Tired, worn and dated are words many would use to describe the Dunblane Hydro, owned by Hilton Hotels. Due for a refit in late 2009, the hotel is, indeed, badly in need of refurbishment in the communal areas.
The Balmoral restaurant, with the discoloured carpeting and dated decor, serves a staple diet of food which appear to be mass produced for ease of service, rather than any skilful culinary expectation.
Staff were generally friendly and approachable. The cleaners and room servants all stopped to wish you the day's greetings. when you squeezed past them in the narrow corridors outside your bedroom.
The rooms are large with king-size beds and cable TV though you wouldn't expect anything less from a Hilton.
For time-out, try the health spa which is free for residents and provides ample opportunity to unwind from the hours you spent that day venturing the nearby lochs and fells.
All in all, a satisfying stay at the Dunblane Hilton though regular Hilton-goers may be diappointed with the dated feel that this hotel has.
The Dunblane Hydro Hotel is a 4 star hotel, situated in the Perthshire countryside overlooking the historic city of Dunblane. Unfortunately Dunblane is perhaps best known now for the 1996 massacre of 16 young school children and their teacher in Dunblane Primary School, but the history of the town dated back to the around the late 6th century.
The hotel itself is situated on the top of a hill, surrounded by 10 acres of grounds, overlooking the historic town. The building was first opened as the Dunblane Hydropathic Establishment in 1878 to capitalise on the medicinal value of the local spring water. The original hotel contained a number of different types of baths, including Turkish, Russian, vapour, plunge, wave, electric and electro-magnetic baths. At one end of the main corridor was a large drawing room; while at the other end of the corridor was the dining room. The kitchen was on an upper floor, with food being lowered to the dining room by a service lift.
The Hydropathic Establishment did not prove as popular as expected and lasted only a few years. Since then, the hotel has gone through a number of changes, including being a Stakis hotel and a Hilton hotel. I believe that the hotel is rejoining the Hilton brand next year, being a Doubletree by Hilton brand.
Outside the hotel has plenty of parking spaces, including disabled spaces at the main entrance. The entrance to the hotel has a revolving door, with about 10 stairs leading up to the reception area, although there is a small lift that goes to the reception, but this isn't clearly signposted.
The reception is large but poorly staffed at times. The reception staff were friendly and efficient.
The original drawing room is now the Balmoral Restaurant, where delicious meals are served at breakfast, lunch and dinnertime. There is a wide variety of food available at the breakfast buffet, from a full English breakfast, to cereal, toast and fruit. The cooked breakfasts were not in the least bit greasy, and very tasty and fresh tasting.
The dinner menu also has a wide variety of meals available, from fillet steak, to salmon and vegetarian meals. A three course meal costs £22.95 per person, if not included in your room deal.
The original dining room is now a large open space, perfect for meetings and receptions. At the time of my visit, this space was not being used, and had a number of large comfy chairs situated around, and a large log fire burning bright.
Along the main corridor is a coffee shop and cocktail lounge, with a function suite beside the reception area. I believe that the hotel has regular entertainment at weekends, being a jazz band on the Friday night and a céilidh band on the Saturday night.
So, onto the bedroom. As it was a special occasion we upgraded to an Executive Suite. This was a larger room, consisting of a lounge, dining room, bathroom, bedroom with en suite and a dressing room. The suite was immaculate and was in great condition, and appeared to have been recently upgraded.
There was a TV in both the lounge and the bedroom, and the room included an iron and ironing board, and tea making facilities including tea, coffee, hot chocolate, biscuits and crisps. The room also came with a flower bouquet and chocolates.
For a pampering treat, the hotel has an indoor leisure centre just beside the main hotel, with a small pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and steam room, and for the more energetic, a gym. There are also a number of treatment rooms offering aromatherapy, reflexology, facials etc. I didn't make use of the treatment rooms, so can't review them, but the changing rooms were clean and spacious, and towels were provided at reception.
The pool was kept at a good temperature, and the sauna was very warm. The steam room was lovely, with a menthol scent. Outside the sauna and steam room were a number of showers.
The hotel has obviously recently been majorly upgraded, but there are a few areas that still need upgrading, mainly staircases and some corridors. The leisure centre could also do with some work, as despite it being clean, it does look a bit dated.
I especially liked the fact that all the hotel staff seem to be from the local area, which gave the hotel a nice Scottish, homely feel.
This is an expensive hotel to stay at, our room cost about £150 a night including dinner on both nights, and this was a special offer. Drinks within the hotel were also expensive, but if you're looking for somewhere to go for a relaxing weekend, I'd strongly recommend this hotel.
