“ Sir Stanley Matthews Way / Stoke-on-Trent / ST4 4EG / England / Tel: 44-1782-377000 / Fax: 44-1782-377037. „
* Prices may differ from that shown
excellent price, accomadation and staff were helpful
And so it came to pass that I found myself in need of a room to stay in the environs of Alton Towers. The suggestion had been made that we try to book our group in to the Holiday Inn, Stoke on Trent since there were various deals available and, more importantly, rooms! My perception of the Holiday Inn chain was fairly good. Utilitarian 24/7 hotels sprung to mind. A quick check on Lastminute.com confirmed that I could chose between a family room or a double room at a cost of £58 per room per night. Liking my space I promptly booked a family room, printed off the confirmation and forgot about the whole thing.
The week before the trip, it became obvious that my husband would not be able to get the Friday off work and so we were going to arrive in Stoke quite late. No problem I thought, just give the hotel a ring and confirm a late booking. I spoke to a very nice lady who confirmed that the room would not be resold or changed as we had already got a confirmed booking. She read back the details of my booking, one family room for two nights, and I was happy.
The journey up to Stoke is another opinion in its own right, however, I had been assured that the hotel would be easy to locate, just off Junction 15 of the M6 (in fact, the hotel is actually referred to by the company as the M6 J15 Stoke on Trent). Indeed it was. Pulling off the motorway, the unmistakable green neon glow of the Holiday Inn sign was just what the doctor ordered.
We pulled off the main road into a long drive leading up to the hotel. To either side of the drive were large grassy areas giving a sense of space. It was at this point that déjà vu hit. More about that later. The hotel lying to the left of the drive (always useful in the UK but you would be surprised how many hotels get this bit wrong) had a covered area in front of the reception allowing passengers and luggage to alight without having to get wet in the rain (again always useful in the UK!). From here, electric glass doors opened into a warm and inviting reception-cum-bar area.
Car parking was easy. Despite it being 9pm, a Friday, and as it transpired, a jam packed hotel, there were plenty of places to park. The tarmac spaces were wide enough for most types of vehicle although there were a few spaces that, due to the layout, would only have been suitable for smaller cars. The car park itself was fairly well lit although no evidence of security cameras was detected. One thing that was lacking but which is becoming more common, particularly at establishments near motorways, is a controlled exit from the car park (token barriers or even a manned booth).
The first stages of panic set in as we entered the reception. The reception area is spacious, open plan to the bar and lounge areas. The small reception counter was busy and we stood, awaiting our turn. Known for my enquiring nature (or nosiness as my husband would put it) I listened in. A football team had arrived and the hotel did not have enough rooms, despite having booked the correct number. A mistake had been made and the coach was none too chuffed at being told that a couple of his lads would have to sleep on camp beds the day before the big match! The reception area offered next to no privacy (not a problem unless you are checking in as Mr & Mrs Smith though).
I convinced myself that there was nothing to worry about. We had a confirmed reservation and I had told them we were going to be late. Sure enough, we were checked straight in, a room having been reserved for us. No deposit was required although a credit card impression was taken. Clear directions to our room were given and away we trundled.
Upon entering our room my first comment was gosh (or suitably colourful words to that effect), its freezing in here, Ill shut the window!. Only problem was, the window was shut! The radiator was on number 3 (out of 5), yet cold, I turned it up and went to seek out the rest of the group in the bar. We got back to an ice cold room at midnight.
As will become apparent, I feel I am suitably qualified to comment on the rooms in this hotel. Upon returning to our room at midnight and discovering that it was still ice cold, we contacted the reception who promised to send a man down. He duly arrived, tinkered with the radiator (assuming that we were stupid enough not to have checked it), disappeared and came back again with a tiny fan heater! He did say that if we wanted to wait until 0200 he would see if there were some no shows whose room we could have. Having been up since 0600 and with a full day ahead we declined at that stage.
The room we had was NOT a family room, it was a standard double (and we let the reception know this fact when we went to the bar shortly after checking in we were told that they were full, but sorry).
