“ Address: Castletown Portland DT5 1BD / Dorset „
We needed to visit Portland for a family occasion in March. We have family living on Portland who we would usually stay with but as there were lots of guests coming we decided to book a hotel as we have done many times in the past. We were looking for a low priced hotel as we were only going to use the room to sleep in for one night as the rest of the time would be spent with family and friends. Browsing the internet for the best price for a Friday night in early March I saw that The Aqua provided the best value hotel room on the island and we paid £56 for one night for two people. WHERE IS THE AQUA? For anyone who doesn't know, Portland is an island attached to the mainland with a man made road just off the coast of Weymouth in Dorset, Southern England. The island is the size of a small town and there are lots of guest houses, cafes, restaurants and pubs aswell as lots of scenic coastal walks. The island is split into three sections: Castletown which is at the bottom of the island, closest to the mainland and home to the harbour and Portland Castle, Fortuneswell is the middle of the island and is home to a great number of residential homes, cafes, pubs and smaller shops (eg. Co-op, post office, hairdressers etc). Tophill is home to the most shops on Portland with a Lloyds TSB bank, a new Tesco superstore and lots of cafes. The Aqua is located in the Castletown region of Portland and has views overlooking the harbour. The location was good for us as we were to spend the evening in Fortuneswell and then it was a short walk (10-15 minutes) back to the hotel. We found this perfect as we don't like to prebook taxis or anything as we tend to retire to the hotel rather late on and its just a short walk down a well lit road. I have done the walk alone in the past late at night as we have stayed at the hotel opposite and I am a big wimp when it comes to being out in the dark alone but the walk was ok. BOOKING One of the main reasons I chose The Aqua over another hotel situated nearby for a similar price was that you could book online. As my partner works very long hours we had left booking the hotel until just a week or two before our visit so when we finally got round to it we needed to book quickly. I found the website very easy to use and within minutes I had booked a room for us both with breakfast included for just £56. This is a good price as another hotel we have stayed at on the island has charged £62 with no breakfast. CHECKING IN We arrived at the hotel at about 6pm. The hotel door was locked but clear signs directed us to the bar where we were required to check in. The girl who gave us our keys was very polite and helpful and gave good directions to our room, taking us halfway there herself. She told us breakfast started being served at 7:30am. Looking back it would have been useful to tell us what time breakfast stopped as we didn't get back to the hotel until 3am and although we had arranged to meet family by 9am we would have preffered to have a little bit of a lie in! FACILITIES We spent less than six hours in the hotel with about 4 of these asleep so we didn't really use any of the facilities but as I said there is a bar which seemed very cosy and it was quite busy, there are also benches outside for the warmer months. There was a large lounge area with sofas in which I assume is used for functions but guests can use it if it is not in use. There is also an on site cafe which breakfast is served in which is also open to non-residents. THE ROOM We booked a double room but once we arrived we actually saw there was both a double and single bed in the room. We never find this to be a problem as its somewhere to leave the bags on. There was a desk, a flat screened TV, a shoe rack, a hanging rail, a chair and a large mirror. The beds had clean white sheets on and were comfortable and soft. The en suite was lovely. Very modern and stylish and spottlessly clean. Hand soap and shower gel was provided which was handy. There was no bath but the shower was a good one. The room has wooden flooring which I actually found nice as it is obviously much more hygenic than carpet in a hotel room. I did think to start with it might make the room a bit cold but it didn't. If it had the radiator in the room can be turned up or down by the guest so that wouldn't have been a problem. A kettle is placed on the desk and there are two mugs along with tea, coffee, sugar, milk and biscuits. The tea was PG Tips and the coffee Nescafe. The milk provided was UHT and both semi-skimmed and whole were provided. The room had double aspect windows which had lovely views over the harbour and also over in the direction of Weymouth. It was quite foggy in the morning so we couldn't see a great deal but I imagine on a clear day there is plenty to see. The curtains were good thick curtains which kept the light out which is always important to me. The room itself looked very clean and tidy but when I bent down to pick something up from the floor I did notice there were large clumps of dust under the beds. However, everything else was spotless including the en-suite and the beds which I believe are the important things. HOW DID I SLEEP? We were provided with a key to the guests entrance so it was easy to let ourselves in in the early hours. Once in we went pretty much straight to sleep. I do not sleep well even at home and tend to wake up between 2 and 5 times a night. I rarely sleep well in hotels as it is unfamiliar surroundings however I did sleep fairly well at The Aqua. I think I woke up once or possibly twice during my 4 hours sleep and once awake although I was extremely tired as I need more sleep than that I did feel as though as I was as rested as I could have been. BREAKFAST We found our way down to breakfast which is in the onsite cafe. For guests there is a limited menu. You have the choice of either a standard breakfast or large breakfast with tea or coffee. However if you asked then they probably would be able to alter the menu to suit if you could not eat a full english. I ordered the standard breakfast while my partner ordered the large. We didn't have to pay any extra for the large which I thought was good. The man who took our orders and made our drinks was friendly and polite and we seated ourselves. The breakfast was brought out within 5 minutes. The traditional breakfast included one sausage, one piece of bacon, one fried egg, baked beans and toast. We both found the breakfast very greasy. We often have a full english breakfast when we are away and therefore are used to a certain amount of grease but this really was quite greasy. There was a thick film of grease sitting on top of the eggs and the bacon also had small pools of grease sitting on top. We also found that the beans were hard and some were cold. We didn't eat even half of our breakfasts which is a surprise for my partner but the breakfast wasn't very nice and the limited sleep also contributed to us both not having a huge appetite. The cafe appears to be open for most of the day as meals are offered aswell as drinks to both guests and the general public. The food offered is typical cafe food including things like chicken burgers etc. Prices are very reasonable with meals retailing at around £3.99 and a cup of tea costing less than £1. CHECKING OUT Checking out was quick and simple. There was a lady at the check out desk so we handed her back our keys and she seemed very friendly and good natured and thanked us for our custom. SUMMARY A good hotel with lovely rooms for a very reasonable price. Good views across the harbour in a good location with friendly and polite staff. Next time we need a hotel on Portland I think I will go straight to The Aqua as it offered such good value for money and we enjoyed our (very short!) stay there. The breakfast wasn't fantastic but that could have just been one particular day so overall I give them 4 stars out of 5, losing one star for the breakfast and the dust under the beds. Recommended.