“ West Coates Guest House / 30 Castle Terrace / Berwick-upon-Tweed / Northumberland / TD15 1NZ / Tel: 01289 309 666. „
My husband and I were sadly very disappointed by our 2 night stay at West Coates. The place itself is okay - good food, reasonable furnishings and amenities and some nice personal touches - but the price of £100 per night was much too steep for what you get and for how you are treated.
Our room with private bath (not ensuite and you had to walk up and down 14 steps to get there) was as expensive as those with ensuite bathrooms. Our "superking size bed" was really two twin beds zipped together and so you felt the middle join and though there was good attention to detail and a good freshly cooked breakfast we felt rather miffed that we were not given keys to our room or to the front door. When we asked for some so we could operate as free agents we were told "No way. This is a guest house not a hotel." (Never mind that it is priced as a hotel or that every other guest house I ever stayed at gives its guests keys to their rooms and the front door.)
So apart from not being able to ensure privacy in our bedroom or secure our possessions, we also were not able to come and go as we pleased. On Saturday morning we left for a pleasant walk around the walls of Berwick at 10.30 a.m.and though the weather was wet and foul we couldn't return to the house or our room until 2.30 p.m. as the proprietess Karen was out. This ridiculous keyless situation also meant that we had to leave early from the party we came to Scotland to attend to be home in time for the proprietess' curfew of midnight. After saying that we didn't want to have to leave our party early which was being held about 10 minutes car journey from West Coates, she conceded that she was prepared for us to be "10 minutes later than that - but not 20!" Imagine treating two professional, middle-aged, paying adult guests in that way - especially as none of these conditions were advertised on the website or mentioned when I telephoned to book.
The grounds/gardens of West Coates are lovely and though there is a decent size swimming pool the facilities supporting it are somewhat substandard and the hours of access are limited. True, Karen advertised that she will open the detached building by arrangement, but I felt that she offered that service grudgingly - however, once offered she did help to make it a good experience. The pool has recently been relined to look like mosaic tile and there is a wonderful new hot tub/jacuzzi but the showers and toilet area, though clean, are finished in grubby concrete and badly in need of improved decor.
My final gripe was that even though no check-out time was advertised or mentioned on booking or arrival my husband was asked on our day of departure if I "was alright" at 11.10 a.m. because I "hadn't yet checked out and it was past check out time."
I would say that £60 per night would be the right price for a room with private bath at West Coates but being treated like children means that I wouldn't readily choose to stay here again at any price.
Wonderful West Coates
A couple of weeks ago my partner and I had our very first holiday together. Despite it only really being a glorified long weekend (Friday to Monday) we anticipated it with glee.
I was the organised one, who did the internet search and the phone calls, and I have to say, West Coates was one of the first B&Bs I saw online and there was just something about it that caught my eye. The other half at this point would be romantically inferring that it was fate or destiny and we were somehow meant to go there, but whatever the reason, we both loved wonderful West Coates from the moment we stepped over the threshold. Here is the story of our holiday.
My other half lives in Edinburgh and I in Newcastle, so it seemed really quite logical to book a little break for us somewhere in the middle, so that neither he nor I would have to do a huge amount of travelling to get there. We travelled to Berwick by train, with the journey for both of us being little over half an hour, and only £7.00 each way with GNER. A very good start.
I arrived first, and browsed a little shop in the station, eventually giving up to the wonderful coffee aroma, and buying a cup of coffee and an organic gardening magazine, to help pass the ½ hour until Himself arrived. He did, on time, and a little disappointed that I hadnt been on the platform to run wildly into his arms for a romantic-film-type moment! But the pout soon turned to smiles as we giggled and shared the excitement of our first holiday together.
The B&B, from the map we had of Berwick, looked too close to justify getting in a cab, so we walked, hand in hand, with our trolleys rattling behind us, and found that it only took about 15 minutes to get to the gates of the house.
When I called Karen, the lovely proprietoress, to book and pay, we arranged to leave our bags at West Coates when we got there, so we could go for a wander around Berwick prior to officially checking in at 4pm. She was very accommodating with this arrangement, and was there to welcome us when we arrived.
Our first impressions of the house were spectacular wonderful wrought iron gates, opened wide to welcome us. A huge garden full of well established trees and shrubs, all wildly autumnal in oranges and golds and russet colours, and whilst waiting for the front door to be answered, we spotted a heron flying up into the trees from the fishpond! So when Karen came to let us in, we were standing, mouths open in awe, like human goldfish!
On entering the house, we were presented with a well lit, thickly carpeted hallway which had its own fireplace a warm welcome one winter evenings we thought. We parked our bags, signed the register and were shown the guest sitting room and breakfast area, where there was a large amount of literature, maps and local information should we need it. Karen was very welcoming, and as we skipped along the path on our way back into town we reflected that we (for we, read I!!!) had made a very good choice in accommodation!