The room was (heating aside) absolutely fine. The door opened from the corridor onto a short hall area with a bathroom off to the right. The hall area had a double wardrobe, a tea and coffee area on an empty cabinet (I suspect that this cabinet formerly contained a minibar) and space for a small suitcase. The main bedroom was functional. By way of furniture we had a double bed, bedside cabinets on either side, a dressing table with stool, single armchair, coffee table (thigh height as opposed to knee height) and a TV and stand. A trouser press and hairdryer (in a drawer) were also provided. The TV showed various satellite channels and had a Playstation attached at the extortionate charge of £2.95 per hour!
The bathroom was a hotel standard. A single sink fitted into a moulded worktop, toilet and standard bath with a fixed head shower over. The usual range of toiletries were provided, shampoo (which smelt OK and seemed to do the job) and bath/shower gel. A note on the sink top stated that reception could provide the usual things that you might forget (razor, toothbrush and paste, cotton buds etc) although this was not tested! Towels of various sizes were provided on a heated towel rail (a luxury I must try to get at home when we get our bathroom refitted) and there were face clothes. (I wonder, did anyone else notice that to turn the tap on the hot tap on the sink turned anti-clockwise, whilst the cold turned clockwise?)
Décor was functional in this room, simple traditional would probably be the label I would attach to it. It was a little tired and dated and there was evidence of retouching here and there, particularly in the bathroom.
Bedding was sheets and blanket with a cover over the top. I much prefer duvets but for a couple of nights it is not a problem. Extra blankets were available in the wardrobe and, rather uniquely, a choice of pillows were available from housekeeping. This is a nice touch as the right pillow can make the difference between a nights sleep and a good nights sleep.
There is no air-conditioning in the rooms, just a single long radiator under the window with a temperature control knob from 1-5. The windows were capable of being opened but only slightly due to safety considerations.
Having spent a rather cold first night in the room, the following morning we requested that the radiator be fixed or we be moved to another room. After a long day out and upon our arrival back at the hotel we were told that the heating had been fixed so we hadnt been moved. Uh huh?
Entering the room was like walking into a refrigerator. Back to reception. The first room we were offered was a single! Yes, it did have a double bed but I can confirm that the room was just big enough for said bed in the corner against the wall and one bedside cabinet. Having booked a family room in the first place this was not acceptable. Apart from size and lack of wardrobe doors, chair and coffee table, the room was identical to the standard double. The only plus point here was that the long mirror was on the wall, unlike in the double where it was inside the wardrobe door that opened onto the arm of the bedroom door hinge so you couldnt actually open the door more than about 40 degrees and look in it!
The next room we were offered was an executive. Only problem was, it was a smoking room and we had specifically asked for non-smoking. The exec room had been redecorated about 3 weeks previously and was far more modern in appearance than the original rooms. Light wood, rather than dark was used and there was a more contemporary feel to the place. Size wise it was identical and had the same features save for the addition of a sofa bed (not put away) in place of the chair, mini-bar and towelling robes in the bathroom. Despite having only had three weeks use, it stunk. My husband had just got over a cold and I never do well in very smokey atmospheres so this room was just not an option. Opting for the lesser of three evils we agreed to take the single!
If there is one complaint I had about all of the rooms (and it is not unique to this hotel) it was the lack of central light in the bedroom. I do not like having to work or get ready in the half light of a table lamp and a couple of uplighters. The only decent light is in the bathroom, which is OK until you have to have a shower and the mirror steams up!
The hotel has one restaurant. This was the reason for the earlier déjà vu. A couple of years ago we stayed up the road at the Jarvis Clayton Lodge (5 minutes walk away) and, as there was a wedding at the hotel we came down to the Holiday Inn for a bite to eat! On this occasion we did not eat at the Holiday Inn, although from memory the food was adequate (Beefeater/Harvester sort of style), service was poor (slow and slightly tarnished cutlery) and the bill was reasonable although far from cheap.
The dining room is not large, and thus a query as to whether they could seat 11 of us on the Saturday night was met with a firm No.
Breakfast was, like many service hotels, made up of a fairly standard self-service buffet comprising cereals, fruits, cold meats and cheese, pastries and full english. Poached eggs and smoked fish were available on request. One huge bonus was that breakfast was served from 0730 til 1100 at the weekends. This meant that it was available early enough for us to get a full day out on the Saturday, but late enough for a lie in on the Sunday!
