My wife and I booked a long weekend away at Bowden Hall on a deal that gave us two nights bed and breakfast with dinner of the first night. We had stayed there once before on a similar deal about seven years ago and had enjoyed it that time. The deal was good in that it included £22 per head for the dinner. This could be used to have the limited set menus, or you could use it against the full brasserie menu. Looked like we couldn’t go wrong.
The location is good for a weekend away as it is in the countryside very near Gloucester. I can see that it is probably frequented during the week by conferences and by wedding parties at the weekend. There was a wedding the weekend that we stayed. I must credit the hotel that as a non-wedding party guest, we were not pushed to the margins; however we did not eat in the brasserie on the Saturday night. It does look like a good place to get married, as it is quite picturesque.
On checking in early on Friday afternoon, we were met by friendly reception staff. All of the staff were friendly and helpful. We were told that by checking in early, we were allocated with a room with a view. We thought: should be good as this is a 4 star hotel. In reality, it disappointed. The view was OK, but the room was nothing special. It had one rather empty corner. It seemed that there was something missing. As there was a spare power socket in that corner, I guess that there was a standard lamp missing. If that’s not the case, then I suggest a standard lamp is added.
The room looked rather tired, however the bed was comfortable. There were no biscuits of any type with the tea and coffee. I expect something with my tea, especially in a 4 star hotel. Only one set of towels were out, the second set were in the wardrobe. Things were starting to grate a bit now. There was only one small tube of shower gel and one of shampoo in the bathroom. It was a bit of a struggle to make the stuff last for two people, especially if you wanted a shower in the evening and then another in the morning. It did get replaced when the room was serviced. I have been in a number of other hotels where this does not automatically happen.
There was no information of any type in the room. Upon asking in reception, we were told it was on the TV. Well, it would be helpful to have that information on a card in the room. Also, there was no information about what TV channels were available; you had to flick through them all. I’m sorry, but this is not what I expect from a 4 star hotel (sorry to keep on repeating it).
Now, let’s get to the subject of Wifi. In this day and age, when you go to a “fine establishment”, I expect free to use and fast Wifi. Well, we were given a password, but it was not needed. Why? Then when we logged in, had to put in room number and name, then presented with a limited free option, and two paid options. It should be free for guests! I get free Wifi in independent B&Bs and hotels and other chain hotels. Why do some chain hotels think that they can get away with charging? After some use we were eventually logged out as our free sessions had run out. Not impressed. Also, why is the home page after logging in the hotel website? I’m staying already and I really don’t need any more information about the hotel as I can get it on my TV (once you know).
Dinner in the brasserie on the Friday night was pleasant. As I noted before, we could choose from the whole brasserie menu and make up the difference in cost. This is what we did. Before ordering, we were told that there was no steak and that one of the salads would come with Feta cheese. Fortunately neither of us wanted steak. Having no steak is not good. The service was good and the food was average, but nothing particularly special.
Breakfast was average, but again the hotel was lacking items. The menu on the table mentioned cooked meats and cheese; none to be seen. The fried bread on the Saturday morning could have been used for foundations within a building. It must have been out for ages without anyone checking that it was still OK.
My wife ordered a hot chocolate, but the waitress said she could not operate the machine, and the supervisor, who could, was servicing a room. No hot chocolate arrived as we had finished before the supervisor was back. Strikes me a double booking staff, and wasn’t there anyone in the kitchen who can operator a drink machine?
Breakfast on Sunday was busier as the wedding party had got up early. The cooked breakfast items were fresh, but this was probably because of the fast turnover as there were a lot of people eating. The niggles this time were that there were no plates out for toast and pastries, and that the hot chocolate did arrive this time, except it could be, at best, described as lukewarm chocolate.
Around the hotel, there were a number of things that showed disrepair and not up to standard. We saw four different non-matching and somewhat clashing carpets, a beige/ brown striped one in reception and the public rooms, a patterned green carpet on stairs, and two different patterned blue carpets on floors. They really did not go together. I noticed that the lining of the curtains in both the brasserie and the lounge were falling apart and frayed. The sofas in the lounge were OK, but looked tired.
Something people of limited mobility should be aware of is that there is no lift in the hotel. There is a stair lift on the first flight of stairs out of the reception area, but you are requested to get the help of staff to use it.
So the overall experience was one of disappointment. Most of the niggles are easy things to fix, and hopefully the management will fix them. It just was not what we expected from a 4 star hotel.
Then the real icing on the cake was when we were checking out. The hotel had added a £6+ gratuity to the bill. Fortunately we noticed that and got it removed. There was nothing anywhere about a service charge, and a gratuity is something that the customer gives, not something that the service provider adds on!
This hotel needs some money spent upon it to tidy it up and bring it back up to a 4 star hotel standard, but not by adding on hidden gratuities. If you stay here, check your bill carefully.
In the end, a weekend that slightly disappointed due to apparent penny pinching.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Classically-styled country house hotel with Regency decor; amenities for business & leisure guests; situated on beautiful grounds. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Ramada Upton St Leonards
- Ramada Hotel Bowden Hall
- Ramada Gloucester
- Gloucester Ramada
- Mercure Gloucester, Bowden Hall Hotel Upton St Leonards, Gloucestershire