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My girlfriend and I were very fortunate recently to have been treated, by my Mum, to a short break in Bournemouth. She had booked us a hotel in the town with nice facilities, in case the British summer weather should let us down... The hotel my Mum booked was the Hallmark Hotel Bournemouth, formerly known as the Durley Hall Hotel. Having not heard of Hallmark Hotels before I immediately checked out the website and found that it is a small chain of hotels with four sites located in Manchester, Derby, Carlisle and of course Bournemouth. The hotels are described on the Hallmark website (www.hallmarkhotels.co.uk) as being "boutique-style hotels in the UK providing luxury accommodation for the discerning traveller" The Bournemouth hotel offered a good range of facilities including a gym, a full health spa, a swimming pool, sun terrace, Bar and Brasserie as well as stylishly decorated rooms. As there are so many different areas of the hotel, I have decided to review each section individually and give an individual mark for each along with an overall mark at the end. ****** LOCATION ****** The hotel is located on Durley Chine Road which is just off the A35, the main road running through the back of Bournemouth. This makes it very simple to not only get to the hotel but also to get out of Bournemouth if you want to visit the surrounding area, though it can get busy during the rush hour so try to avoid it then. Despite being close to the main road, the hotel is nice and quiet as the surrounding roads are fairly light with traffic and not many people as it is a predominantly a hotel area with numerous hotels in the area. The Hall mark is one of the nicest looking hotels around and has certainly benefited from work in recent times. Although located to the back of Bournemouth, the hotel is ideally located for the town and the beach as it is only a 10 minute walk to either. It really is an ideal location as it give the best of both worlds, the ease of accessing the beach and town but also the quietness of being out of town. Add in the fact that there is a car park which is free for guests and you really do have an appealing hotel. The only slight downside was actually nothing to do with the hotel itself but two hotels across the road both of which were closed down and in a state of disrepair which didn't give the best of views from the window. One of the hotels was having some work done on it (we saw old baths being removed) but as to the final fate of the two I do not know but I should imagine there will be work on-going for some time. When we were at the hotel there was no noise from the hotel being worked on so it was not a disturbance, merely a bit of an eyesore but really I wouldn't let it bother you and most certainly wouldn't let it put you off the hotel. The rating is marked down slightly solely due to the run down hotels opposite but on the whole the location is great! RATING: 4 1/2 out of 5 ****** ROOM ****** The room my girlfriend and I were given was a beautiful double located on the first floor at the front of the Hotel. It was easy to get to either by the lift which was quick and smooth, or via the stairs. Upon entering the room, we were amazed at how nicely the room was decorated. Everything looked fresh and clean and as if the whole room has just been freshly decorated. Everything in the room was very stylish and tidy making the room feel nice and relaxing from the moment we entered. Naturally we did the same as everyone always does as soon as they enter a new hotel room, we had a good nose round. Opposite the door was a bathroom, again beautifully decorated, clean fresh and stylish. There were two nicely sized sinks in a surface the full width of the room giving us plenty of space for our toiletries etc. There was also a lovely big deep corner bath. On By the sinks there were some of those lovely small bottles of shampoo, conditioner etc, which naturally we used and took home at the end of our stay. I was quite surprised there was not a shower and was rather disappointed, then it struck me that there was also no toilet. I looked back out into the main room and noticed across the room beside the bed there was another door. I opened it and there was the toilet and a lovely looking shower, again all lovely and clean and fresh. Next we looked at the wardrobe and the cupboards. In the wardrobe there was an ironing board and an iron, along with plenty of hangers for our clothes and some spare pillows. The cupboard gave us plenty of room to get unpacked. Next to the wardrobe there was a nice sized dressing table with a nice mirror on the wall, a lovely looking lamp and a plug socket, handy for the hair dryer in the drawer. Next to the bed was a gorgeous deep purple chair and footstool for sitting and relaxing in if for some reason you didn't want to sit on the bed to relax. The bed was a good sized double with a really stylish headboard and covered by a really snuggly bedspread. I always find when going to a hotel I've not been to before that I have a slight worry about the comfort of the bed and find it necessary