I've been visiting Bournemouth, on and off, for the best part of 3 decades and have stayed in dozens of hotels. Some large and some small, some great, some not so great. Happily, the Minton Lodge has its place on my "great" list now. The first thing I would say, to those of you who have only ever stayed in a large hotel, is that the Minton Lodge is really much more akin to guest house than it is a hotel. But that's no bad thing. Guest houses are normally and traditionally small, friendly, helpful, cosy and personal establishments compared to hotels where you're often just a name on a computer screen and the member of staff you see at check-in has probably gone off shift by the time you come down for breakfast the next day. The owners, Dave and Mary, personally run the place 24/7 and run it so well such that you can see that a lot of hard work by them both has gone into making Minton Lodge a comfortable, cosy and welcoming place to stay. I don't think they will mind me saying therefore, that I don't really regard their establishment as a hotel, but as guest house instead. But it's all the better for it; as Alex Polizzi has said time and again, better a fantastic basic guest house than an average hotel. The Minton Lodge is a fantastic place to stay. Here's why:
I booked a two night stay for last weekend, costing £45 a night for a room for single occupancy but with a double bed. I'm 6 foot 4 inches and in a single bed I normally end up either having my legs dangle over the edge (which causes cramp) or else I end up forgetting I'm in a single and end up in a heap on the floor during the middle of the night! Dealing with this is frequently a problem unless you book with a large budget chain (who uniformly always have double beds for cost reasons and because all the rooms are exactly the same bland corporate shape inside). Quite often you're either told you cannot have a double bed at all or if you can, you end up paying nearly twice the price even though there is just one of you.
The few days I spent trying to find a room for this weekend I encountered this many times until finally coming across the Minton Lodge. I explained my situation to Dave and Mary who were more than willing to accommodate my requirements, when I further explained that I would prefer an en-suite room (since they were originally only able to offer a room with a shared bathroom) I was told just a few hours later that they can now put me in an en-suite room having moved some other bookings around, somehow. The amount of effort they must have gone to just to get a £90 booking, when they didn't really need to bother - it's high season and someone else would have booked the remaining rooms regardless - is testament to their high standards and professionalism. From the outset I did not feel like just a name on their computer screen!
So the booking was made, no deposit was required but you do have to pay in full on arrival and only cash is accepted, so please bear this in mind before you book. Unsurprisingly they are unable to take credit cards and anyone with any understanding of the financial finagling business (aka banks) at all will understand why this is a smart move on their part. So don't berate them for it, just accept that to help them keep costs as a low as possible and avoid being ripped off, the only thing that speaks as payment is cold, hard, cash. Refreshingly traditional!
My drive down from Manchester to Bournemouth on the Friday was fraught and though I originally planned to be there by mid afternoon, I had still not arrived by 4:30pm. At that time I was 2 hours away still. Mary phoned me while I was driving (thank God for hands-free!) to check if I was ok and still coming. A nice thought, again, I've never known hotels to do this, only ever guest houses.
By 6:30pm I've arrived. I was exhausted. Dave met me on arrival and sorted out check in and carried my case up to room 12 on the top floor. He pointed out that I should mind my head, being so tall, when going up the last flight of stairs as the pitched roof made for exceptionally low headroom. So, if like me, you're of enhanced vertical proportions, take heed of his warning and make like a kind of quacking waterfowl: duck!
Room was small but clean, comfortable, cosy and had everything you could want (or expect) for such a booking. Including a sizeable LCD TV, bottled hand soaps, comfortable bed (which was a little soft for my tastes admittedly, but I do have back problems and therefore need a firmer bed than most. This was not something I conveyed to Dave and Mary but I'm certain that if I did, they would have done whatever they could to help), clean and tidy en-suite bathroom with a shower cubicle with adjustable shower (not some stupid shower head fixed high up on the wall over a bath as almost every budget chain hotel has had for a couple of decades!). So far, so very good. I slept well, also a good sign!