Who could resist staying at this famous and majestic hotel, stunningly situated in over 10 acres of glorious landscaped grounds, on a hill overlooking Dunblane and the surrounding Perthshire countryside? Dunblane is one of Britains smallest cities, as it has a Cathedral, well worth a visit, but sadly Dunblane is remembered for the massacre that happened on my birthday in 1996. A day I wont forget. It was the reason I had celebrated a birthday that I was here though! A time to pamper myself, relax and enjoy retirement.
Easily reached by train from Edinburgh or Glasgow or by good road links we used TOMTOM and he guided as safely to the curved driveway, giving us time to look at the magnificent building as we approached, taking in the scenery on the way. There was plenty of parking, some for disabled too at the front of the hotel, but as this was full we drove on further and parked, noticing even more parking available and a newer block which had been built, which was separate from the hotel. It was a beautiful day and my companion and I trundled our cases enjoying the view, as it was a sunny day we didnt mind, if it had been wet or snowy, not so enjoyable.
No red carpet for us, but it was very new and smart! But the revolving door, wasnt revolving! It took quite a bit of pushing and the space wasnt very big once you had a case inside with you! Certainly the following day it was working again. We were faced with a flight of stairs, as no porters rushed to assist us, we had to carry our own cases! Remember we were here to be pampered!
Reception was very swish, large and spacious but only one member of staff was on duty, after queuing, we were informed our room wasnt ready, as we were early. We had booked through an offer in a local newspaper through Classic Britain Hotel Consortium, it clearly said check in time after 3.00pm. We were informed check in is after 4.00! But that we could stay until 12.00 instead of 11.00am! Perhaps we would like to leave our cases in a room along the corridor and have a cup of tea. We did this, (although it was an unlocked room and anyone could wander in and remove our cases) after discovering the ladies cloakroom, which was very large and had individual towels more the size of a flannel, but lovely to dry your hands on. No paper towels here, although they needed more soap dispensers for the number of wash basins.
The layout was easy to see on this first floor, the Balmoral dining room was at one end, more about this later, and then a small lounge area called the Oak Room. The first night we enjoyed our coffee here, but it was in use for business meetings the second night. The ladies toilets, as mentioned earlier and a help desk, this was being set up at the time, but there was a selection of leaflets available for tourists. Dunblane is in a great area for visiting tourist attractions, especially in Stirling, Callender, Doune, Blair Drummond to name but a few. The main reception desk, which was opposite the stairs still had a queue! There were glass show cases with jewellery and other gifts which were on sale, and we noticed a lift, which we could have used when we entered but there was no sign directing us by the door! There was a small coffee bar and on the opposite side of the corridor was the Cocktail Bar. We sat in the comfortable chairs near a window, but couldnt enjoy the view, as the windows were too high! This was the only place we saw that was in need of refurbishment, we had been slightly worried as someone said the hotel was run down, the lining in the curtains was ripped and could have been tucked from view with a little more care, but it looked as if a great deal of work had been done already.
A pot of tea for two was ridiculously over priced I think it was £5.90! My friend did get a jug of hot water from them later so we managed 2 cups each! We did explore further along the corridor and there was a corridor leading to Conference rooms, a small lift to enable wheelchairs users to go down a level, the Gents which we didnt peep into even for review purposes! and the Stewart Lounge, which on the morning we left, was being used for a meeting. There were stairs cases to the upper levels at both ends of the corridor. There are 4 floors in the hotel.
We had paid a bargain offer price, so didnt expect a luxury room, and were pleased it was in the main hotel rather than the extension block. When we did get our key cards we followed the instructions and went up in the lift to the next floor. And here the trail began we walked along the quite narrow corridor and up several stairs, then turned and walked away from the front of the hotel, down a corridor, down more stairs and eventually we found our room. I realised we were not going to have a view, but hadnt expected it to be frosted glass on the window! OK, stand on chair and try and look out the top of window, not a lot to see apart from a modern metal type of roof and more bedroom windows, so that was a waste of time!
Back to the room, it was basic, it was small, but it was adequate and it was clean and the bathroom was spotless. So do you want to know what there was in the room?
