When looking for a surprise gift for my husband’s birthday this year, I was excited to find a deal through Virgin Experience Days for Bed and Breakfast with wine, in Bournemouth Hallmark Hotel and Spa, so that we could take ourselves off for a couple of days for some much-needed down time.
On first impressions, this four star hotel is pleasing on the eye with polite, friendly, professional staff. The modern entrance and reception area is sleek and calm, with a tempting display of classy wine set in a glass window, separating the reception from the dining suite.
We were given our room keys and informed of the location and timings of all the facilities and amenities, and eagerly took the stairs up to the first floor. The minute we walked into the ‘bijoux’ room – with less space between the wall and the bed than Jack in his box – my husband’s face said it all and we returned to the front desk to ask if all the rooms were as… cramped. The receptionist informed us that was the size of their standard double, and asked if we would like to upgrade. On asking what the cost would be, we were offered an upgrade price of £10 from their usual £20, to move to an Executive suite, then given the key to take a look first and ensure we were happy with it. A trip via the quirky lift to the third floor took us to a room twice the size, with a bigger bathroom, a bed as wide as it was deep, water, bath-robes and slippers. Needless to say we eagerly upgraded, impressed with the way our initial disappointment had been resolved.
We indulged in a refreshing drink in the brasserie while deciding where to dine later, then took ourselves down to the spa, where we enjoyed a couple of hours mooching between the sauna, steam room, jacuzzi, mini-pool and aromatherapy suite. I took the opportunity to scuttle across the hotel reception in my cozzie for a swim in the larger pool, which, unfortunately, is the only access to the other pool in the hotel. But don’t let that put you off, as several guests can be seen wandering around in towels or hotel bath-robes. You won’t need to take a towel with you though, the spa will provide you with one on entry.
After an afternoon of relaxing and forgetting about daily life, we chose to walk down to the local Harvester – The Durley Chine Inn – which is about a 10-15 minute walk (if you go by Google maps and head in the right direction, not via TripAdvisor where one review said it was just 150 yards away). After our stroll, we were pleasantly surprised to find the Harvester at the bottom of the Durley Chine car park, with the waves crashing on the fresh and breezy (although my other half will argue it was cold and windy) beach. It was dark, and I could have been thousands of miles away in a foreign country. We enjoyed a pleasant meal, with the customary salad and of course something from the grill, washed down by a Baileys coffee. Our initial expectations were low, due to some negative reviews on TripAdvisor, but reasoned it was still a Harvester, and how bad could it be? One person’s negative experience is rarely the same for everyone. The only issue we had with our meal was a missing chicken breast on my husband’s Mixed Grill, and its absent accompanying Jack Daniels sauce, which was swiftly resolved by our friendly, capable waiter.
Regrettably, a refreshing night’s sleep in such a large bed was not to be had, thanks to some undesirable guests, a lot of shouting and slamming of doors until the wee hours. On the plus side, we enjoyed a lovely continental breakfast before checking out the next day, and returned to Durley Chine to see the beach in daylight. We made the most of a leisurely stroll along Bournemouth beach in deliciously warm sunshine in the middle of January, right before the sea air blew the rain from Purbeck and we got caught in a ‘refreshing’ downpour.
A break well-worth it, if you’re looking to get away for a bit to recharge the brain with a change of scene, but bear in mind that if you’re staying in a hotel in the middle of one of the most popular seaside resorts in England, you might not get the refreshing night’s sleep you crave.