Ruth Watson’s Hotel Rescue

There’s a brilliant new series starting at 8.00pm on Channel 4 tonight following the highs and lows of would-be hoteliers.

After the success of Country House Rescue, the fabulous Ruth Watson returns to tackle fledgling hotels and B&Bs across the UK in brand new series called Ruth Watson’s Hotel Rescue.

Ruth Watson

Ruth Watson

An award-winning hotelier, food writer and owner of the internationally acclaimed Crown and Castle Hotel in Suffolk, Ruth is using her expertise to transform the efforts of new hoteliers as they set up on their own.

Famed for her attention to detail when it comes to perfecting hotel experiences, Ruth is on a mission to open the eyes of the six couples who think establishing a hotel or B&B will be a piece of cake.

Determined to shape the novices into professional hoteliers, Ruth visits and assesses each project, and sends the proprietors to Hotel Bootcamp at some of the UK’s top hotels to learn from the best in the business.

The six projects require serious work. From a run-down 32-bedroom hotel in Blackpool to a couple attempting to create a boutique B&B in Margate and proprietors with no hospitality experience.

I’m sure the series will be highly entertaining but also instructive. I’m not about to start a B&B myself but as a punter it’s useful to see ‘behind the green baize door’ for future reference re stays in guest accommodation, and I’ll certainly take account for future TripAdvisor reviews that I write.

For TSM and I there’s an additional interest and relevance to this new Channel 4 series. Next Tuesday night we will be staying at the aforementioned Crown and Castle in Orford, in advance of my attending a job interview in Cambridge on the following day.

OK, Cambridge isn’t exactly next door to Orford, but relative to Southampton it’s a stone’s throw and therefore justifiable excuse to have a treat, especially after my ordeal in hospital in recent days…

We’re both looking forward to our stay very much, and Molly is coming along too (the Crown & Castle offers special facilities for favoured pooches).

Naturally we hope that we shall meet The Great Lady herself, but I’m sure she’s very busy with other commitments. If we do, it’ll be a delightful bonus.

It’s an occupational hazard…

… being 6’7″ (202cm)!

When I was in Germany recently I gave myself a clout on the noggin when I got up out of a patio chair.

The cause was a very solid sun awning.

At the time I just put it down to experience (I bang my head quite a lot). But back in Blighty almost a week later, last Tuesday, with no apparent sign of the ensuing headache disappearing, I sought out my GP. Diagnosis: concussion. Tablets prescribed.

Next day a ghastly rash started to appear on my forehead and right eyelid. By Thursday one half of my forehead was covered in painful blisters and my right eye so puffy that I couldn’t open it easily.

Another visit to GP. Diagnosis: shingles. More medication.

Saturday: looked as though related to Quasimodo! Admitted to Southampton General Hospital’s acute medical ward where, thankfully, I can duly report that I appear to be getting better very slowly (indeed).

Well, put it like this I can see out of my right eye this evening, but my family antecedents remain questionable!

Am bored stiff in isolation room with no tv or radio. Room service not fantastic either!

Updated 29.09.2009, 19:05: discharged from hospital this afternoon, damage to eyes has been averted and I’m no longer infectious but I’ll have horribly disfiguring scabs on my forehead/scalp for some weeks to come.  They should, hopefully, clear completely (but this is not guaranteed).

Taking the water

Tomorrow I’m off on my travels once again, this time visiting friends in the Black Forest.  Not just a jolly, there’s a health dividend too.

I’m going to Baden-Baden in Germany’s Schwarzwald (‘black forest’) to ‘take the waters’ at the town’s famous thermal springs where the water comes out of the ground at a delicious 38C. Instead of two half-hour sessions of hydrotherapy per week I shall be having hydrotherapy every day for a couple of hours each time!

The Caracalla Spa complex in the town centre is superb (I’ve visited it several times before). Bathing in the thermal spring water is particularly good for spinal and locomotive problems such as my present affliction.

Twelve natural springs rise from depths of around 6,500 feet and provide an awesome bathing experience in the huge glass spa building. A romantic hot and cold rock grotto, bubbling whirlpools, waterfalls, counter-current pools and massaging water jets contribute to an amazing feeling of well-being whilst you let yourself float away under a canopy of shimmering light.

I met my friends Kerstin & Christian Fleischer on Papua New Guinea’s River Sepik in 1992 and we’ve remained in contact ever since. This will, however, be our first meeting for about eight years.

My planned route to Baden-Baden

My planned route to Baden-Baden

As usual I’ll be tweeting my overland journey from England to Germany (via Eurotunnel) and I’m sure I’ll also post a few updates on things I do whilst there.