to quite quickly jump on the bed and see what it's like. Fortunately when I jumped on this bed, it was pretty much perfect, firm enough to be fine for my back but with just enough give for comfort. As with most hotels the bed was made up with sheets rather than a duvet, while this is not my favoured form of bedding as the weather was quite warm the sheets were fine. Over the bed was a ceiling fan which was controlled by a remote control allowing you to easily cool the room down without even having to move, great stuff! Like most hotel rooms tea and coffee making facilities and a Television were supplied. However, in this case as with the rest of the room, they were really good. The television rather than being a bulky small screen tv, in this room (and in all the rooms) the tv was a 32 inch flatscreen one with freeview giving plenty of channels to choose from. The cups and saucers for the tea making facilities were incredibly stylish and cool and were suitably at home in the room. Overall this has to have been one of the best hotel rooms I have ever stayed in, much nicer than rooms I have experienced in Hilton Hotels etc which I have often found to be functional rather than particularly relaxing. This room was beautifully decorated, stylish and as I have said, from the moment we entered the room felt very relaxing, which was the whole point of our short break. RATING: 5 out of 5 ****** GYM ****** One of the reasons my Mum picked this hotel for my girlfriend and I was because of the facilities it has to offer as she wanted us to having things to enjoy if the weather let us down... One of the main facilities was the gym available for use by all hotel guests. Located out of the main building and next to the swimming pool, the gym, while not the biggest of places, is well equipped, with treadmills, bikes, cross-trainers and rowing machines along with a good selection of weight training machines, a bench with free-weights and an area with pilates balls and mats for floor exercises. All of the equipment was in good condition and nice and clean. My girlfriend and I used the gym a couple of times during our stay and were pleased to find that it was fairly quiet allowing us to get on any of the equipment as we pleased. Like a lot of gyms, there are screens to look at while exercising which during the times we were there was displaying a music channel. I find this is quite good for exercising too as it helps the time pass. Towels were provided for gym users, which was nice as it meant not having to take room towels with us. The changing rooms were fairly good, with a shower, hair-dryer, toilet, lockers etc as you would expect. They were nice and clean though a little tired in places, though not so much as for them to be unpleasant. Overall the gym was satisfactory and certainly a nice facility to use, with the changing rooms the only thing which let it down slightly, hence the rating. RATING: 4 out of 5 ****** SPA ****** Along with the gym, the hotel is also home to a well equipped spa. Located in the depths of the basement of the hotel, the spa is available for use by hotel guests, (over 18s only!), at no extra cost. As my girlfriend and I wanted to have a nice relaxing break we decided to make as much use of the Spa's facilities as we could, and I have to say we thoroughly enjoyed it! The spa has a good range of facilities to choose from: Swimming Pool Bubble Pool Jacuzzi Sauna Steam Room Aromatherapy Cave Relaxation Room Ice Zone And four treatment rooms The swimming pool is nice and warm and big enough to be able to swim widths or laps fairly easily, or if you prefer - as my girlfriend and I did - just lie right back and float about with your eyes closed with only the sound of the water to listen to. We spent a good deal of time relaxing in this pool, time very well spent in my opinion. Attached to the swimming pool is the bubble pool, again nice and warm, this is a circular pool which every 10 minutes or so bubbles away for a few minutes. Next to both of the these, the jacuzzi is a good sized pool with enough room for several people, though when we were there it was just the two of us. The water was very warm and bubbled very nicely. I have not been in many jacuzzis so I don't have much to compare this to but I have to say it was very nice and I found it very relaxing. Never having been in either a Sauna or a Steam Room, I was keen to try them both. As it turned out I could not bare to spend more than a couple of minutes in either, the heat was just too much for me! I did however have enough time to look at each to see what they were like. They are not huge but are big enough for a few people to comfortably sit and enjoy the ridiculous heat. The Ice Zone was something I hadn't ever heard of and it turned out to just be a big bowl of ice to use for cooling down out when coming out of the sauna or steam room. The last two facilities in the spa that are free are the two which I personally enjoyed the most. The Aromatherapy Cave is a dark room with tiled, heated bench type seating round the room and a tiled footstool. The ceiling is covered in little lights to give a