We pottered round town for the afternoon, had a picnic by the river, and slowly made our way back up to the house for our 4 oclock check-in, when we were shown to our rooms, and given a tour of the pool house, which is in a separate building to the main house. More about that later!
What will strike you most, when you stay at West Coates, is the attention to detail. It is present everywhere, and it will not surprise you to know that West Coates has recently been awarded the English Tourism Councils 5 Diamond Gold Award. The standard of the accommodation was utterly superb. The bedroom was light and bright, with two large sash windows bringing light into the room, and two further sash windows flooding the en-suite bath and dressing room. Curtains in a navy blue and pink floral fabric dressed the windows floor to ceiling, and tied in with the deep Prussian blue of the largest couch Ive ever seen, which graced the bedroom. Despite the presence of a huge (king-size) double bed, a dresser, T.V. and drinks table, as well as the sofa, there was still plenty of room, and there was never a point where we felt cramped.
The first sight of what would be our bathroom for the next three days blew us both away. Himself doesnt have a bath where he is, so I had called Karen prior to our visit, just to make sure wed have a bath in our accommodation, but nothing had prepared me for what we found. The room was almost as large, and maybe even slightly larger that our bedroom, very light and contemporary, with modern light fittings and a dimmer switch. The suite was white, with a large, glass enclosed shower, and what we discovered later was a wonderful massaging power shower. But the piece dresistance was the bath. A roll top white ceramic slipper bath sat in the centre of the room, and I could immediately see it filled with fragrant bubbles, a naked me, and a couple of Cadburys flakes (one for each hand!) It was just beautiful!
After the initial shock of the bathroom began to wear off, Himself wandered off back into the bedroom to find the T.V controls, and I explored. This was when I discovered the amazing attention to detail. In the bathroom, all the towels were soft, white, John Lewiss best affairs, and were folded beautifully over the heated towel rail that stood at the end of the bath. On the shelves behind the toilet, were Crabtree and Evelyn toiletries miniatures of soap made with shea butter, Jojoba oil shampoo and conditioner, Jojoba oil bodywash and body lotion as well as a tiny Crabtree and Evelyn vanity pack, containing a nail file, cotton buds and a cotton wool ball. All these miniatures were displayed in a ceramic dish, neatly placed between two folded white face cloths. Behind this were larger bottles of Lavender and Almond Blossom hand and body lotion, Bath and shower gel and bath soak. A bottle of Lavender room spray, and bath salts completed the display, enticing us to pamper and relax during our stay. A pink orchid in a pot sat in the middle of the fireplace, between two perfectly circular pink candles. Turning to go back into the bedroom, I discovered we each had a bright, white waffle robe hanging on the door between the two rooms, so we could recline on the sofa in utter, blissful comfort!
The attention to detail was just as apparent in the bedroom, and I have to say, that I have never been so impressed. The bed was dressed beautifully with Egyptian cotton sheets, wonderfully soft feather pillows, and co-ordinating Prussian blue cushions. Bedside tables sat on either side of the bed, with lamps (eco-friendly light bulbs), a box a tissues, and a radio alarm clock. On the mirrored dresser were books, magazines, and a large black leather folder full of information about the surrounding area with lots of ideas on things to do and places to see. Our breakfast cards were always placed here every afternoon (more on breakfast later!) and as a final personal touch, three single long stemmed red roses in a slender vase Karen must have guessed were both complete romantics!
Whenever you stay at a B&B, you expect the usual tea, coffee and wee wrapped biscuits in your room, and we were certainly not disappointed in this area. On a low table in the window of you bedroom we found not only a kettle and a white china teapot, but a cafetiere, a silver thermos of cold mineral water, 2 glasses, 2 mugs, and 2 white china cups and saucers. A white china dish held sachets of tea (Ceylon, traditional English), herbal teas (green tea, camomile, ginseng and vanilla, black currant), fresh ground Colombian coffee, hot chocolate, brown sugar, white sugar and milk. Every afternoon we would come back to our beautifully cleaned and tidied room and find a plate with 2 pieces of the most amazing iced lemon sponge cake, made by Karen, on the table by the tea and coffee things. Such a small thing, but so much more personal than pre-packed custard creams!
As far as storage space was concerned there was plenty. If wed been staying long enough to unpack our things, there was drawer space in the bedroom, and the bathroom/dressing room had closet space with good quality wooden clothes hangers, as well as a trouser press. Things like the hairdryer, a fan heater and extra blankets, were stored neatly in the floor to ceiling closet space.
All in all, absolute perfection in terms of making us feel entirely at home.
The main attraction for us was the pool. 12 metres of warm blue space to swim through. We were in the pool every night of our stay and it was so wonderfully relaxing to swim in a lit pool while the wind howled through the dark night outside! The pool house was a central part of the experience for us at West Coates.
