“ Address: The Street, Chilham, Nr. Canterbury, Kent CT4 8DL / Tel: 01227 730351 / Rating: 4 star „
Okay, I admit it - despite living almost two and a half hours away I can't get enough of Canterbury. I first went to university there 8 years ago and ever since then have been back monthly. The olde-worlde charm of the place and the unusual shops attract me. Anyway, this time the trip was with my step-dad and mum. We decided last minute that we were going to stay the night so we could spend a reasonable amount of time down there. Being Valentine's weekend I was worried all the rooms we could afford would be booked up but decided there was no harm in looking anyway.
A quick look on laterooms.com showed me that far from being booked up there was actually a few vacancies. Most of the ones actually in Canterbury were far too expensive for our budget but there were two just outside. One was a guest house and the other was this - a four star country house hotel (assessed by Visit England if anyones interested). Usually I'd have just booked straight through laterooms but it said I needed to call to confirm availability so since I also needed to ask about disabled access I thought I'd just call the hotel direct.
The Woolpack Inn is a family run business with a focus on good hospitality and special, locally produced food. The building itself is 600 years old and is built around an olive tree that is equally old. Their website says that it is nestled at the foot of a hill in the shadow of a Normal castle. I never saw the castle while I was there but then I never went looking for it either and since the hotel is in the middle of a very old village I don't doubt this claim.
The Booking Process
From my experience you can always tell whether or not a hotel is good when you speak to them to book - especially when it's not a straightforward booking and you have special requests.
When I called The Woolpack Inn the phone was answered almost immediately and the member of staff was very polite and helpful. Obviously I first wanted to know if they had any availability for a double and a single room for the night we were looking to stay she knew immediately that they had and informed me of this. I knew from looking on laterooms that they had disabled access both into and around the hotel but I needed disabled access around the bedroom too, especially around the bathroom and this can be awkward in many hotels - some of which think that having a lift access to higher floors counts as having disabled access. Anyone who has tried manoeuvring a wheelchair around a smaller hotel bathroom can assure you you need much more then that! The receptionist advised me that they only had one disabled access room but it was a twin. However they would be happy to push the beds together for me making it a double that way so long as I was happy with this, I was happy and so agreed.
Finally, I informed her that I had found them on laterooms and therefore although their normal price for the two rooms is £150 (£80 for the twin and £70 for the single) I had been quoted £95 (£50 for the double and £45 for the single) would they be happy to honour that price? Without any sign of hesitation she told me they would be happy to and then proceeded to take my card details.
The whole process left me very confident about my stay there - the member of staff I spoke to seemed to bend over backwards to try to accommodate me and the requests I had. Whilst I have found that some hotels will do this after a booking is made with them I hadn't even confirmed I would stay there until the end of the conversation and I realize that had she not helped with my requests I would have gone else where but even so the whole professional and helpful manner in which the call and requests were handled made me feel valued as a person and customer rather then just someone who pays their wages! I hung up the phone very excited about staying there and whilst it would only be one night a good hotel really does make all the difference to a trip.
For those of you who want a simpler booking process then I went through(!) you can easily book rooms through the hotels website http://www.woolpackinnchilham.co.uk this allows you to not only choose the rooms you want but also to view pictures of each of the rooms allowing you to see exactly what you are getting so there are no surprises or disappointments when you arrive and check in.
Finding The Hotel
Finding the hotel is really easy. It's just off the A28, this road runs off the M25 into Dover, Canterbury, Ashford and other major cities and is clearly signposted. We only visited Canterbury and Dover and so can only comment on the distance to there - Canterbury is 20minutes away by car, Dover is 35 minutes. The nearest beach is half an hour away.
If you are coming by rail Chilham railway station is only half a mile away and again the hotel is easy to find from here.
The one thing I will say about its location is that it's in the middle of a very quiet village. This suits us fine as we were looking for a quiet weekend, however if you want something more lively or close to night life this probably won't be for you.
* Bike and Car hire
* Laundry/Valet service
* Breakfast to go/Packed Lunches on request
* Wifi in each room and main areas
* Pets allowed
* Cots available
* Reflexology/Massage/Complimentary Therapies
The only facilities we used were the TV in the rooms and the Wi-Fi. The Wi-Fi is through BTOpenzone. I have an account with them anyway but if you don't then the hotel will give you their details. The signal strength is near perfect and speed very quick.
The TV however does not have Freeview or Channel 5 and so you are stuck with channels 1-4. I don't know how they'll work with this when the switch over happens and in the meantime being stuck with just 4 channels is a bit of a let down. I do know the TV signal in this area isn't known for being at it's best but for a hotel you do expect a little more.
The rooms weren't anything too special but in a way this worked to their benefit. The building itself is 600 years old and the rooms have retained original features such as oak beams and I feel too many modern appliances would ruin the effect.
The rooms we had are more then spacious enough and whilst I didn't unpack, both the rooms had drawer space and a walk in cupboard with a shelf and space to hang coats/jackets. There was also a luggage rack and so there is plenty of space to store clothes for a couple of weeks.
