opposite.

All in all a great stay, in a luxury hotel that’s a short walk to Denver city centre and not too pricey either. 

Check out the Burnsley All Suite Hotel by clicking on this link.

candidtraveller gives the Burnsley a huge thumbs up.

The Clachaig Inn, Glencoe, Scotland

The Clachaig Inn, a stunning restaurant and hotel in the heart of the Scottish countryside.

Located at the foot of the Aonach Eagach ridge, and across from the Pass of Glencoe’s Hidden Valley and Bidean nam Bian, one of the highest Munro’s in Scotland, is the delightful Clachaig Inn, a whitewashed stonebuilt tavern that offers some of the best Scottish hospitality that I’ve ever enjoyed.

The Clachaig Inn is legendary in these parts, and further afield as well.  It offers a wonderful mix of bars that cater for sunday drivers and muddy hillwalkers alike, live music, cask conditioned ales and a Whiskey counter to die for.

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The Clachaig Inn on the old Glencoe road (james denham) / CC BY-SA 2.0

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The Clachaig Inn, the best little Scottish restaurant and hotel in Glencoe

When I last visited, just a week ago, the place had changed since I had first sat in their ‘boot bar’ (the section that the weather-worn walkers tend to migrate to) and feasted on a spicy chilli that I still haven’t quite forgotten.  On this occasion I was considerably drier and had swapped my cumbersome rucksack for a husband, two kids, and a scarily large German Shepherd.  Concerned that the policy might have changed, I asked the girl on reception whether dogs were still allowed, and if so, which bar they could get into.  She looked at me as if I was an underager trying to get in without ID, before smiling…

‘Anywhere you like!’

‘Really?’ I asked, ‘He’s a big dog?’

‘Really!’  She said.

Even so, I found myself trying to disguise him as he loped through the door, just in case I’d misheard.  I needn’t have worried.  Inside were more dogs than you’d find in a kennel, and once we’d chosen the biggest table we could find, he was stretched out underneath and out of the way in no time.

The food in the Clachaig Inn is fabulous.  The fish and chips I ordered was perfect, and my husband’s haggis tasted great as well – well worth the cheeky slap I got for stealing a second forkfull!  The kids had fish too, and what wasn’t good enough for them was certainly good enough for the dog.

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Glencoe and River Coe (Doug Lee) / CC BY-SA 2.0

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Pass of Glencoe, the view from the Clachaig Inn

During the winter this place has a lovely feel to it – I remember warm log fires and wood burners blazing throughout – but even though the heat wasn’t needed on this perfectly sunny day, it was still a comfortable, relaxed setting and it’s easy to see why mountaineers, hillwalkers and Munro baggers like to wind up their days here.  The Clachaig Inn also caters well for motorcyclists, caravanners and campers, and with accommodation available from bedrooms and a campsite, to self catering properties as well, you could truly immerse yourself in the stunning Scottish countryside with this as the perfect base.

And I have to add that one of the improvements is the fabulous little kids playarea outside, so if you’re passing here on a long journey it’s a great place to stop for some lunch and to allow the kids to let off some steam.

The Clachaig Inn comes highly recommended by the candidtraveller Team!

Sky Hotel, Aspen

Rating: Truly Outstanding
Reviewer:  Nomad
 
I rolled up to the Sky Hotel in Aspen for a quick break on what was a very lengthy journey between Denver, Colorado and Las Vegas, Nevada.  And, Wow!  What more can I say?  Apart from ‘I wish I was staying for longer!’
 

Double room in the Sky Hotel, Aspen

 
The Sky Hotel is one of those quintessential ‘apres ski’ hotels – y’know, the kind you see in the movies…  Lots of beautiful people sitting around a roaring fire after a day on the slopes, wearing furry jackets and leg warmers.  I’m not a skier by the way, so I wholeheartedly apologise if my perception is somewhat dated, but beautiful people they all were, even if the legwarmers were nowhere in sight. 
 
I’m told that this hotel is a celebrity favourite, and frankly it’s not hard to see why.  The rooms are beautifully appointed, in a quirky but fun sort of way, the mini bars contain the usual alcoholic and chocolate treats, but also include oxygen and ski googles, which I’ve never seen in a hotel bedroom before.  I wonder if the summer hikers can purchase walking poles and blister bandages as an alternative?
 

Lounge bar, Sky Hotel, Aspen

 
The cocktail bar has an extensive menu,  most of which have deliciously weird or rude names, so try ordering them after you’ve already drunk a few.  You’ll end up in giggles.
 
I stayed in one of the double rooms and spent my only night there sprawled in a luxuriously comfortable bed.  Loads of the rooms on the ground floor have a doorway that opens right onto the street (although it’s not exactly the main road), so you can come and go as you please. 
 

Exterior of the Sky Hotel

 
The staff in this luxury hotel are as warm and welcoming as the decor, and they were happy to help me regardless of my query.  The reality was that there weren’t any problems while I was staying here, and even on check out I was asked if there was anything else they could do to help get me on my way safely.  Fantastic service.  If they could have shortened my impending 13 hour drive I would have been delighted!
 
The Sky Hotel, Aspen gets a fabulous thumbs up from candidtraveller.