starlit sky effect. There is gentle relaxation music playing and an underlying scent of relaxing aromas. I really enjoyed this room and spent a good while in hear breathing in the warm air and listening to the gentle relaxing sound. I could happily have spent all day in there! The last room is the Relaxation Room, a softly lit room with extremely comfortable wicker loungers with nice thick soft cushions perfect for lying stretched out and allowing yourself to relax. In the background there was very soft relaxation music playing to help with relaxation. Again, this was a lovely room and one I could happily spend a long time in. There are a range of treatments available including manicures, pedicures, exfoliating body scrubs and massages, ranging in price from £13 to £35. We were tempted by a full body massage but unfortunately did not have the time to fit in any of the treatments so am unable to review them. Overall the spa facilities were really good and thoroughly enjoyable, we spent a good amount of time in the spa and found it very relaxing - so much so that as soon as we got home we started trying to find a similar spa near to where we live so we can enjoy such facilities again. As with the gym and swimming pool, towels are provided when using the spa. Also like the gym, the changing rooms were a very slight let down as although they had all the facilities required, sinks, shower, toilet etc they were a bit tired and could do with a bit of work but overall I felt the relaxing nature of the spa was still worth a five star rating. RATING: 5 out of 5 ****** BRASSERIE ****** For one of our evening meals we decided to eat in the Brasserie as we had done a lot of walking during the day and did not want to walk down into the town. We wandered along at about 9pm and we shown to a nice table tucked away in a corner which we were very happy with as it meant we didn't have to talk quiet to each other as is often the case in restaurants where the tables are crammed in and there is little space between them. After a few minutes out order was taken and we were asked if we wanted any drinks, neither of us really fancied anything much to drink so I just asked if we could have a jug of iced tap water and a couple of glasses. A few minutes later, glasses were brought to the table and iced water poured into each but sadly the jug was not left on the table as is usually the case in most restaurants. The restaurant was not very busy, so we were rather surprised that our main courses took nearly 35minutes to arrive. When they did arrive the waiter offered an apology for the delay explaining that they had a large party in that night, which I can only assume must have been an event in one of the hotels conference rooms. I appreciated the apology but did feel that it would have been better if this had been mentioned when we ordered. Apology accepted, the food was with us and I have to say it looked and smelt delicious! My girlfriend had ordered a Thai Chicken salad which came presented in an unusual and very stylish bowl which looked like it tipped on it's side. As is normally the case with salads, the bowl was nicely full with the salad but unlike some restaurants there was actually a good amount of the chicken which tasted really good, the coconut, lime and coriander marinade giving a lovely fresh tangy flavour, which also worked very nicely with the rocket and red chard in the salad. I ordered a chicken satay dish and some chunky hand-cut chips on the side. This was also nicely presented and I have to say was very tasty indeed! Satay is a bit of a favourite of mine and is one of those flavours that I think must be quite hard to get wrong. This one was very tasty indeed, sweet enough without being too sweet. The chicken was nicely cooked and had really taken on the Satay flavour. A very pleasant dish. We didn't fancy any desserts or coffees so we just paid the bill (we could have just put in on the room tab but I opted to pay it there and then) and went back to our room. Overall I would say it was a nice meal though it was possibly a little more expensive than it should have been but I guess that is often the way with restaurants in hotels as they offer the convenience of being right where you are so I can forgive that. Other than the wait for our meal which I felt should have been mentioned when we ordered, the only thing which let the place down for me was the fact that they didn't leave us with a jug of iced water instead we had to ask a couple of times for more water and each time they came over and poured more for us. I have not seen this before in a restaurant and would have been much happier to have the jug on the table to top up as we wanted. The environment of the brasserie was nice as it was fairly spacious with plenty of room between tables, the only thing I would have changed would have been the lighting as it was fairly bright and I prefer more subdued lighting as it give more of an air of cosiness but that really is quite a minor niggle really. RATING 4 1/2 out of 5 ****** BREAKFAST ****** Our stay at the hotel was on a Bed and Breakfast basis, if on a room only basis