“ Address: The Cambridge Belfry, Cambourne Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, CB23 6BW / Tel: 01954 714600 / Fax: 01954 714610. „
To be honest, we needed a break. After a traumatic couple of months followed by a bout of bad colds, in consequence missing out on our annual ski trip, my wife and I felt that even a few day away would be better than nothing. But where to go? Certainly neither of us felt we wanted the hassle of a trip abroad. So it would be somewhere in the UK and hopefully the weather would be kind.
We had both wanted to visit the World War II Code Breakers' exhibition at Bletchley Park for some time but never seemed to be able to find an opportunity to do so. That alone, however, would not be enough to constitute a break so I suggested that we include a trip to Cambridge, a delightful city that I last visited some 40 years ago.
Somewhere to stay in the vicinity of Cambridge rather than Bletchley would be preferable, not that I'm suggesting anything derogatory about Bletchley you understand, only that a full day in Cambridge would be better from a base close by. So, as I usually do, I turned to Google to seek out a suitable hotel.
I wasn't looking specifically for somewhere in Cambridge itself but I was looking for a hotel with a spa or health club. My wife regularly uses the one at a hotel near where we live and so she wanted to keep up her exercise regime, even when "on holiday". Google came up with the suggestion of The Cambridge Belfry in the nearby modern dormitory town of Cambourne.
I was intrigued by the Belfry part of the name but further investigation made it clear that this hotel has absolutely nothing to do with the Belfry hotel in the Midlands, famous for hosting various international golf tournaments. That Belfry is now owned by the Irish Quinn Hotels group whilst The Cambridge Belfry is owned by QHotels. Amazing that they've been allowed to get away with that. It does sound that they are trying to capitalise by association with a hotel with which they have no connection!
Anyway, be that as it may, the hotel seemed to offer the facilities we were looking for and at a price we were prepared to pay. It was also located within easy enough access to Cambridge whether we decided to travel in by car or public transport. I booked a room for three nights.
The booking process from the website is quite straight-forward. As this was a special Internet deal, the rules were, pay in advance, no cancellation. The booking of a room did include breakfast as well. An email confirmed that the booking had been accepted.
The Cambridge Belfry is a fairly new hotel. It is located just north of the town centre and beside a small pond. There is a fairly large amount of parking space in front of the entrance. By car, you enter and leave the hotel grounds by different routes.
The hotel is quite big and the reception area is spacious. However, only one person was serving on reception when we arrived and during our stay I never saw more than two. Eventually we booked in and were allocated a room on the third floor. The upper floors can be reached by stairs or a pair of lifts. The third is not the top floor; there is another floor above which seems to be entirely occupied by penthouse suites.
As we made our way through the hotel it was evident that they make much of their income from hosting meetings and conferences. There were many rooms being used and, outside each, in the corridor, there were tables set out for refreshments during breaks. The temptation to pick up a packet of biscuits or an apple was irresistible!
Our room was a very generous size, as was the bathroom, which contained not just a bath but a completely separate shower cabinet as well. The state of decoration and maintenance was generally good although I did notice that the joints in some of the tiling in the bathroom had cracked and not been repaired. Otherwise there was little about which we could complain, at the time. The bed was large and comfortable and on each side there was the addition of a flexible reading light, a thoughtful touch.
Storage space for clothes was reasonable. More hanging space might perhaps have been desirable. Facilities are provided to enable hot drinks to be made in your room.
Despite its height off of the ground, the views from the bedroom window were uninspiring. Still, we were not here to look out of the bedroom window, we were here to sight-see.
Cambridge can be reached by bus (Citi 4) from Cambourne in about 40 minutes. The bus stops outside the Morrisons' supermarket just across the road. I have the luxury of a Senior Citizen's bus pass but for those less aged a daily bus pass for the Cambridge area buses will cost you just £3.50, a bargain and recommended.
Our return from a day's outing to Cambridge had left us tired and upon our return my wife went down to try the health club, use of which is included in the deal. The swimming pool here is a little on the cramped size, especially when there are a lot of users. There is also a sauna and a separate exercise room with a good range of equipment. All in all a reasonable facility.
Our evening meals were a little hit and miss. Although a decent range of dishes were available, the quality was average and the service equally so. On the first night, after waiting quite some time after ordering, we were told by our waitress that one of our dishes had been burned and that the chef was having to cook it all over again! Not a good impression to leave for the rest of our stay!
On a subsequent evening, one of the dishes brought to our table wasn't the one that had been ordered. Fortunately we didn't have to wait too long for the mess to be sorted out. However, as you would expect, consequently tips were in short supply!
The lounge bar has a fair range of drinks and their selection of Scotch Malts is quite good. However, on the beer front, you really don't have an awful lot of choice beyond the usual fizzy suspects. Prices are high but then this is far from unusual in a hotel. It's were they make a large part of their income. Seats were comfortable and not at all in short supply. I could have done without the large screen TV on the wall though.
Breakfast was even worse. A buffet breakfast is laid out with the usual range of fruit juices, cereals, cold and hot dishes. However, the heated trays of sausages, bacon, black pudding and so on are uncovered and so soon began to dry out and appear quite unappetising. The black pudding, which I normally love, was as hard as wood! No scrambled egg was on offer and has to be ordered separately.
If this wasn't bad enough, on no occasion did we find our table laid out correctly. Always something was missing and had to be requested. The waiters offer you tea and coffee but on at least one occasion it was clear that the pots of each that we had ordered had been standing around for some time before being delivered to our table.
The biggest problem we had during our stay though was the TV in our room. The range of channels available was not extensive but the problem was that even those that were were unviewable. Some channels were missing completely and with others the picture quality was poor, like a badly tuned in station. Despite reporting the problem to Reception, they were unable to fix it and their solution was to have us move to another room!
The TVs in both were just the old fashioned CRT standard aspect (4:3) type and I suspect that this is probably the case throughout the hotel, with the possible exception of the penthouse suites. Its time hotels started getting into the 21st century with their entertainment systems. The hotel does offer, however, Internet access from the rooms.
Overall our stay at The Cambridge Belfry was adequate rather than pleasurable. The three nights cost £190 for the two of us, including breakfast. With evening meals and drinks the complete cost came to not far short of double this. All in all this probably does not represent good value for money.
After our experiences at The Cambridge Belfry it is doubtful that I would bother to book here again. I am sure that there must be other hotels in the area that offer a more enjoyable experience and better value for money as well.