“ Address: 27-29 Eastborough / Scarborough / YO11 1NG / United Kingdom / Tel: 01723 351 426 „
In March it was my birthday and we were looking to go away for a couple of days. We had about £300 to spend and were originally looking at a short European break, but everything seemed so expensive and with the Euro being so strong against our £££s we decided to stay home and look in the UK. I love coastal towns, particularly those within the UK, I believe that we have some of the most incredible scenery and views, so we had a look about and eventually settled on Scarborough. I love the traditional sea front and the amusements are brilliant (I love all things dance mat, guitar hero, etc). We started looking for accomodation and for a mid week break we were looking at around £20 pppn for Bed and Breakfasts, a little more for a hotel. I left it to my partner to sort out and off I went to work. She called me and said I've booked our accomodation for Scarborough, £7.50 pppn - I could not believe it! When I got home from work I quickly logged on and read some reviews....
The Merchant Hotel was described on Trip Advisor as 67% Thumbs Down not recommended, 99th hotel in Scarborough. There were comments like 'the Merchants was advertised as a boutique hotel and refurbished lies lies lies' and 'if I had walked past this dump I would not have stayed', 'The designer Bedding - Mmmm clean inside but dirty cover on the top - no notices anywhere to inform where to go in case of fire', 'The Guinness was poor they served as well', one person actually wrote 'if you are stupid enough to ignore this review' I mean how insulting? Anyway, I guess we were stupid enough to ignore the review, but in all honesty I was expecting something off Holidays from Hell, the reviews are seriously bad. With a capital B.
We are always of the opinion, if you go away on holiday provided your bed is clean and you have wash facilities, then the rest isn't important - you can make your own holiday. So when we read the reviews we just laughed it off in the hope that the 50 or so bad reviews we'd read were just really picky people - highly unlikely of course! We arrived at the Merchant at around 1pm. I parked on the street outside as it didn't seem to have a carpark and I went to check in. It's a bar primarily so the 'receptionist' is really a barperson. She politely showed me up to my room, didn't talk much but wasn't rude either. The room was up 4 flights of stairs and they were steep, so I warn you now, disabled access is virtually non-existant and I wouldn't recommend this hotel for anyone who can't take stairs too well. I asked her about parking and she said the street parking was free for 40 minutes and then no return for 2 hours, but after 6pm and before 8am it was completely unrestricted. There was also a car park long stay (£6 for 24 hours) at the bottom of the bank where the B+B is situated, but I found that on the end of the block there was a disused 2 space car park for a closed down B+B. So we just left the car there for 4 days and 3 nights and it was completely fine, parking wardens were there in abundance, so I wouldn't risk leaving a car on the street - however, £6 for the 24 hour is quite reasonable, given the price of your room.
On to the room then. We were in room 3 of 4. We had requested and were duly given a sea view. It was incredible too, really stunning, particularly on a night when the seafront was illuminated and the top of the lighthouse tower could be seen. Only criticism here is that the window was a little bit dirty, but I don't care about things like that on holiday! As long as the bedding and toilet/wash facilities are clean then I'm good! The bed was a double and had a really ornate headboard, beautiful crisp white sheets, pillows and duvet along with a blue satin quilted throw over and was decorated with a few unusual bottle green cushions. More importantly it smelt fresh as a daisy, the throw included. There was an antique looking dresser with a large TV and integrated DVD player and a kind welcome note next to the TV informing us that for £20 fully returnable deposit we could hire DVDs from the extensive library downstairs. The TV just had the usual channels 1-5, but it was perfect for me to tune in to the Cheltenham Festival so that was fine! The tea and coffee making facilites were ample, kettle, cups, spoons, tea, coffee, sugar and milk. Nothing extensive or posh; but sufficient. The carpet was clean and clearly new-ish, there was a comfortable easy-chair which matched the sort of boutique/antique feel. The artwork in the rooms and in the staircase is beautiful and there are many originals. There are also some really unique ornaments which are quite eye catching.
The bathroom was small, but fine, with a toilet, sink, bath and over-bath shower. The bath was kind of a half size bath or something, I couldn't quite lie down in it and I am 5ft 6" but it was nice and deep and the water from the sink, shower and bath all ran hot, contrary to what the other reviews had said. There were two 'bath' towels and two hand towels, but be warned these were tiny! I wish we had taken our own. There were also no toilettries.
A lot of the reviews commented upon the heating within the rooms. They said it was freezing and they couldn't sleep or bare to get a shower/bath because it was so cold, these were as recent as Feb 2010. A couple of things in my opinion - firstly, it's an old building with single glazing I couldn't even imagine how much it would cost to double glaze the whole 6 floors front and back! Secondly, it's one of the worst British winters and we're visiting the coast, next to the sea from which cold winds blow - I mean what do you expect from that? Finally, most importantly, there is a storage heater in every room and they work really well and quickly, we turned it on on a morning and within 15-20 minutes had to turn it off because the room became warm quick. So I really do not understand what all the complaining was about, but then again, as you will be beginning to see from the review so far, I can't anyway.
After unpacking our bits and having a cuppa (an initial ritual when I arrive at a B+B or hotel!) we went downstairs to investigate. We'd come in through the front of the bar, through the back and up the stairs to our room; so we decided to investigate what was out the back door. Out the back of the hotel there is a little quiet and hardly used road (one way only), then there is a 'picnic' area of sorts, well it's a couple of benches, some planters filled with flowers and a couple of bins. A lot of old people were sat there everyday eating their fish and chips. It was ideal to pop out for a cigarette there. Then there were two sets of steps and both led directly on to the seafront, right next to the amusements. We walked some more and discovered an amazing designer cup cake shop along with a great shooting arcade game (in to which we put about £30 in order to win a set of Hannah Montanna pencils!). With everything in such close proximity it made a massive difference to me, as usually I drive everywhere. We went for a meal in my favourite restaurant in the North East - George Michaels - Greek and French Cuisine (highly recommended and I would love to go in to detail, but deviate from the subject matter I shan't) and then we returned to the Merchant.