Breakfast the next morning is at your choice of time "slot" from 8am, 8:30am or 9am. I opted for 9am and again, the difference between larger hotels which operate a buffet breakfast and smaller places like this, which cook freshly to order, becomes immediately apparent. If you book at a Travelbodge and you go for breakfast towards the end of the serving period, you'll be lucky to find a few manky sausages, freezing cold baked beans, what is supposed to resemble scrambled egg but is actually something that could just as easily be used to repair a slow puncture on a car tyre instead and maybe, if you're really lucky, some of the disinterested minimum-waged staff would fetch you a few slices of bread so you can run the obligatory gauntlet with the machine of utter breakfast-time stress that is the "conveyor belt of flames"; otherwise known as a conveyor-belt toaster! Many has been the time that I've either had "toast" that is so white and pasty that you're left pondering if the toaster merely contains a tiny mouse under that conveyor holding up a torch with a red filter on it or else it burns the bread to such a degree you have to wonder if the darn thing is perhaps equipment derived from much more nefarious equipment (allegedly) in use in as implements of torture by despotic regimes against political dissidents of their own country!
So, it was a delight to find that the breakfast here was nothing like that. You have a free choice of juices and breakfast cereals (which are big brand cereals, none of your cheapo supermarket value cornflakes sneakily snuck into a Kellogg's box in a weasley attempt to mask a cheapskate mentality rubbish going on here!). While you're tucking into your cereal, Dave is bringing in the pot of tea that I asked for (I assume coffee is similarly also available for you serious caffeine-in-the-morning types out there!) and two slices of toast. Actual white-sliced toast that is brown. Not white, not black, not so soft and soggy that it needs a Zimmer frame to stay fully upright in the toast rack and not so rock hard that it shatters into a million pieces the moment you try to butter it. Just proper tasty toast. Lovely!
After you've finished your cereal, along comes the main event. The traditional cooked English breakfast (so traditional that we Brit's only really have it when we go to hotels/guest houses. Yes, it's a bit mad really but hey, we all love it and you gotta have a bit of cholesterol on a holiday, it's what all the steep roads up from the beaches in Bournemouth are really for!). I opted against having mushrooms and tomatoes (personal choice, I'm sure they are fine though) and thus my breakfast came with an additional dollop of tasty baked beans to go with the two rashers of quality bacon, single meaty sausage, perfectly fried egg, golden hash brown and two slices of fried bread. Not so much a breakfast, but a veritable morning feast. Tasty but I'd recommend a long stroll after to walk it all off! With spreadable branded butter provided to smother the toast and that breakfast was served in a clean, tidy and inviting dinning room with a radio gently playing a local music station* in the background that was neither too loud you'd have to shout over it to speak to Dave or Mary or any of the other guests nor too quiet that you'd wondered if you were actually going deaf as you tried to hear about the local events and traffic news that was being read out, you realise this is a truly quality breakfast offering. So, again, good choices and signs of very good management abound at breakfast time.
I was only booked for bed and breakfast so cannot comment on what the evening meal would be like (which I assume is offered), but I would expect it to be good, wholesome food of generous portion size.
I didn't have time or need to sit in the TV lounge but I did briefly step into it. Clean, tidy and with comfortable sofas and chairs seems to be the order of the day.
Scattered around the hotel, on numerous side tables and racks were a multitude of what-to-do leaflets and discount vouchers. So, if you're stuck for ideas for what to do on your stay, just open your eyes and look around and something will surely present itself, literally!
By the time I checked out on Sunday morning, I was sad to leave and while Dave handled the check out process and was giving me travel advice and warning me to set out before 4pm to avoid the hordes of cars heading out of the area on this fine, hot, sunny July Sunday, Mary was busy in the kitchen. As I was getting into the car, Mary comes out to say a personal goodbye herself, since she hadn't had much chance to speak to me at all over those two days. It's these little personal touches that make this an above par establishment and I went away feeling that I had obtained value for money during an expensive time of the year for accommodation in Bournemouth.
I was very impressed and, if she were to stay there also, I suspect Alex Polizzi would be too!
What you waiting for? Get booking, you won't regret it!
Many thanks Dave and Mary!
* = The radio station was was NOT Heart FM, thankfully, since Bournemouth is now - sadly - an area that has lost it's local heritage station (2CR) to this creeping moss of unlistenable repetitive radio crap, there is always the danger that a hotel might unwittingly inflict this particular mode of aural punishment on its guests. But not so here, phew! :)