The Bellagio, Las Vegas

Fiona Galloway: EditorSo, my hubby and I have seen the Ocean’s films, and laughed our way through The Hangover, and eventually figured that we might as well go and see the city for ourselves.  Las Vegas, the city of sin, was our next destination.  We rolled up to the Bellagio in our fantastic Cherokee with the essential air conditioning turned up full blast, and was greeted by a smiling valet who took my keys, unloaded my luggage and disappeared with my rental car into the city streets. (The parking in Vegas is at a premium – must be something to do with needing as much space for slot machines as possible – which all means that if you don’t take the valet parking you may find yourself hauling luggage for blocks).

bellagio luxury hotel las vegas

The marble clad foyer of the Bellagio is impressive.  The glass ceiling art is inspiring, and it’s bright colours are only just eclipsed by the bright lights of the arcades that are clearly visible from the check-in desk.  The girl who booked us in was friendly and helpful, and it was great to see that there were hardly any queues, even though the luxury hotel was packed.

Our room was easy to find, and on the seventh floor with a view over those famous fountains and the Las Vegas strip, we were very happy indeed.  In fact, if you switched on the flat screen TV in the room (I forget which channel) it played the music that the fountain display was set to every fifteen minutes when they switched on.

Our bed was a gorgeous King in a large, spacious room, decorated in warm tones of brown.  There was a chair by the window which gave a fabulous early morning view of the sunrise over the Eiffel Tower!  The bathroom in these rooms is heavenly.  A great big soaking tub which was big enough even for my husband’s 6’3″ frame to stretch out in, a separate glass enclosed shower and his and hers sinks on a white marble top.

Throughout our visit, we were continually impressed by this hotel.  Dining options were plentiful, the staff were always friendly and smiling, and despite it’s size the hotel was perfectly clean and tidy.  I sometimes feel that you can get lost in large hotels, and that you become less of a person.  Y’know…you’re just another face in the crowd.  But the girl who cleaned our rooms knew us by name and even left us an extra chocolate for our evening coffee.

It’s no surprise that the Bellagio is a popular choice – it’s certainly famous enough – but for ordinary folk like us this hotel is enough to make you feel that little bit more special.  Definitely worth a stay, in my humble opinion.

This hotel gets the candidtraveller vote!

The Innsbruck Hotel, Aspen

Rating: Truly OutstandingReviewer:  Nomad

The Innsbruck Hotel Aspen is an outstanding example of an American residence-style hotel, located on the main street through the pretty town of Aspen.  My stay was in September when the snow was definitely nowhere to be seen, but even in the autumn, or Fall as it’s known over here, Aspen has plenty to offer.

I arrived at The Innsbruck Hotel Aspen after a pretty lengthy journey from Denver.  I was hot, clammy and very, very tired.  By the time I drove down the main road I was desperately in need of a shower, and with the street lights on and the place in darkness, I doubted I’d be in luck for any food.

It’s always great when you walk into a hotel and the first person you speak to can actually help.  There was no queue, no problems finding my reservation on the computer and the bubbly girl behind the desk had already got a welcome pack put together for my arrival.  Bliss.

The extremely comfortable bed in the Innsbruck Aspen. I’d gladly sleep in that again!

When I asked her if there was anywhere still open for food, she whipped out a free tourist street map and a pink marker, a bit like a child’s colouring pen, and promptly drew arrows in every direction all over it, chattering incessantly as she did so.  She also drew pink love hearts around her absolute favourite eateries – I’m guessing Aspen has a reputation for good food, because those were a lot of hearts!  Directions provided she cheerily pointed me in the direction of my room, and then emerged completely from behind the reception desk to help me with my luggage, wearing a short skirt and ski boots…(remember I said there wasn’t any snow?!)!

The room was outstanding.  Really!  The bed was the most comfortable thing I’d slept in for days, and the bathrooms, all two of them, were to die for.  But the living room, with it’s open gas fire, large flat screen TV, hunting lodge style decor and open plan marble kitchen were the killer.  Now that’s what I call a home from home.  I could have set up permanent residence there quite happily.  But that’s what a residence luxury hotel is all about – apartment style living without the rental costs.

I took my new friend’s advice and followed her pink squiggles to a hotel a few blocks away, where the equally friendly staff went out of their way to serve me a fabulous dinner before closing for the night.  And then it was a quite stroll through the deserted Aspen streets and back to The Innsbruck Hotel Aspen to relax for the night.

Innsbruk hotel aspen luxury hotel

Open plan dining at the Innsbruck, Aspen

The Innsbruck may not be your typical luxury hotel.  There’s no gaping marble foyer, for example, no bustling dining room and no late night bar to slump in after a long journey, but that really doesn’t matter.  It has a fantastic location with a backdrop to die for, and everything you could want is within easy reach.  In fact, I found it when I booked my trip through an online booking site, and chose it because it wasn’t quite as expensive as most of the other hotels.  But paying less here clearly doesn’t mean getting less than star treatment.

All in all, The Innsbruck Hotel Aspen gets a high rating from me for its perfectly luxurious rooms, incredible bathrooms, excellent service and friendly staff (and I really wish I could remember that girl’s name – she was great!).  There was nothing pompous or pretentious here, which is unusual when you’re staying at a hotel that can pride itself on being labelled ‘deluxe’, and that makes it all the more special.

Next time you’re in Aspen, this is one hotel that definitely gets the candidtraveller vote!

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