“ Address: 10-14 Union Terrace / Aberdeen / AB10 1WE „
I recently had cause to visit Aberdeen on a work trip. Since it was a work trip, I left the booking of the hotel in the capable hands of our excellent central admin team. Their selection was the Caledonia by Thistle hotel near Union Square and, as ever, it turned out to be a great choice.
The hotel is in a reasonably accessible spot, about 7-10 minutes' walk from the railway station. It does require a short walk up a hill (mild by Scottish standards!) which will not cause any real difficulty for most people, although anyone elderly and infirm might prefer to travel by taxi. The hotel does have a car park, but spaces are relatively limited (about 30) and you can't reserve one in advance, so have to take your chances on arrival.
Entering the hotel leads into a pleasant lobby area where we were greeted by a helpful member of staff. The whole check-in process was dealt with very efficiently (just two signatures on a form) and less than five minutes after arriving I was in my room. Checkout was similarly smooth, and with a generous checkout time of 12 noon, there's no need to splutter to get out of bed on the day of departure.
The room I was given was on the fourth floor (of four) and disappointingly small. It was no more than about 15 feet square with a small bathroom off to one side. It was certainly one of the smaller hotel rooms I have stayed in. Mind you, it does seem to be pot luck. When I met up with my colleagues later on, they reported that (for the same tariff) they had much larger rooms, complete with a sofa. Mine just had one solitary chair. Clearly I have offended our admin team in some way...
The colour scheme was the dark red/brown combination that seems to be in vogue for hotels at the moment; not offensive on the eye, but not particularly attractive. Furniture was a little sparse: a bed, wardrobe, small desk, little table and one comfy chair. In fairness, that was all there was room for and since I was only staying for one night, it wasn't an issue. If I'd been staying any longer, the room might have started to feel a little cramped after a while.
The bathroom was similarly fine without being anything special. Decked out in the same black and white tiled colour scheme again beloved of hotels everywhere, it's most notable feature was that the floor became rather like a skating rink if water was spilled on it!
There was a disappointing lack of information about the hotel services and the local area. Although there was a folder in the room with sections for eating and drinking, using your room's electrical equipment etc., it was empty except for a couple of pages of contact details for local services. Whether this is because someone had pinched the stuff from my folder or just that the hotel doesn't provide it any more, I don't know. This is obviously only a very minor thing, but I am one of those sad people who likes to browse this sort of information.
The view was not the greatest in the world. The back of other (not particularly attractive) buildings greeted you through the window, although it was possible to see more pleasant parts of Aberdeen if you craned your neck slightly. This improved view, however, was somewhat spoiled by scaffolding covered in netting which was directly in front of the window. At first I assumed this was due to building work. On second glance, this seems a permanent feature to keep the gulls away (more on them in a moment)
Again, my colleagues fared better than I did as their rooms had lovely scenic views over Aberdeen. Clearly I must have done something to upset the reception staff too.
The biggest issue didn't become obvious until I went to bed. Obviously, Aberdeen is a port, ports mean the sea, and the sea means gulls... gulls which decided to fly around and shriek for most of the night (don't the damn things ever sleep or do they operated in shifts?). Since I like to sleep with the window open (particularly in stuffy hotel rooms), this was a problem and the incessant cry of the gulls kept me awake for large parts of the night. Essentially, I had a choice: I could have the window open but be kept awake by the gulls or close the window but be kept awake by the heat.
Food and Drink
Breakfast was the only meal I had in the hotel and was something of a disappointment. A choice of continental and cooked breakfast was included in the price, with additional items (such as omelets or smoked salmon) available at extra cost. I went for the cooked breakfast initially which offered a range of the standard cooked breakfast items that you might expect. This was very good and clearly cooked from fresh, rather than having been sitting under a hot plate for ages. This did mean you had to wait a little while for it to arrive, but I'd rather that than have some congealed egg and lukewarm bacon.
The disappointment came with the continental options. At first glance, there appeared to be a big choice spread over several tables. This proved to be an illusion. The tables were actually quite sparse so a relatively small amount of food was spread over a relatively large area. Moreover, the dishes looked rather bland. The cereal, for example, was standard packet stuff like Rice Crispies or Kellogg's bran flakes, just poured into a big bowl. The selection of cold meats and cheeses was also limited when compared with other hotels I have stayed in.
On a cautionary note, whilst I didn't visit the bar myself, one of the locals I spoke with did warn me that the hotel has a reputation for being amongst the most expensive in Aberdeen for drinks.
The tariff for bed and breakfast was £75 per night which for a central(ish) location in a major city was actually very reasonable, although I think it's fair to say that my colleagues got better value for money than I did since they had bigger rooms and a nicer view.
Whilst I would happily return to the Caledonian for business purposes, I'm not sure I would want to stay there for leisure purposes. It's not really my kind of hotel, as it's rather lacking in any real character and the small room I experienced might become an issue if you were staying any longer.
The Caledonia by Thistle hotel
© Copyright SWSt 2012