Celebrating the best bits and bobs to be found while exploring Britain, Ireland and beyond. Much is inspired by real outings, whether they were walking, cycling or photographic in nature, while virtual blundering in the name of planning them has turned up some gems too. Regardless of how they were found, I hope that they keep coming so I can continue to share new things with you.
When I started putting together this piece, I had no idea just how complex the world of chain hotels actually is; the act turned out to be quite an education. Many are global and stretched beyond the British preoccupation that I had when I began this compilation. My own interests become more international in recent years so I am expanding the listing in a similar fashion.
Before we delve into the world of hotels, there are other options. Hostelling is something that I have discussed elsewhere in another article on here and I stuck with guesthouse and B&B (bed and breakfast; see Bed & Breakfast Nationwide for a selection) accommodation in my earlier forays around Britain and may do so again. The continued attraction of the latter is that it adds an air of intimacy with more than a hint of a personal touch. It also means that you are contributing directly to the local community as well as saving a little money, something that also is a feature of homestays that I have seen described in articles about travels in Asia.
That quest for something more distinctive is seemingly unstoppable and is found in the hotel market too but there are other options again. It is not for nothing that short term lets of serviced apartments or holiday cottages come up time and again on an accommodation search. In Britain, you find Rural Retreats or from the Landmark Trust among others. The latter of these is a charity that restores and rents out historic properties so that ensures that level of individuaility that some will seek.
Such is the available amount of choice that it often is easier to use a comparison website to help track down a good deal. TripAdvisor has become something of an institution while I have made a lot of use of LateRooms over the years. Somewhat ironically for the topic of this article, it often has helped to me to book more independent operations like Dunoon's Royal Marine Hotel that you find pictured above. Of course, hotel chains are not excluded either so there is quite of mix.
Now that I come to think of it, it can feel as if web services like these are replacing or have replace tourism agency offices and travel agents. After all, Skyscanner appears on the list because it acts not only as a place to find flights but also to book accommodation and car hire and it is not alone. For many trips, this sort of thing avoids the need for going to a travel agent, which is just as well if it avoids long waits like what I often experienced in Edinburgh while I was at university there. The age of technological self service has arrived.
Some of what you find included are multinational operations while others are collections of independent hotels that have come together to promote themselves under a single brand. Even more established brands run some of their hotels on franchise basis so that is not the only chance of individuality on this list. Regardless of who owns or runs them, a rummage here may find a good deal for a hotel of your choice, especially if you have had a good experience with a particular chain before now.
While playing with the idea of basing myself in Glasgow in order to explore some of Argyll's southern reaches, the option of staying at a Novotel came to my notice. Nothing may have come from that pondering but I didn't realise the size of the French hotel group of which it is part. Novotel apparently is a mid-range range brand with prices to match as I found when checking them for one in the heart of Manchester. All hotel markets seem to be covered from the low end to the high. It seems to be matter of picking the right one. Helpfully, the Accor group hotels website allows you pick the one for you without your having to go to all of the brand websites for a comparison.
There was a time when this operation would have featured on a list of British hospitality providers but that is not the case any longer with ones near where I like Shrigley Hall and Buxton's Palace Hotel now being under different ownership. Nowadays, a stay in one of their hotels is likely to take you elsewhere in Europe or to Central America, North Africa or the Middle East. Their homeland is Spain and that reach also includes the Balearic and Canary Islands so sunshine holidays are set to be part of their offer.
Many of the names that you'll find on this page belong to large multinational PLC's but this is a much smaller family concern that seems to have turned its hand to a number of things in the world of catering and hospitality. Nowadays, there are two hotels in Hertfordshire as well as an outside catering business. It sounds and interesting combination and exhibits a little of the sort of character that may be absent from some parts of the hotel sector.
It was a Scot who alerted me to the existence of this chain of hotels; in Scotland, they are reputed for doing good food. The organisation is an interesting one in that it is a collective of independently owned hotels that pool marketing resources and agree to following certain standards of service provision.
However, it is during visits to Norway that I have sampled their hospitality and you will find them in Sweden too. For my stay in Bergen, the room was small but served my purposes nicely though I needed to look elsewhere for evening meals. Room proportions were less cosy for my longer stay in Stavanger with a much larger room and the possible provision of evening meals as well as breakfast. Hotel staff were friendly in both place and were more fluent in English at the Stavanger hotel. All it needed was for me to figure out what the "Hovedbryter" (main power) switch did and why I had next to no electricity in my room but a query of the staff resolved that one.
