“ Address: Discovery Quay / Riverside Drive / Dundee / DD1 4XA / Scotland „
Last month I had a date weighing heavily on my mind - the first anniversary of my husband's death. When the day dawned I felt suffocated and in desperate need to just get away, even for just 24 hours.
So I thought of a place not too far away, that I didn't associate with my husband, and chose Dundee which is easily accessible by train or bus from Edinburgh. I then did a quick online search for a hotel and chanced upon the Premier Inn Dundee Centre, available for £65.
Such was my haste to escape, I didn't really check to see if there was anything better on offer - I whipped out my credit card and went through online booking, adding breakfast for the bargain basement price of £7.35 - bargain basement as children eat free - before throwing some things in a bag, grabbing my daughter and heading out of the door.
Dundee is a city I have happy memories of. I worked there temporarily in the late 1980s and found the people friendly and the experience fun. The city sits on the banks of the River Tay and is relatively easy on the eye, although like all cities its has parts one wouldn't make a point of venturing near unless it was absolutely necessary.
I decided to take the coach up to Dundee and arrived at the city's bus station, and much to my daughter's disgust it was a good 15 minute walk to the hotel. The hotel is located much closer to Dundee's railway station however - a mere 5 minute walk
The Premier Inn Dundee Centre lies on the banks of the Tay, however its not exactly slap bang in the middle of the city centre. Instead you are looking at a ten minute walk to the city centre and its worth noting that that walk involves crossing two extremely busy roads.
Like all Premier Inns, it has a pub next door. This one is a Table Table establishment called "Discovery Quay", a nod to Captain Scott's ship Discovery which is located just a stone's throw from the hotel. It is inside Discovery Quay that you get your breakfast and can head to for an evening meal. You can access the pub from the hotel - there is no need to go outside and brave the winds coming in off the river.
We arrived at reception and check-in was very quick. The reception itself was very small however - just a desk and a couple of chairs and not the sort of place you would be encouraged to hang around in. I was given my key - a traditional key on a keyring bearing my room number - and off we went to our room.
The hotel is low rise with only two floors. There are no lifts so make sure you get a ground floor room if mobility is an issue.
Our room was on the ground floor and whilst relatively basic, was comfortable. I stay at Travelodges more often and you really notice the step up to a Premier Inn - touches like a phone in your room, no need to go to reception for extra pillows or towels as they are already there, and soap in your bathroom mark out the difference.
I had booked a family room so my daughter could have her own bed and it was nice to see it already made for her.
The room had a large wardrobe area for storing clothes and luggage and on here we found the extra pillows and towels we needed. There is a desk with chair which has a kettle, two mugs and instant coffee and teabags. As I don't drink either, I never tried them.
The room had a large cathode ray TV which my daughter wanted to turn on immediately. What is it with children in hotel rooms and TVs? Beside the TV was a card informing me that 10 TV channels were available however when I switched it on I was most disappointed to see it went automatically to analogue and there were, in fact, only four channels.
I fiddled about with the remote a little more and suddenly realised that digital TV was available by switching a different button and was delighted to see the full complement of Freeview TV and radio channels. The TV also has an alarm clock which is easy to set and I can confirm works. Another nice touch is the fact you can swivel the TV - this meant my daughter could watch stuff while I read a book and was undisturbed.
The bathroom was pristine and functional. The shower was nicely powerful but the toilet sometimes needed a couple of goes to flush properly - the handle seemed really stiff.
Our room had a view out to the River Tay and we could see both the rail and road bridges clearly. Well, we could have done but for the fact there was misting between the double glazing, curtailing our view somewhat.
We decided to have dinner at the Discovery Quay but obviously chose the wrong day to go. We had decided to have dinner late and booked a table - although when we got there we realised this had been a completely unnecessary measure. Things got worse when we went to order our food as we were informed by our impossibly perky waiter that two thirds of the menu was "off" due to them starting a new menu the following Monday.
Things didn't improve when we finally found something we wanted - the waiter brought the wrong item for my daughter which resulted in me eating my fatty and tough steak while she got agitated waiting for her dinner. The total cost for us was £27 but I'd rather have paid more for a less stressful experience.
After dinner I decided it might be fun to surf the web. I had brought a netbook with me and enquired at reception how much it would cost to use the WiFi. I was told £5 for one hour - which I declined on the spot and thanked goodness I had brought the lead that links my phone to the computer. It meant my daughter couldn't visit her beloved YouTube, but that was a small price to pay.
Its also worth mentioning that phone calls from the hotel phone are similarly expensive - 20p per minute for UK numbers using your own credit or debit card. You can purchase Premier Inn phonecards which give you 14p per minute but these are only worthwhile if you stay at these hotels regularly.
The beds were both very comfortable and we both had a peaceful night's sleep - something I had travelled to the hotel for and was grateful for.
We got up early and headed for breakfast. I was worried about how this might be given how awful dinner had been the night before but fortunately my fears were unfounded. A waitress took our order for cooked breakfast and we could help ourself to cereal, fruit, cakes and pastries, toast, yoghurt and drinks.
The cooked to order breakfast was wonderful - especially the sausages. My daughter had ordered the vegetarian sausages which were not so good - but the meat ones were as sausages should be - well cooked, meaty and flavoursome. We really enjoyed this breakfast and it more than made up for the disappointment of dinner the night before.
We spent the rest of the morning exploring the city before heading back to the hotel for check out which was as pleasant and efficient as check in.
So - would I go back? Probably not. The location was fine for one night but its too far from the action really. There is a large Tesco a short walk away but if you want an alternative restaurant you will have further to go. In summer this probably wouldn't bother me but on a windy March day it wasn't much fun.
There are better hotels in Dundee for not much more money - after I got back I realised I could have stayed in the Apex for a little more - but with far more facilities and a better location.
However in fairness I went away for 24 hours to seek an escape and a good night's sleep and in the end, I got both so I can't really complain too much. And on my return I felt my mood had lifted and a milestone had passed, so I suppose it was the tonic I needed.
A couple of important points...
Check in is at 2.00 pm and check out is at 12.00 pm.
There is a free car park for customers' use.
Pets are not allowed at this, or any Premier Inn - they only allow guide dogs.
Rooms cost £70 per night on Monday to Thursday, and £65 per night Friday to Sunday. The price can increase at peak times and due to special events however.
Bookings must be made via the Premier Inn's website, www.premierinn.com.
Just a couple minutes within walking distance from the city centre.