A classic hotel lobby bell, next to a set of keys and a sign that reads, 'Check in'.

How to be The Best at UK Hotels – Book Direct

It’s always tempting to go the online route and book your trip away through an agent – it’s easy, it’s quick and they’re always ready to suggest the ‘cheapest prices’ online to really reel you in. As a matter of fact, that’s probably their only real draw beyond convenience. So why should you book direct when searching for UK hotels? Well, read on and you might just learn something.

Why Would I Book Direct?

It’s a given that booking through a third party might lead to some sort of fuss. After all, you’re not the one in control of your reservation. All sorts of troubles could arise: from reservations not being processed to your room being changed entirely and at that point you’re forced to wonder: who is to blame here? Finger pointing can lead to even more trouble, trouble that could’ve easy been avoided by cutting out the middle man.

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One on one, you build up a rapport with your hotel. It’s no longer just a faceless stepping-stone in the way of your holiday: there’s a voice at the end of the line and more often than not, hotels are more willing to help you out if you’re the one calling.

On top of that, there’s always the question of price. That tempting ‘cheapest prices here!’ banner might be seductive, but it’s usually not all that true. Most hotels are willing to match prices with online hotel finder sites over the phone – or even go lower. Usually, the cost difference is negligible.

Of course, there’s also the simple fact that hotels pay commission fees to the agents that advertise their rooms and wares – inflating costs up to 18% of what they should be. Clever hotels take advantage of that and give guests the chance to make savings: but only if they book direct.

There you have it – booking a hotel room online via a third party might be easier but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be cheaper, or even the more convenient assuming a problem does come up. To really get to know UK hotels (and snag the best prices) you’ll want to book direct. If you really want to avoid the hustle and bustle, then there’re always alternate holiday ideas that might just catch your eye!

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A field of flowers, the sky is blue. It's spring.

UK Spring Festivals You Don’t Want To Miss

Spring is fast approaching and with it comes a myriad of unique, fun filled festivals that can only be found within the UK. A gorgeous country filled with culture, history and a keen sense of wit, the UK has built up a repertoire of somewhat unusual activities alongside the norm. That’s why there’s always a plethora of strange, yet historic, Spring festivals you don’t want to miss in the UK.

Eelin’ Fine

We’ll start with the unconventional – Eels. Between the 29th of April and the 2nd of May, the town of Ely, Cambridgeshire, celebrates their namesake in the only sensible way: by making custom eel toys and having a contest to see who can throw them the farthest. Of course, the festival isn’t just about Eels. The Eel Festival Weekend generally features an (eel-based) food safari and a more vaguely defined food and drink festival on the last day of the event.

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The second day of the event traditionally includes an annual competition for Town Criers, the best cry takes all and we can only assume that they win something suitably Eel related. If Eels aren’t to your tastes, never fear; the festival will also have a hog roast and pizza for those feeling the eel burn – or if you’re just that little bit squeamish!

A Little Cheesy

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The UK might be host to more strange festivals and traditions, but one stands out among all the rest. World-famous, Cheese-Rolling is one of those strange facts of life that many in the UK just (as the saying goes) roll with. The origins of the ceremony are vague, with several different origins noted, from pagan to the more mundane. Today, it’s simply an organic event.

The most popular and well known Cheese-Rolling festival takes place near Gloucester on the Spring Bank Holiday and allows competitors from all over the world to take part: racing cheese down Cooper’s Hill. The cheese has been known to reach speeds of up to 70mph, so standing in the way may not be the best idea.

If you’re in the UK on holiday, or as a resident, there’s all sorts of fun to be had over the Spring months. Quirky, zany and just a little bit bizarre, these are the Spring Festivals you don’t want to miss. In the UK later in the year? Then be sure to check out these Autumn Festivals in the UK.

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Fall In Love With Wedding Venues In Scotland

The word ‘Scotland’ evokes images of a wild, untamed and ultimately gorgeous landscape. Lochs and glens abound and the ruins of old castles rest where they were built, stunning monuments that are freely available to tour. Is it any wonder why Scotland is considered one of the most romantic places in the world? Of course, there are plenty of locations in the UK to choose from but if you’re after something truly special, then read on to find out more about stunning wedding venues in Scotland.