Please follow me at – or see the column to the right on this page.

Hebrides: Day 4

After a leisurely breakfast and departure from Sorrel on Day 4 (20 August) we paid a visit to the MacGillivray Centre at Northton in light drizzle, then took a short drive up the coast back to Horgabost and afterwards retraced our steps to ‘Seallam!‘ in Northton to be there when it opened at 10am.

We enjoyed the Hebridean exhibition and particularly the St Kilda special collection which had added poignancy for me because of my long-held desire to visit the archipelago, ideally this year (which did not happen), and of course because 29 August just a few days ahead of our visit would be the 79th anniversary of the evacuation.

We then headed back to Leverburgh to await the ferry to take us across to Berneray and North Uist. As we were in good time we popped into the ‘Butty Bus’ and said hello to Bob. He was delighted to see us and made us very welcome.

The weather cleared as we were waiting for the ferry, with patches of blue sky becoming ever more evident – almost sufficient to make a pair of knickers for the Queen (favourite saying of Craig’s mother, apparently). So eventual departure gave us a splendid backdrop of the south Harris hills around Leverburgh bathed in glorious sunshine and mixed cloud, and thus it was for the entire hour’s crossing to Berneray.

For those who aren’t familiar with this ferry crossing, the Sound of Harris is only a couple of miles across but its very shallow, especially at low tide. The CalMac ferry weaves a tortuous route through navigation channels avoiding reefs and rocks, islands and navigation markers. Goodness know what it must be like for the man at the tiller at nighttime, but in daytime the twists and turns make for a fascinating crossing with new vistas opening all the time.

After we arrived on Berneray we set off north to explore this small and delightful island with wonderful views across the sound back towards Harris, and then crossed over the ‘new’ causeway to North Uist. The weather was glorious, breezy but sunny blue skies and scudding high level cloud occasionally obliterating the sun for a few minutes.

Once we reached the circular island road, we set off in an anticlockwise direction, intent on visiting the Isle of Baleshare before we reached the Isle of Benbecula. Not far along the A865 the most amazing sandy vista opened up in front of us. A truly stunning bay of white sand of seemingly limitless size. We couldn’t see the sea (the tide was out!).

We reached a parking place at the shoreline by Grenitote where several cars were parked and got out for a leg stretch and a Kodak moment.

We immediately spotted a Land Rover whizzing across the bay, headed in our direction, and then it forged a tidal stream and several large puddles and eventually drew up alongside us. The driver’s window was wound down and he said to me “That was great fun!” and with a big smile, drove off.

I should say at this juncture that I’ve often thought my family motto should be “If it’s there, drive up it.” Marion would certainly agree, because that’s what I always seem to be doing when she’s with me…

I said to Craig, “Right, that’s us too then ….!” and off we set for a ‘desert safari’. We forged the river and set off across the beach which must have been about 1-2 miles across, and then on a track through sand dunes beyond which led to a second bay of similar dimension to the first. Oh what a fab time (including more than a few Kodak moments). See video clips here and here!

on the beach

We made it back to dry land without mishap, but wreathed in smiles … A quick stop for comestibles was made at Sollas Co-op and then we enjoyed a lovely alfresco lunch at Malaglate on the machair overlooking another delightful sandy bay to a distant isle with two large and ruined properties on it.

After lunch we made steady progress southwards via Balmartin, Baleshare and Balivanich (Isle of Benbecula) and onto our final island for the day, South Uist.

Getting rather tired by this time we decided to head straight for our hotel, the Borrodale at Daliburgh. It is one of three in the southern isles owned by the same company. I had stayed at the Dark Isles Hotel a few years ago on my first visit to South Uist, it was pretty average – a typical coach tour type hotel. This accommodation had been booked for us by VisitScotland and I rather hoped to find Borrodale an improvement on my memory of Dark Isles!

Well my review of the Borrodale on Trip Advisor will tell you what I thought of the hotel!

After a nap we were ready for something to eat and found a half-decent (not the best but no means the worst – that accolade belongs to Thurso) fish and chip shop nearby. It was remarkable for having a filling station attached to it (rather than the other way about, the pump controls were on the counter of the F&C shop). We drove onto the machair and enjoyed a fish supper looking north with the Atlantic ocean on our left.

Before retiring for the night we decided that we’d attempt a side trip the next day to visit Barra and Vatersay if we could get a ferry place. The weather forecast for the following day wasn’t particularly good, rising winds were predicted which didn’t augur well for a smooth crossing, and rain was anticipated also. But neither of us had been to Barra previously and so we decided we’d do it if we could.

to be continued/…