Our first breakfast, being early was fine. Everything was well stocked and fresh. Breakfast on the second day was not so good. At 1000 most of the hot dishes had run out and although they were being replenished it was one at a time. The full English was a very slow affair and more washing up was made as you collected the next bit of the dish on a side plate! The range of cereals had also been depleted and we were left with a choice of good for you rabbit food (All Bran, Weetabix or Museli) and opposed to the far more tasty and sugar filled Frosties and Coco Pops. Tea and coffee service was slow.
We returned to the restaurant a little later to say our goodbyes to those who had risen later and found that the breakfast had been completely restocked. Maybe we were just victims of bad timing.
If I had one objection about the breakfasts it was the fact that you were made to sign in, quite literally. I appreciate that they do not want people coming in off of the streets and taking breakfast claiming to be guests but surely you could just show the card that goes with your room key or something I dont want to have to work for my breakfast!
The bar at the hotel is unusual, being open plan to the reception. The area is quite large and it was possible to group 9 of us together without much hassle. Bar prices were on a par with your average club, not extortionate but not cheap. Service was slow (getting the picture?). The bar has an extended guest licence and reputedly stays open until the last guest leaves, although only bottled drinks are available at this time. After normal licensing hours you can only charge drinks to your room and not pay cash.
24 hour room service is available (at a cost) but again, this makes a refreshing change from limited hours service.
Although we didnt use it, I did go and take a peek at the leisure complex attached to the hotel. This is open to guests and non-guests. The swimming pool is tending towards the serious rather than the recreational although attempts have been made to make it look a little more inviting than your usual council-run baths. A sauna, jacuzzi and fitness club complete the suite.
This hotel is not geared up for disabled access and in fact, anyone with walking difficulties could find it awkward. Bedrooms were accessed from reception by going up on down stairs and due to the structure of the building corridors were long (why do I always get a room at the end of the longest corridor?). There are no lifts. Fire exits are well sign posted but can ony be used as such, despite being more convenient.
Prices vary according to when you go and how you book. We should have paid £58 per room per night for B&B through Lastminute.com. The weekend rack rate was £65 per standard room. I believe one of our group paid £54 per room, not including breakfast. I think that this was good value for money overall. It compares well with Travelodge-type prices (and is the same price as the Express Travel Inn) but with better facilities (although the Express does have disabled access).
Breakfast, if not included, was expensive at £13 (or £15 if you had it in your room).
Holiday Inn is a member of the Priority Club rewards programme. Collect points by staying at their hotels and reward yourself with a free stay, merchandise or discounted dining. Worth considering if you are a business traveller or have a liking for member hotels. Further details can be found at www.priorityclub.com
Often, more important than getting it right in the first place is they way you are treated when things go wrong. We felt a little let down here whilst we were actually resident. Our problems were simple, being allocated the wrong type of room, giving them a day to fix the heating or move us yet they caused a lot of hassle. Staff were polite throughout but actually did little to remedy the problems. On checking out we were given a choice as to what to do, and this resulted in a hefty discount (I didnt want to leave having paid nothing as it is always harder to argue when you are not face to face). Although not available over the weekend, the manager did telephone me on the Tuesday evening. He was pleasant and apologised, explaining that he had only been in the job three weeks and was making some quite radical changes. Communication seemed to be an issue and one which needs to be tackled fairly swiftly. All in all a satisfactory response but not outstanding.
OUT AND ABOUT
We were staying here to visit Alton Towers (about 17 miles away), but the hotel is ideally placed for the Potteries (Spode, Wedgwood and the like), the Peak District National Park and Uttoxeter Racecourse. As a place to break a journey going further North or South it would also be ideal as you do not have to travel far off the motorway.
Despite the problems we had we would stay here again. It was better than the Jarvis Clayton Lodge up the road (which felt rather like an old peoples home!). The hotel was fairly character-less but was clean and functional. Facilities were good and prices reasonable. It cannot get 5 stars and 4 is probably pushing it if I were only going on the one experience but I genuinely think that it was a one-off
Holiday Inn Stoke On Trent M6, Jct 15
Newcastle under Lyme
Tel: +44 870 4009077