Something Old

The southernmost island of Scotland, Islay, is looked at with a mixture of nostalgia and awe. Home to distilleries, wildlife, stunning views and of course, history. One such historic landmark is available for Weddings: Loch Finlaggan. Formerly the home to the Lords of the Isle, the Loch houses a set of ancient buildings that make the perfect backdrop for that special day. Your wedding should be historic, so why not include a part of Scottish lore?

Islay

For accommodation during your stay on the island, Islay Cottages are offering a special Romantic Escape – just the treat for your wedding and subsequent honeymoon.

Something New

Scotland is a varied country, ruins and modern houses abound and choosing between the traditional and the up-to-date can be tricky. That’s why we’re suggesting the best of both worlds. Located in Inverness, the stunning Achnagairn Castle has been called a ‘fairy-tale wedding venue’ before and is the newly named number one in Harper’s Bazaar Magazine’s Best UK Wedding Venues category.

wedding                                                                   WEDDING_121218-1052-38 by 維鴻 朱 is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The castle itself features a grand ballroom that can host up to 260 people, 24 luxury bedrooms for guests and an option for more rooms in the lodges set up outside of it. Expansive grounds, individually decorated rooms and all the grandeur of a royal palace, it’s hard not to say ‘I do’ to Achnagairn.

Something Borrowed

There’s no need to fret if you’re still chasing ideas on just how your Wedding should go: after all, perfection takes time and plenty of patience. If you’re really feeling stuck, have a read of a few examples: including a DIY Wedding in an Abbey that’s only accessible via boat!

Something Blue

The venue might be sorted, the wedding plans are underway but what about entertainment? Something romantic to listen to while you’re walking down the aisle or to dance along with during the reception. Fittingly named, Something Blue is a band based just inside of Glasgow that specializes in wedding entertainment. To learn more, or to have a taste of their talent, check out one of the videos up on the Something Blue site!

Organising a wedding can be a hard task, though it’s well worth it in the end. Hopefully these wedding venues in Scotland will give you a few ideas on how best to plan and arrange that lovely day. Your wedding should be perfect – so why settle for anything less?

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Gold background with Christmas tree

Why Booking Christmas in January Pays Off

Christmas in the United Kingdom is a big deal. With six solid weeks of Christmas markets, festive festivals, mammoth shopping expeditions and an endless supply of food, drink and general merriment, it’s lucky this holly-day comes but once a year. But once all the decorations have been packed away and this year’s haul of presents are safely stowed away, the end-of-holiday hole is quickly filled with some post-Christmas January sales. As we head to the high street to make good on retailers’ January sales promises, it’s important to remember that booking Christmas in January pays off too.

Toasting the Bells in Edinburgh

As the cold winds rise and the winter chill sets in, Edinburgh’s beautiful Princes Street is transformed into a labyrinth of markets, festivals, merry making and family festivities. And while Christmas in Edinburgh is big, nothing compares to Hogmanay. From a torchlight procession down ancient cobbled streets, to one of the largest street parties in the world, there’s a reason this three-day New Year’s festival is on every travellers bucket list.

View of Edinburgh from Calton Hill

Tickets sell out fast as thousands of people from around the world flock to Scotland’s vibrant capital to toast the bells and welcome in the New Year. And while you can always count on a few Christmas, Twixmas and Hogmanay deals leading up to December, accommodation in the heart of Edinburgh at a reasonable price is hard to come by. Year-round internet rates and January Sales are the safest way to ensure you don’t miss out on the magic of Edinburgh.

Getting Jolly in London

Not to be outdone by their Northern counterparts, Christmas in London is every bit as magical. Every year, one of the busiest cities in the world ditches the hustle and bustle of business as usual for a Christmas season like no other. From outdoor ice rinks and London’s iconic Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, to dazzling lights, endless Christmas fairs and century-old traditions, Christmas in London always leaves locals and visitors alike hungry for more. So if you’re planning on forgoing the desire to seek warmer climates in the winter months (particularly now), booking Christmas in January is the best way to ensure you don’t miss out on all the London festive festivities.