Hoping for a few quiet drinks we were marginally disappointed (!). When we went in there were two people in the main room, and then through the little door way the band / lounge area was full up and belting out Man in the Mirror. Apparently on a Tuesday night a local choir has their practice session in the bar. To be honest, it didn't bother us at all and in fact was quite funny, it provided us with a bit of entertainment and it livened the quiet bar up. We had a few drinks and by about 8.30 the choir had finished and were having a few drinks themselves. Then they left, so it was back to us two and another two in the bar. It was gorgeous, there's a big open log fire and what some people described as a gloomy dump serving a crap pint, I found to be comfortable, welcoming and a cosy little haven - which actually served beautiful Guinness along with a good (if a tad over priced) range of other beers, spirits, wines and soft drinks.
About 11 we retired to our room to bed and I had a great nights sleep. My only disappointment was that there were no curtains, just a cream coloured blind, so the room was filled with sunshine early doors and it woke us up! There's no breakfast included in the room price, but there is a cafe about 3 or 4 bars/shops up on the same block and it does a great fry up; Tea/Coffee plus Fruit Juice and a side of Toast followed by Sausage, Bacon, Eggs, Beans, Mushrooms, Black Pudding, Hash Brown, Tomatoes and more toast for £3.89 each. The staff are super friendly and couldn't do enough for us. It's called Smuggler's Cave / Cove.
The Wednesday of our stay was St Patricks Day and also my birthday. Staying in an Irish bar's B+B seemed like a great idea, so after some morning exploring and walking we got our gladrags on and ventured down to the bar. It couldn't have looked like a more different bar; and given the peace and quiet up in our room while we were getting ready, you would hardly believe it was the same building! There was an Irish group on playing 'Tell me Ma', etc and the bar was heaving! We struggled to get a seat and it was only 4pm. After ordering our Guinness and squeezing in to a corner seat, sharing a table with a few other couples we settled down to enjoy the free entertainment. There was such a mixture of ages there, with the majority of the custom looking to be middle aged groups of couples. After the Irish group finished to rounds of cheering (they were superb) and after a couple of encores, the bar literally cleared out, aside from a few who I recognised from the night before so I assume them to be regulars. About an hour and a half later the second band of the day came on - Grand Theft Audio who played an eclectic mix of Indie, Rock, Alternative, Pop, Dance there was even an opportunity for a bit of a karaoke! They came on about 7.30 - 8pm and played until we left at 11pm; they were still going then! It was brilliant; so lively and fun, most importantly relaxed and welcoming. We were talking to everyone! It was fab!
It was the Wednesday night we got talking to the owner of the bar/B+B. We were telling him about the reviews we read, he told us that he'd emailed / contacted all of the people who had left really terrible reviews asking them to contact him because the issues they raised in their reviews he'd actually personally resolved for them whilst they were staying in the hotel. He said none of them acknowledged his failed contact attempts. His words were 'I just don't know what people want for £15 a night!' I couldn't agree more. I'm not saying that because you paid only £15 then you should expect to stay in a hell hole (which this is not), but I am saying a hostel in some places costs more than £15 for two people to stay in overnight - a HOSTEL with SHARED dorms!! Here you have a lovely self contained en suite room and it is comfortable and clean!
The remainder of our stay went without hitch, we visited some gorgeous cafes and restaurants, had a brilliant time on the front and we relaxed in both our lovely room and the chilled bar. We also must have burnt off all we ate, walking up and down the stairs; which would be no problem provided you were an active person (just regularly active too, I don't mean superfit or anything). Some of the things we weren't privvy to because they don't open until Summer season included the hotel bar. Yes that's right, despite the fact that the B+B is over a bar, there is actually a separate resident's bar. Even if it's open, I wouldn't recommend missing the fun of the Irish Bar! There's also a rooftop terrace which again we didn't get to see because of the weather, but you could see it from the street and it looked beautiful! I honestly was gutted to leave and I couldn't believe how bad the place had been slated; what do people expect for the money they pay. I'm normally the world's worst complainer and I couldn't find one thing which seriously irked me suffice to type out a poor review of the place.
A couple of things to be wary of - the first and main point is that staff are actually bar staff. So they don't start work until the bar opens around 12-2pm. So when you arrive try to make sure you check you have everything you need and everything's ok, then if not, you know someone will definitely be around. Secondly, if you want toilet roll, extra tea, coffee, milk, etc then it's also hard to ask when no ones around, or in a busy bar. There is a cupboard at the bottom of the stairs which has bits and pieces in for the cleaner - so we just helped ourselves to replenishments when there wasn't anyone to ask.
I guess there are improvements which could be made, including curtains! Little toilettries in gift bags, glasses to have water / drinks in your room from, a better selection of herbal teas and hot chocolate in addition to tea and coffee, ooo and much bigger towels; but all of these things would cost money and jack the price of the rooms up! So, the total cost if you include breakfast for two and parking in the long stay car park is £28.78 which is less than any of the other B+Bs in the area. It would be even better if you were just getting the train down and then you could knock £6 off for parking! I thought for what we paid it was more than satisfactory - in fact - we definitely got more than we paid for. We loved it so much we are going to return for a long weekend in the Summer, to our perfectly cheap, entertaining, little boutiq-esque hidden treasure of a hotel!
The Merchant Hotel
27-29 Eastborough, Scarborough, YO11 1NG, United Kingdom
01723 351 426
Bookable direct or through Laterooms.com