Situated in a beautiful building with wooden beams, wind chimes and a huge American hot-tub, the pool house is just THE place to relax and unwind. There is a changing room, a loo and a shower, as well as a music system which plays into the pool house. We would put Classic FM on and float around in the pool to calm and soft orchestral strains. The hot-tub was out of this world, and after swimming length after length, it was just wonderful to sink into the hot fizzy water, and let the jets of water massage your limbs. The hot-tub has this wonderful colour changing thing, where one minute the water is blue, and then it fades gently into green and so on. Perfect!
The guest lounge was lovely, and situated on the ground floor of the house. Three large and comfortable sofas sat in the large window alcove of the room, facing an open fire and a wonderful original oil painting of a bluebell wood, created by an artist friend of the family. The breakfast table, which sat 6 people and the guest kitchen area where breakfast and dinner is served were both comfortable and homely, and to one side of the room was what we called the Information Bench a long bench packed with books and leaflets about the area, things to do, walks, cycling and much more. Plenty of food for thought for our next visit!
The gardens were beautiful, despite the cold wind, and the colours took our breath away. The garden is very large, and comprises lots of areas. To the front of the house, a wooden bench sat amongst established border plants, and woodland trees. There are arches covered in honeysuckle and clematis, gorgeous vibrant reds of Acer contrasting with the deep green of berry covered holly. A swing hangs from one of the trees, and everywhere the ground is soft and mossy, and welcoming to wildlife.
At the side of the house, a stone banked fish pond, where we saw our first Berwick Heron, and then further back, towards the pool house, more trees, more borders, more lawn. We explored further up the garden on a sunny Sunday morning, and discovered a huge vegetable plot, with herbs and leeks and artichokes amongst the fare. This was probably my favourite part of the garden , and though Im not sure we should have been there, it was really fantastic to know that the house use their own, home-grown produce.
In my opinion, there is nothing better than a proper breakfast when youre on your holidays, and a proper breakfast we most definitely got at West Coates! Every evening we would fill in our breakfast sheet, ticking the boxes to say what we wanted the next morning. There was certainly lots to choose from, from Craster Kippers, scrambled eggs with smoked salmon, to a full cooked breakfast, as well as the continental choices. Every morning we would have fresh orange, either porridge or fruit compote and Greek yoghurt, a full cooked breakfast of sausage, egg, bacon, mushrooms and vine tomatoes, followed by homemade nutty brown toast, and local preserves. To finish off the West Coates Breakfast Experience, Himself would have tea, and I would have fresh Kenyan coffee blissful! We were always so full from breakfast that we tended to forget about lunch until teatime, and then be too full to want dinner, but should we have wanted dinner, we could have had it at West Coates, by prior arrangement, and from what we heard from the other guests, it was something to be believed!
Karen, who runs West Coates with her husband Logan and 2 grown up children, is a very talented chef, and as well as running cookery courses at West Coates, she produces some wonderful food for her guests! On our second day, we had arranged to have a picnic, which Karen prepared for us. Himself has just been diagnosed with IBS, and so Karen took his needs into consideration when making the food for us, which was wonderful. We had a flask of home-made roasted butternut squash soup, a flask of fresh coffee, organic yoghurts and sandwiches. These were brie and cranberry preserve on nutty brown home-made bread, and hand cut ham salad. She also included fruit, which was wonderful, and much healthier for us than chocolate biscuits and the like. We really felt that she had listened to our needs and come up trumps! The picnic food was ready for us as soon as we were finished breakfast, so although we didnt go out until lunch time, if wed wanted to go out straight after breakfast we could have done, which was great.
The service at West Coates is really second to none, and it has to be said, we couldnt find fault with it. Our rooms were cleaned and tidied every day, our breakfast was ready for us as soon as we came down the stairs in the morning, and the family are so friendly and warm that you feel like youve known them for ages after just a few conversations. The attention to detail was remarkable, and certainly of a much higher standard than any other establishment I have stayed in, either in the UK or abroad.
West Coates is not cheap, but I have to tell you, it was worth every penny! There are three rooms available for guests, each costing £100 per night, including breakfast. Our packed lunch cost £20 for the 2 of us, and dinner, should we have had room for it, would have cost us £35.00 each. There is a non-refundable 33% deposit needed to secure your booking, and its a good idea to decide before you go if you want to eat there in the evenings, as dinner is by prior arrangement only. There are also special value breaks available online, where if you stay so many nights, you get another night free. Details of the website are below.
For more information visit the website at www.westcoates.co.uk
Or call Karen Brown on +44 01289 309 666
30 Castle Terrace
We loved Berwick, we loved West Coates and we loved our relaxing, romantic time together. West Coates is a jewel in the crown of Northumbria, and we will be going back next year for a summer holiday, no question about it! I think that says it all really!
Thank you so much for reading, Kate x