Snowman under a tree

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Post-Christmas January Sales You Need To Know About

When Christmas is over, we all feel the blues. But a sombre January is so 2015. In the New Year of 2016, we wait and hope for the January sales, the style and the bargains. When the January sales have us all rushing around, it’s sometimes best to know when and where to go. What is the ultimate sale? Because at the ultimate sale, we find the ultimate bargain. With the ultimate bargain, we have the ultimate start to 2016.

The London Eye for Bargains

Whether it be venturing to another city of finding the best deals in your doorstep, we have it covered. For clothes and accessories, the be all and end all of the January sales to grace is Selfridges. Whether you’re hitting the Trafford Centre, or luckily strolling down the streets of London, Selfridges is the place to be. With its vibrant mix of both designer and high street fashions, you’re on track to find yourself a barrage of steals or the perfect designer splurge that you convince yourself is really a saving.

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The Scottish Saver Spree

Another convincing sale to pull you from the PJs and throw you into January, hit the Edinburgh sales and turn that crisp cold nose into a freezing but infectious grin. When strolling through Edinburgh, Princes Street is the definite place to be. For your January Sales, what better place is there to go than that still decorated with the Christmas feel, although it seems like Christmas has been reduced. With all its accompanying bars and restaurants, there is plenty of excuses to stop off, have a gossip and toast a glass of bubbly to that stylish new trend you’ve picked up for less.

And finally, Highland Heaven

Of course, with every sale there is always those extra special bargains. Why not forget the accessories and look for the even more indulgent bargains. Why not turn your bargain find into a bargain stay. Take a luxurious break into the Scottish Highlands, let the January blues melt away and get yourself back to the natural, beautiful wonder you are, with the help of the idyllic highlands. At Kingsmills Hotel in Inverness, kick-start 2016 with a bang and an offer that won’t stretch any post-Christmas budget. Have a calm and serene two night stay and enjoy all the luxuries and tastes the hotel has to offer. With their beautiful wines, foods and leisure, an early bird stay at Kingsmills is the best January sale to set you up for the most wonderful of years in 2016.

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Spoiling Mum For Mother’s Day

With Mum being your left, your right and your centre 364 days of the year, it seems only right that we give a little back to her on that beautiful March occasion of Mother’s Day. With flowers and a card saying ‘Mum you’re so special’, we at Best UK Hotels are giving you the ideas, tips and tricks to tell your Mum just how important she really is.

Say Thankyou Mum

No longer the prim, proper and somewhat stuffy affair of yesteryear, the traditional afternoon tea has enjoyed a revival in recent years and is without question one of the most refined ways to celebrate this Mother’s Day. From crystal glasses of bubbly, to fine china tea cups, Afternoon tea is the best way to have a little pampered heart-to-heart with your loveable mother. With Afternoon Tea a prominent pastime in Edinburgh, there is a selection of locations almost as wide as the sandwich flavours. All waiting for you, your mother, and the gossip.

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Mother’s Day in Spring

For little ones who want to make something special for their Mum head along to the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh. Take in the new Spring views and stroll hand in hand with the little ones, gazing at all the beauty and wonder this natural exhibit has to offer. On Mother’s Day, they offer the most quirky and fun alternatives to a Mother’s Day bouquet, all freshly picked and created, there in the gardens. With a restaurant too, it is easy to see how this stroll can quickly turn into a full day out.

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Pampering Mother’s Day

Of course, nothing says I love you mum like a hotel getaway. Parliament House Hotel in Edinburgh is offering the perfect Mother’s Day retreat that is sure to have you in the good books for the rest of the year. Let your Mum indulge with a two-night stay in our Edinburgh City Centre Hotel. Make the most of beautiful Edinburgh this Mother’s Day. Spoil her with dinner on the first night, as well as with a gift voucher for afternoon tea and bubbles at Frederick Street based tea room, Eteaket. With a double gift here, the excitement is sure to have you and your mother giggling into the wee hours this Mother’s Day.

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Wooden train set pulling the word "Love"

Fall in Love with Romantic Places in the UK

With so much to look forward to in 2016, spread the love this Valentine’s Day with our favourite romantic places in the UK.

 

L: Look to London

When it comes to love, forget Paris. Rome is history. With an abundance of Michelin-starred restaurants, history streets and romantic hotels, London is one of our favourite romantic places in the UK this Valentine’s day. Enjoy a candlelit dinner at Clos Maggiore, take in a show in London’s West End, take in the view from the Shard before booking into one of London’s beautiful boutique hotels. With an endless supply of romantic things to do, fall in love all over again with Valentine’s Day in London.