there is a £9.50 charge per person which is a little pricy but for what you got I think it is about acceptable. Personally for me the breakfast was one of the highlights of the stay, and I'm sure I'm not the only person for whom it is a quite a factor when choosing a hotel, hence giving it a section of its' own. The selection available, in a help yourself buffet style, is very good and I made sure to make the most of it. On offer there was the following: Cooked breakfast: Bacon Fried Eggs sausage Black Pudding Scrambled Egg Baked Beans Mushrooms Hashbrowns Tomatoes Cereals Cornflakes Rice Crispies Bran Flakes Crunchy Nut Cornflakes Coco Pops Weetabix Muesli Dried Fruit Fruit Grapefruit Segments Mandarin Segments Fruit Salad Fresh Fruit Croissant A variety of Pastries Bread/toast Butter Margarine Marmite Jam Cheese In addition to this rather good selection, you can also ask for other items Grilled Kippers Poached Haddock Eggs cooked to your liking Vegetarian Sausage Cold Meats - Ham, Salami, Pastrami Porridge Drinks Selection of Teas Americano (regular Coffee) Cappuccino Espresso Latte Decaffeinated Coffee Hot Chocolate When we entered the restaurant for breakfast, we were asked out room number, shown to a table and asked if we wanted any hot drinks, which were brought to the table quickly. The food was all nicely cooked and very tasty, and all the cooked breakfast dishes were topped up with freshly cooked items to ensure nothing ran out which, from my experience, often happens in lower quality hotels. You could eat as much or as little as you wanted and at no point felt any pressure to stop, which I liked as I tend to fuel up for the day when there is a buffet breakfast and don't want to feel guilty in doing so. RATING: 5 out of 5 ****** SERVICE ****** I have to say the service in this hotel was very good indeed, from the moment we arrived early in the morning and were allowed to use the car park although we were not able to check in, the helpful, smart and polite desk staff, the attentive without being crowding waiting staff and the friendly and efficient maids, everyone was very nice and everything seemed to run smoothly and everyone we came across was happy to help. We didn't have any problems that needed sorting out, and I normally find this is when you really find out how good the service is in any establishment so it is hard for me to say how good the service would be but I get the feeling it would be fine. Purely based on our experience I give them full marks. RATING: 5 out of 5 ****** CONCLUSION ****** My girlfriend and I had a lovely short break in this hotel. The room was beautiful and very comfortable in every way, giving us nice space and good facilities along with a lovely comfy bed, an ideal base for a short break! The hotel is close enough to the town and the beach to make it easily accessible without having to find somewhere to park which was very nice, it also encouraged us to do a lot of walking which was great as we both have fairly sedentary lifestyles due to be sat in an office most of the time etc. The great range off facilities means that even if the weather lets you down (who would believe that in Britain...) there is plenty to do, we spent a good amount of time relaxing in the spa area which really was a treat. If we went back we would definitely try to find time for a massage or some other treatment too which would be great for relaxation. Despite there being one or two areas which could use a little work (the changing rooms in the spa and gym could both do with a little freshening up) overall the hotel is very clean and fresh and stylish with great rooms and a very nice friendly atmosphere which makes it very pleasant. We didn't sample the delights of 24 hour room service nor did we spend time in the bar area but both add even more to what is already a great package. The breakfast was wonderful and much missed when I got home. I would certainly recommend this hotel both for short relaxing breaks and even for a longer stay as you are ideally located to explore what is a lovely area of the country. Our break was booked through Superbreaks.co.uk and was made at a very good rate due to special offers that were on, so keep your eyes peeled for those. A lovely hotel which I would very happily visit again!!!
Bournemouth has now become my boyfriend's second home due to a recent promotion and the Durley Hall is where he takes additional residence. As his girlie I do get to accompany him on the odd trip to Bournemouth when my job permits so as he is there as we speak I decided to write review on the hotel itself. ***Location*** Durley Hall is located on Durley Chine Road on the West Cliff in Bournemouth. The hotel is in a great location and well within walking distance to many of the amenities. Each time that I stay down there I end up walking from the hotel to the town centre, it takes about 10 minutes and is a pretty pleasant walk. The beach is also just 10 minutes at the bottom of the hill and very close to a pub to rehydrate after your short brisk walk. ***Appearance*** From the front of the hotel it does appear to be somewhat outdated and