Back in June, Dad and I returned to Malta, where we had a nice time, of course, but where the hassle of airport travel, and the often ridiculous flight scheduling rather took the edge off things somewhat.
When Mum was still with us, and foreign travel wasn't really an option, we spent a couple of good holidays here in the UK back in the 90s, staying at the Starting Gate in Hereford, part of the Premier Inn chain. I also returned there on my own in 2003.
Dad and I thought it would be nice to get away for a short break last week, so we went back to the Starting Gate again. We'd always found it a most homely stay, and where the staff were really friendly, treating you as a member of the albeit large family (it's one of the most popular hotels in the chain), rather than merely a paying guest. We were therefore intrigued to see if, some six years after my last visit, things had changed!
Well, it was really like going back in a time warp for us! The food and staff in the Beafeater restaurant were just as helpful and caring, as were the reception staff in the hotel section, especially one of the receptionists, Anna Smith, who went out of her way to oblige us. The actual accommodation was excellent, and whilst there had been an extension since 2003, it had been tastefully done, and hardly noticeable to us, until we realised that we were, in fact, staying in part of it!
Hereford, of course is so very central, and the Starting Gate is perfectly placed adjacent to a busy roundabout (although we heard no traffic noise at all on the car park side) where taking the left fork took you into West Wales and beyond, the right fork took you to Worcester, Cheltenham and the Cotswolds, and straight on lead up to Shrewsbury and on the Chester. We notched up some 1000 miles, and got as far as North Wales, and a lovely day in Oxford, taking in Aberystwyth as well. With a bus stop right outside, we spent a nice day in Hereford, too, returning to the Starting Gate, and then drove back home to Plymouth, which isn't a long journey, now that the second Severn bridge is there.
Although we had a strange sense of déjà vu there, and almost felt as if Mum was there, too, it's not to say that things weren't thoroughly up-to-date and modern. But for value for money, ease of access, easy parking, good food & accommodation, friendly and helpful staff, yet retaining the original character of the old pub, I think you'd be hard-pressed to be the Starting Gate at Hereford! And, before you say it, no, I haven't been paid by Premier Inns to write this!