Though you can get a good deal in the right place and at the right time, I get the impression that what is being offered from this grouping is not as low in cost as others. Saying that, my experiences have been good so I am not complaining.
This privately owned chain started out in Manchester over thirty years ago and has come a long way since then. They now have more than 50 hotels dotted around England, Scotland and Wales. Also, some of these were derelict until they returned them to a far more glorious state. Interestingly, you get a sense that they are not in the opulent end of the market either.
This is a group of independently-owned hotels rather than a chain and I get the sense that they are mid-market rather than at the budget end. However, there's always a place for hotels with distinctive characters too.
Aside from a single hotel in Otley, West Yorkshire, this is a group of Scottish hotels headquartered in Oban. Other Scottish locations include Craignure on the Isle of Mull as well as Inverness, Elgin, Nairn, Inverary, Pitlochry, Inverurie, Grantown on Spey, Ballater and Glencoe. The list provides plenty of destinations for the traveller.
Until I discovered that they run hotels under the Doubletree brand, I had it set in my mind that I never have savoured the service in any of their establishments. That stay in Wilmington in Delaware on business trip to the U.S.A. has been my only encounter with what they offer and it served my simple purposes. It for the parent brand than the group are best known and I have been surprised to find one of them at Coylumbridge near Aviemore in Scotland, a more rural location than I had expected. It since has turned out that this one of Hilton Grand Vacations offerings, of which there are three in Scotland. Otherwise, they have the scary looking building on Manchester's Deansgate as a hotel and Edinburgh's Caledonian Hotel. They seem to be becoming pervasive in the U.K.
There cannot be many hotel groups that have been spawned from a famous British brewery but that is what IHG (InterContinental Hotels Group) is. The brewery in question was Bass but that ale has a somewhat diminished existence as a brand in the AB InBev portfolio. The hotel side of the business continues with headquarters in the U.K. It was on trips to two conferences when had stays in two of their hotels. The first of these was at the luxurious Intercontinental London Park Lane; it's like a dream to me that it once had Hyde Park Corner in its name but that is nearly ten years ago now. In those days, my line of work put me up in more expensive hotels than would be the case now. As if to prove the point, attending a conference in Cardiff was the cause of my spending a night in the Cardiff Bay Holiday Inn. While that is a budget brand, it served my purposes just as well as the more expensive counterpart where I stayed a few years earlier. However, I must state that I have simple needs that are more easily pleased.
This is a multinational grouping of independent hotels whose existence came to me my notice because of a booklet that came included with an issue of France magazine. The spread of countries is European and includes such diverse entries as Andorra, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands and Spain. That coverage should give its share of options and the production of that large booklet means that many can peruse what is available in print form too. Still, the online presence should be sufficient for most.
What persuaded someone that it was a good idea to build a tower of a height more suitable for a big city in Aviemore? A walk around the Strathspey village will bring you past golf courses owned by the same company, with a base in Scotland. After all, this is billed as a leisure resort and has the scale to match. Still, I am left wondering why you would relax within sight of the Cairngorms without eschewing man-made facilities for the natural world. Other hotels are in more urban situations such as Manchester or Handforth in Cheshire. Though I saw some good deals being advertised in Aviemore in the month of March, I do get the impression that these aren't a budget option.
Apparently, this is the Hilton group's arch rival and I vaguely remember passing one of their hotels in Edinburgh but that's the limit of my association with them. Like other groups of the same size, there are quite a few brands under which they trade too. Still, I'd be starting from their main website you book from any of their branded hotels from there and not all of their hotels are operated under the Marriot brand in the U.K.
With seven hotels, this is not the biggest of chains and they are spread across southern Scotland with areas such as Galloway, Borders and Ayrshire being served. These may not strike many as being visitor destinations but that's part of their charm. Sometimes, it feels good to leave the crowds elsewhere.
What brought this group to my notice was a stay at the Sun Hotel in Hitchin in 2010. That was a business trip like so many that involved my staying in a hotel for a few days. The building itself certainly has plenty of character and it was down what felt like a Tudor long gallery to get to my room. Other than that, it did the job that was asked of it and I came away with no complaints.
There are quite a few of these dotted around the place and Macclesfield is no exception; there even is one in the village of Alderley Edge. Having used the same one twice on business trips to Oxford and spending two weeks in another in Hatfield due to work, I have a good impression of what they have to offer, particularly in the catering offer. That is reinforced too by past experiences of taking food at the Macclesfield North one (between Tytherington and Bollington in reality but who's to argue?) because I worked from an office near there at one point.
