Thu 31 Mar 2011
Over the last few years we have all seen at least one story of a ruined holiday where a family have booked an extremely expensive vacation abroad after reading a lovely brochure at a travel agent’s office on the high street. Only when the family arrives at their chosen destination do they realise that they have been scammed, maybe the hotel is surrounded by construction sites, maybe the brochure said “sea views” but you can only really see the sea using binoculars from one room on the top floor. In some extreme cases the unfortunate tourists arrive at their hotel, which looked amazing in the brochure, to find that it is still under construction or that the photographs were many years old and the hotel is now in a ruined state of repair. It amazes me that this sort of thing still happens on an almost regular basis but I was shocked to discover that such things are more common than many of us assume and it happens right here in the UK in places such as Cornwall and even remote islands such as the Isle of Harris in the Western Isles of Scotland.
The other day I happened to pick up a magazine called “Bella” and, although it contains mainly gossip like material, it had a number of interesting articles including one about “Beautiful beach houses”. Listed as the “top 5 travel” the article included five places to stay close to the sea. Just below the main heading was the statement “Bag yourself a bolt-hole right beside the seaside” so I was expecting to see some tropical huts sat on the very edge of a glorious sandy beach. When I got to the page I was surprised to see that the five places where actually here in the United Kingdom, they was one on the Isle of Wight, Cornwall, Suffolk, West Sussex, and, to my surprise, the Isle of Harris.
Sure enough three of the photographs showed properties which led out directly onto a beach but as I live on the Isle of Harris I wondered what property could lay claim to such a thing here? I know that Borvemor Cottages are just a few steps across the grass to an amazing sandy beach but I could not think of anywhere else. I thought maybe there was a self catering property somewhere which I had not seen before but I was shocked to see a well known property photographed on the page.
Now I say “shocked” for a number of reasons. The hospitality business on the Isle of Harris, and across the islands of the Western Isles in general, is of an incredibly high standard and these standards extend into all aspects of their business including advertising. I can only think of one place which ever described itself better than it actually was and that is since I first visited the Outer Hebrides at the beginning of the 1980′s. In actual fact most places to stay on Harris are usually far better than advertised due to the fact that each year the owners of each establishment take a close look at their properties and make any needed repairs and upgrade various aspects. This is why I was so surprised and, yes shocked, to discover that the “bolt-hole right beside the seaside” was actually some distance from the sea! Making things worse was that right next to the photo of their property was a photo of a lovely Harris beach, which could have been one miles away as you will find such a glorious beach around every corner in this part of the world.
I will not mention by name the property which made these false claims (you have to walk a fair distance down their driveway, across a main road and then across a busy golf course before you reach the sea and a fair bit further along the shore before you reach a beach!) as they would most probably try to sue me for damages but what I will say is that this highlights the importance of checking out EXACTLY where you are planning to stay. If you are planning a vacation to the Isle of Harris take a look at the mentioned property (Borvemor Cottages) if you want somewhere close to a sandy beach otherwise follow my next piece of advice:
If you are planning a vacation in the United Kingdom Google has kindly provided you with an excellent tool, their “street view” to explore an area. If you are planning to visit somewhere new in the UK you just have to pop in the postcode and zoom in and you will find yourself with a full 360 degree view of the place. Sadly it is restricted to the road but if you were to put in the postcode of the property advertising in Bella magazine you would find yourself on the main road with the property up a bit of hill on one side and the sea over the golf course on the other side – not exactly “a bolt-hole right beside the seaside” as they say?