the interior is not that much different, some areas have been modernised for example the fitness suite and the swimming pool but for the majority of the hotel it could do with a facelift. ***Rooms*** The hotel has 77 rooms and they are all well decorated and fully maintained. On the previous 2 occassions that I have stayed in this hotel I have been able to stay in the executive room which is complete with hydrobath and power shower great stuff! The bathroom itself was huge, as you enter into the bathroom there is a large corner bath with vanity area and two sinks, very his and her! A separate door leads onto the toilet so there is little bit more privacy! The bedroom contains a double bed and the curtains are electronically operated, however the net curtains do make the room feel dull and deprive the light trying to come into the room, however they are clean which nets very rarely are. The carpets are clean and there are no signs of dirt so this hotel really does get the thumbs up for cleanliness. The room has a colour television mounted on the wall and is complete with remote control and selected satellite channels, just the basics that you normally receive on freeview but the reception is not that great so you would be better sticking to the basics 1,2,3 and 4. A trouser press is in the room as well as an ironing board and iron, the ironing board is attached to the wall and just opens out so there is no storage space being used up. Each room has a hairdryer, not very powerful but it will dry your hair all the same. There are also tea and coffee making facilities in the bedroom as well as some complimentary biscuits. These get replaced on a daily basis but if you require more all you have to do is dial housekeeping and they will happily replenish the stocks for you. Room service operates 24 hours a day but we have not yet used this service so am unable to comment. The room also contains a modem point and connection for a laptop ideal for those staying in the hotel for business purposes. There is plenty of storage space in the room in terms of a wardrobe and plenty of drawer space. ***Dining*** The restaurant in the hotel is called the Starlight Restaurant and dining does not begin until 7.30pm. The restuarant serves a great menu that is changed daily by the Head Chef offering a great variety. I do have to say that each time we have eaten there we have been one of the youngest, this hotel is very popular with pensioners and they do tend to complain about the food as it is extremely delicious and a bit more upmarket than fish and chips! Each day the menu provides a poultry, beef, vegetarian and a seafood option so there is always something for everybody. A two course menu is £15.00 and a 3 course menu is £21.00 and it is extremely good value for money however I have never had a glass of wine with the meal so am unsure as to how costly this would be. Le Cafe Boulevard is open for lunch and has a self service and an order facility and the food is delicious, I opted to have a Ploughmans lunch and it was amazing and you go so much and it was just £3.95. Here you can order light snacks such as Toasties and Sandwiches, Jacket Potatoes and also heavier items if you wish. Le Rendezvous is the bar at the hotel and is where the majority of entertainment takes place, with live cabaret singers throughout the summer, the bar has a very relaxing atmosphere and the bar staff are easyoging and friendly so even if you are at the hotel on your own they will happily chat to you as they serve other customers at the bar. You can order light snacks during the evening 6pm - 10 pm. ***Facilities*** The hotel provides complimentary use of the Health Spa and Fitness Centre which has 2 indoor pools both heated as well as a jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, air pool, ice pool, aromatherapy cave and 3 treatment rooms. Treatments are charged separately and there are some great packages available and next time I think I will be taking up some of the great offers at the spa. Children under the age are not permitted in the health spa as they like to guarantee a relaxing experience. Complimentary towels and lockers are provided for guests use. This hotel is great and its an added bonus that I get to go for free, there is plenty to do in Bournemouth during the day and you can certainly get fit in the gymnasium and take up some advice from the inhouse fitness trainers. If you are planning on visiting Bournemouth, look up this hotel it is an ideal base for accommodation and they do offer great deals on late availability and themed breaks. Room rates start from £47.95 per person per night. This hotel is not very good for children as there is no entertainment provided and no facilities for the children so you may want to check directly with the hotel before booking. The hotel in my opinion is great for a few night but it would take a lot for me to want to stay here for a main holiday. The facilities are great and are a treat when your on your own, the rooms are not as modern as other hotels and downstairs it feels a cross between the 70's and the 80's with the different themes.