Two single beds, which were very comfortable, there was a white cover on the quilt and a small over blanket in a rather old fashioned brown tweedy/tartan mixture. But the room was warm and the bedding more than enough for March. Two pillows, and an extra gold coloured cushion. The wardrobe was quite old fashioned, double-doored and housed an ironing board and iron, if you felt the need to press your clothes. There were lamps, a television which had good reception, and films could be paid for if you fancied watching an adult movie! The case rack, doubled as a large two drawer unit, again old fashioned dark wood, but nevertheless it was wood, not a modern chipped laminate, as so many hotels now favour. Under the television was the kettle and tea and coffee making necessities. There was just one packet of biscuits with 2 chocolate brownies. Between the beds was a bedside table and telephone and in the corner by the window a dressing table, with wall mirror, and two hair driers. Now dont get excited, as we did! The one didnt work! In the table drawer was some writing paper and envelopes, and bag for laundry if needed. There was a menu if you wanted to order room service and some information on the area. Plus a welcome letter with some basic information and a note at the bottom reminding people that there is a ban on smoking since March 2006 within the hotel and that there is a designated smoking area at the rear entrance. In Scotland we all accept the ban now, but it is necessary to inform people from England or abroad of the rules. A new and comfortable cream leather chair was in front of the dressing table and another leather chair with arms completed the furniture. It did say there was dial up connection for Internet connection, but I hadnt taken the laptop as this was a pamper break.
Oh! I nearly forgot! Left in the one large drawer was a clean pair of jeans, top and sweater! Not my size! Presumably someone had packed and left these to put on to travel and then hadnt changed, but points off to the person who had cleaned our room. The chambermaids from Victorian days were now men from Poland! Changed days.
Our room obviously wasnt suitable for disabled guests, but there are designated rooms.
The bathroom was very spacious compared with the bedroom! There was a lovely modern bath with good powered shower overhead, a toilet and the wash basin was built into black marble, with plenty of room to put your toiletries. Lovely large white fluffy bath towels and hand towels, as you would expect, but and a large BUT, the toiletries were disappointing. Remember this is a Luxury hotel, there was one flannel OK so I dont often use a flannel and had my own, but one flannel in a twin room! There was one small bottle of shower gel and one small bottle of shampoo. Plus one shower cap, again this was a twin room and we were two ladies, and you dont normally share shower caps! Minor annoyances. But annoyances all the same.
The water was always hot, morning or night when we showered and the power level was fine, so no complaints there.
These made up for the minor room problems, and check in wait. We were advised to book for dinner this proved difficult as there was no-one in the dining room when we checked in and no-one answered the phone, when reception tried to do it for us! But the message must have been relayed as they were expecting us when we went down at 7.30pm. Very efficient staff, although very few were local. Polish, Indian and possibly German seemed to be the order of the day. Although there was a Scots accent the one morning in the form of a cheery lady, who seemed to be in charge in the dining room.
We choose our wine having already imbibed in our room we decided on a large glass rather than pay £19 - £20+ for a bottle! My chardonnay cost £5.65 for a 250ml. We choose our menu, were served with lovely warm rolls and didnt have long to wait, when our starters arrived.
Smoked duck breast on a bed of noodles with sesame oil. Absolutely delicious! For main course I had Trout on wilted spinach, with a white wine sauce, red cabbage (shaped in a circle), duchesse potato and some Mange tout. Again delicious. We were given a breathing space before, our waiter brought the dessert menu and although by then I was feeling quite full I managed to eat a light and refreshing Lemon tart with some meringue and crème fraiche. The menu outside the restaurant stated that dinner was £22.95. Not over priced for such a lovely meal, but ours was included in the deal.
Elizabeth Shaw mints accompanied the bill, and more came with the coffee!
A few hours later we were up and sampling breakfast! We were shown to a table and given instructions where we could find everything. I was used to staying in hotels that brought you toast and tea and coffee to the table, but here it was self service! We had to make our own toast and collect our coffee from a little urn. The coffee was fine, but I heard people saying the tea was a bit stewed! There was a flask if you needed hot water and a selection of teabags. There was a cold buffet with bowls of fruit and yogurt, cheeses, a selection of fruit juices, the usual cereals, bread, rolls, Danish pastries and a large hot buffet with the waiter cooking fried eggs as needed, so at least the yolk was how you like it! Not being a cooked breakfast fan, I enjoyed the fresh fruit, but decided to sample the bacon and potato scones. Both were lovely. Butter, spread and jams were on the table, as were milk and sugar.
Children were well looked after and high chairs available, I believe there was an earlier slot for children to eat too at night. The dining room was large and airy and looked as if it had been extended with a conservatory type building. This area was set up ready for lunch, presumably for one of the meetings that was in.
We decided to have a snack lunch from the Coffee bar, but had to order our drinks from the bar. We chose a Coke and I requested Appletise. The young girl, didnt understand, and couldnt find any, she then produced a carton of Apple juice and I said that was OK. But it ran out and she disappeared to get another carton, 5 minutes later she returned! In the meantime another guest returned to the bar, annoyed that she was still waiting for their drinks to be changed as they had been served with a sweet white wine instead of Dry! I feel sorry for foreign staff having to cope on their own, when they very obviously had language problems. The sandwiches arrived, and were delicious!