This is a fairly select group of hotels whose locations mainly are English with one in Scotland (Edinburgh) as well. Two are to be found in Cheshire and there one each in Leicestershire, Yorkshire and Northumberland. It was the latter of these that came first to my attention recently but I also have discovered that the Stanneylands in Wilmslow is among their holdings too and I attended a company away day at that venue. The room tariffs seem to be mid-tier though some don't look that outlandish so you might get lucky. Along with breakfast, evening meals also are part of the offer though I'd be surprised if you didn't need to pay extra for those.
When you hear talk of a hotel collection, you can sense that someone is trying to put themselves a little upmarket though the prices can be mid-market for some of these. For those of a more corporate mindset, they are in the business of providing training venues too.
It was their Leeds hotel that drew my attention while pondering a night's stay there as a stepping stone for a walk in the Yorkshire Dales of a Sunday. As much as I played with the idea, I never could bringing myself to committing to it. That's not to say that a night's stay in the heart of Leeds and next to its train station didn't appeal and rates weren't so extortionate either but I kept getting cold feet every time. In addition to The Queens Hotel in Leeds, it also owns the The Midland Hotel in Manchester (tariffs were not cheap when I was checking, though) and quite a few other ones too.
As far as I can make out, these are the only hotel brands operated by the the American Carlson group in the U.K. The Radisson one came to my notice because there is one quite literally at Manchester Airport; you'll pass it on the way from the train station to one of the terminals in fact. What these aren't is a budget option but Carlson having a subsidiary called Park Inn for exactly that and the "by Radisson" moniker gets added to that brand too.
Here's another group of independent hotels to complement the others that found their way into this listing. Again, individuality is a hallmark of what they offer and they aren't that cheap either. Maybe that's the price to be paid for something that's a little different.
These are very exclusive affairs as I found one day when I found the attempt to park my bicycle outside Edinburgh's Balmoral Hotel was thwarted by its door staff. The prices for a single night's stay often are more than what most of us would consider paying for a holiday so there must be something to justify the price. Prestigious addresses around the world, opulent surroundings within the hotels themselves and attention to detail (including stopping young "ruffians" attaching grotty bicycles to signs in front of the buildings) must have something to do with it and it is quite a move upmarket for the Forte family following a successful and bitter hostile takeover for their company in the mid 1990's. Before then, their empire included a lot of familiar names like Travelodge and Little Chef so their business was more mass market in those days. The recovery of fortunes is impressive in a lot of ways.
As the name may suggest, you will find this group operating hotels across Scandinavia. In fact, I got to staying two nights in one in Oslo (there are a few in the city) and gained an upgrade to the largest hotel room that I ever had in my life; it almost felt like a studio flat and the price was not bad for what I got either. The location was good for exploring the city too and breakfasts did what I needed them to do. They are found in Sweden too so one of those may be worth trying if I feel flush.
It was a cancelled booking for their Oban hotel that brought this small group to my attention and I have stayed at their Harrogate one of a Saturday night prior to a walk around Nidderdale. However, I hadn't realised that Fort William's Alexandria Hotel was one of theirs and I have dined there. Most of their hotels in Scotland with another in Fort William to go with those in Perth and Nethybridge. Their encroachment into England is not limited to Yorkshire since they also have one in Grange over Sands in Cumbria. Prices seem to be middle of the range on their website but I have seen better deals on LateRooms.com too.
With this lot, it might be best to check the facilities on offer wherever you might be staying. The one near Macclesfield only offers you a bed for the night and Caernarfon seemed to be little better when I checked it out on the website. They may claim to be cheaper than Premier Inn but I have my suspicions as to which corners have been cut, especially after having to spend a week at the one in Hatfield where there was a certain lack of care for the facilities to be seen. The cafe felt more like a television room serving food and drink too but that has its place too. The one in Swansea was similarly spartan but did what I wanted for a night away from home after savouring the Heart of Wales Railway and the Gower. A handily located branch in Edinburgh saw me twice during the winter of 2013/2014 and may see me again sometime.
This once was a brand of the De Vere but it was sold off to pay down debts before De Vere itself was acquired by Principal Hayley. It can feel that the world of hotels is one with constant change in ownership and current economic travails cannot help either. The range of locations extends across England, Wales and Scotland and the north of England is well served so this operation may be worth a look.