The curtains and bed spread were very old fashioned and again I quite liked this as I felt it fit in with the character of the building itself but it did reflect the nature of the place itself and was again an indicator that this may not be suitable for someone looking for a break in a place that was more up-to-date. The beds in both rooms were hard and very comfortable, I'm not usually a fan of hard beds but although these were firm I didn't find them too hard.
For those interested the twin, disabled access room is very disabled person friendly. Although some gaps can be a squeeze to get through our wheelchair is very wide and did fit. Also the bathroom itself is a wet room and so there was no faffing around to get in and out of baths, there are all the bars needed to manoeuvre around the bathroom and the shower had a seat so you didn't have to stand up or find a way to get your own waterproof seat in there. All bars and the seat folded up when not in use and so didn't cramp the space available.
Talking about the bathrooms both the rooms we had had handwash, shower gel/shampoo provided in pump bottles attached to the wall. I prefer the pump bottles as especially as I have long hair I don't find the smaller bottles some hotels provide contain enough to have a shower in. There were also plastic cups and shower caps. Although there were only plastic cups in the bathroom tea cups were available in the bedrooms to make tea/coffee.
The twin rooms backed onto a shared garden with picnic tables and although not a brilliant view (onto the main building and country road) I felt this was made up for by the private garden which was shared with the other two rooms in this section. The view from the single room was excellent and looked over firstly the car park but beyond that there was nothing but fields to be seen and so really gave you a feeling of being in the middle of nowhere.
One final point with the rooms is that there almost seems to be two businesses here - the pub/restaurant and the hotel since the main building is the pub/restaurant/hotel office and the actual rooms are to the side and behind it. Some even being across the road in a converted stable block. This was a benefit to me since the noise from the pub didn't affect me and being separated from the main building almost gave me a home-from-home feeling as I didn't feel watched over by staff and it felt like I had my own space which I don't usually get from some other hotels as there's always something going on but it was yet another reminder that maybe this isn't suitable for those who want to come to be in the middle of everything and have access to a lot of night life.
The check in process was simple - if you're looking for a typical reception you won't find one! There is a small room next to the restaurant with a phone however there isn't usually someone there. However if you speak to anyone in the restaurant/pub area they will check you in.
The keys are attached to a massive wooden block with your number on. This was a good thing for me as it meant little to no chance that I could lose it! However, it did mean that it didn't fit in my pockets and so be prepared to carry it in your bag.
There was a minor problem with our booking. The twin room was up a flight of steps - not very disabled friendly! However as soon as this was noticed they quickly changed our room and put us in the correct room. They couldn't apologise enough for their mistake and went the extra mile to accommodate us and the other requests (such as more tea bags and milk for our room) we made during our stay.
We saw on the advertisement when we booked the place that the food is very fresh, they claim that the fish comes off the boat in the morning and is on the plate by lunch. I'm all for fresh food, nothing quite compares and the taste is so different to food that has been stored for a while so, based on their claims we arrived early and thought we'd try lunch.
Between the three of us we ordered Kentish lamb, Sunday roast (lamb) and Mackerel. The portion sizes were more then large enough to keep us full till lunch, we're good eaters but couldn't finish either of the lamb dishes they were so large.
The breakfasts were enough to fill us up all day! You could help yourself to a continental breakfast consisting of a choice of six cereals. The cereals included something for everyone - they had everything from muesli to coco pops, wholemeal and white bread, croissants, fruit, ham, cheese, yoghurt with a variety of flavours, a selection of jams and marmite, porridge that they would cook to order, tea, coffee and fruit juices (orange and apple). They also have soya milk available on request. On top of that they also have a cooked breakfast consisting of your choice of sausage, bacon, free range eggs, mushrooms, grilled tomatoes, heinz baked beans, black pudding and kippers.
The food at both breakfast and lunch was to die for! We commented to one of the staff on how delicious the ham was in particular and she told us that it was prepared on site. Yet another confirmation on how fresh the food was and you really can tell. I've never tasted anything quite like it even at the restaurants that claim the food is fresh.
If you're out early in the morning or just want some food to take with you they will organise a packed lunch and all their lunch menu is available as take away, although I never tried this and so can't comment on how this is.
Despite the minor problems with the TV this has to be one of the best hotels I've been to so far. Although they run two businesses (the hotel and the restaurant/bar) I found that whenever I went to the bar to ask for something they always put me above any customers waiting in the bar which I found a nice touch - I'm sure the customers for the bar were just as important to them as anyone else but putting me above any waiting bar customers each time I went made me feel more important.
In the book that introduces you to the hotel it says that as reception isn't manned from midnight to 6AM then the key to your room will also fit reception in case you need anything over night. This concerned me a bit because surely if all keys fit reception then all keys fit every door. However after trying both our keys in the other doors I quickly proved this wrong so I don't understand how that works but it obviously does!
The only other issues there could be is that breakfast on a week day seems really early - it's from 7 to 9. Whilst I can see how this makes sense for people away on business, you can say goodbye to any lie in if you're on holiday! Now the staff do seem flexible so there may be a way around this such as asking for a packed breakfast for later but I'm an early riser and so this didn't cause a problem and therefore I had no need to test this.
Overall this hotel isn't suited at all for those of you wanting night life and a busy holiday, but for those of you wanting to get away and relax in peace of even those of you just needing a stop over before crossing the channel at Dover I can't recommend it highly enough.