I did notice that there were a couple of hours in an evening when parents could leave their children and they would be cared for. There was no facility during the day that I noticed on the poster, but it did say there was baby-sitting. There was a small play area at the rear of the hotel near the Leisure centre and of course lots of grass where children could run around.
* The Triangle Leisure Club *
The main purpose of our visit, some pampering! We had a choice of 2 treatments included in our deal. Either a facial, a back, neck and shoulder massage or Aromatherapy.
Quoted from Dunblane Hydros website We have a dedicated, professional leisure team, two of whom are fully qualified gym instructors who will be delighted to design and help you with a fitness programme which suits your specific requirements.
It is advisable to book any spa treatments 2-3 weeks in advance of arrival.
When I received the confirmation booking form from Classic Britain, it said to contact and book the treatments, which I did. I was advised that the Aromatherapy wasnt available as the therapist was on holiday, and although we couldnt have our treatments at the same time, we could have 10.00 and 10.30 and 4.00 and 4.30. But unfortunately they couldnt book us in for more treatments as planned. Two weeks after doing this, a receptionist phoned from The Hydro to say there were no slots available for our treatments, but I explained I had already booked direct, so was pleased I had done so.
The day we arrived we checked out the centre, signed in received a large towel and went and tried out the pool, Jacuzzi, stream room and sauna. We looked into the gym and saw lots of people on running machines and exercising and decided we wanted pampering not hard work. A section of the pool was cordoned off for people to swim lengths, and later we watched some young people doing life saving techniques. There was a shower area beside the pool to use after the steam room and sauna, and some sun beds if you felt like relaxing. The steam room was very modern and nicely tiled with blue mosaic, it was mildly menthol and very hot, I could only stay there a short time, but my skin felt better for it. The sauna was a reasonable size, and had the usual egg timer on the wall. The changing room had about 36 lockers, for which you needed a £1 coin and 3 changing cubicles, one with a changing area for babies. Children under 3 had to wear special swim nappies which were on sale at the desk in reception.
There were only 2 showers, 2 toilets and wash basins. Shower gel was provided and some hand cream beside the washbasins. There was a spin drier and a couple of hairdryers.
In the reception area, swimsuits were on sale and some beauty products, there were tables and chairs were you could enjoy a drink and watch the swimmers. I believe snacks were available but we only had an instant coffee, which cost £1 for a large mug.
Sounds perfect? Yes, BUT! I was surprised to see a greasy looking tidemark on the Jacuzzi on the first day, but it looked cleaner the second day, perhaps they heard me remarking it needed some Cif cleaner! And remember I said, we were there for a bit of pampering. I was celebrating being 60 and my friend was 50 a couple of days before our break. On arrival for our facial we were told the therapist had phoned in sick. We explained that was our reason for going! The young lady was very nice and said they were trying to arrange another therapist. Perhaps we would like to use the facilities and check on the way out! Our faces dropped!
True to word, she managed to arrange another therapist. But, it meant we had to leave our comfy hotel and go down to Dunblane to a salon where one of us would have the 2 treatments originally booked and the other would have an hour long facial. We had mixed feelings, the instructions on how to get there were confused. A client told us we couldnt driver the way the receptionist was showing us on the map, as it was a one way street! Parking could be a problem etc. We had come to relax and be pampered now we were getting stress! But my friend managed to get reception to organise transport for us, and although it was only a short drive, it was not where we understood it to be from the instructions!
The salon therapists and staff were great (if you ever go to Dunblane Hydro and want some pampering try NEROLI!). We met another two ladies who had been fitted in, but only for facials, so they had missed out on their massages. This seemingly is quite a common occurrence. I certainly was disappointed that they had no back up therapists at the hotel, but glad we were fitted in, or the main reason for our break wouldnt have happened.
Because of this I cannot comment on the treatment rooms!
All good things come to an end, and we had to pay our bill! Reception was busy again, the two girls were kept busy. A bill was printed out, and as we both wanted to pay separately it was divided and new bills printed out, chip and pin facilities quickly made a dent in our credit cards, and we were ready to go on our way. The offer we went on through the paper and Classic Britain hotel consortium cost us £135 midweek for 2 nights per person, including dinner and 2 treatments. Drinks and lunch was extra.
Checking on the web site it normally costs about £109 per day per room for B&B plus treatments and plus dinner both nights which adds up to £204.90, so we did get a bargain.
I would think twice about returning if I wanted to be pampered. The meals were great, the room could have been better as there was no view. The staff, although friendly found the English language difficult. The leisure arrangements were the biggest disappointment, and so Im afraid this majestic looking hotel wasnt all it should have been.
Nevertheless I did enjoy my little break and we made up for any disappointment by some retail therapy on the way home!