Couple crossing millennium bridge, London

O: Opt for Oxford

If London is too busy for you, or you’re looking for a more intimate romantic escape, opt for Oxford instead. Only an hour outside of London by train, Oxford is the perfect romantic alternative for couples of all ages. Dubbed “The City of Dreaming Spires”, its ancient cobble-street labyrinth, chiming cathedrals and romantic charms will leave you feeling all warm and fuzzy inside this winter.

Spiers of an Oxford building

V: Visit Wales

While the rest of the UK gears up for Valentine’s Day, Wales gets ready for St Dwynwen’s Day – the most romantic date in the Welsh calendar. With it’s Celtic charm and ancient traditions, making your way to Wales for St Dwynwen’s Day is a must for pointless-holiday-sceptics looking to boycott Valentine’s Day. With enchanting castles, charming villages, captivating coastlines and a wealth of gorgeous scenery, Wales is rich in some of the most romantic places in the UK.

Couple walking along the beach

E: Explore Edinburgh

When it comes to romantic places in the UK, all roads lead to Edinburgh. Voted as one of the most romantic cities in the world, Edinburgh’s ancient architecture, haunted history and mysterious underground city is the perfect place to say “I love you”. Whether you explore Edinburgh’s iconic castle, take a romantic stroll along the royal mile or enjoy a romantic picnic in Princes Street Gardens, nothing says I love you quite like a romantic escape to Edinburgh this Valentine’s Day.

View of Edinburgh from Calton Hill
Beautiful view of the city of Edinburgh

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Bottom of a steam train on the tracks

All Aboard: Train Tripping through the UK

The United Kingdom is a beautiful place. It’s full of culture, history and rolling hills that are just begging to be climbed and explored. The only problem is getting anywhere. Most of the main cities are separated by six-hour drives (if you’re lucky)! Thankfully, our blog title isn’t just for show. The UK really is ‘united’ by a never-ending, inter-connected rail network. So if you’re looking to go train tripping through the UK in the New Year, we might be able to help give you a few ideas.

 

On Track To Train Tripping Through The UK

 

With over 2 000 railway stations in the UK (making it the fifth most used railway network on the planet), the British Railway system also happens to be the oldest Railway Network in the entire world. The Stockton and Darlington Railway opened in 1825, the first locomotive-pulled railway for public use. Which means train tripping through the UK is not only viable; it’s one of the most authentic ways of exploring the country.

A network of rail tracks

Rail Tours – A Classic


Rail Tours are widely regarded as excellent value for money. And as the best-known method of exploring the country by train, you’re guaranteed an unforgettable experience. UK Railtours are ‘Britain’s favourite Rail Tour Operator’. They start a number of their tours around London, and then venture afield on unusual tracks to hidden gems, seaside resorts or quiet trips around the country, giving passengers a chance to soak up the sights. They even offer a chance to take a trip in a genuine steam train! Offering a choice of seats, a train-bound dining experience and a wealth of sights, why not enrich your year by starting it on tour?

 

Rail Roving – A Hidden Treat


Rail roving is kind of like Donald Trump’s hair – a downright mystery we simply cannot get enough of. Trumping all other train tripping through the UK options, rail roving is without a doubt a hidden delight. Few people really acknowledge that it exists as a service. Even writing about it now, we expect you’re probably asking yourself what it’s all about.

 

Rail roving allows you to purchase a ticket that lasts a set number of days. But unlike other rail passes, it allows unlimited travel on any number of stations in a designated area. If you’re looking to book hotels in advance, this is probably the exploration method for you. And the best part of rail roving? It’s cheap. Making it the perfect way to explore Scotland’s secret history with the Freedom of Scotland Travelpass 4 in 8 Days. For only £134, it covers a number of Caledonian MacBrayne ferries, along with a handful of bus services for four days in an eight-day period. Which means it’s perfect for the well-planned traveller with an eye for adventure.

Man walking away on rail tracks
Whether you’re looking to get away for the New Year, or excited to spend some time with the family on a train in the New Year, you’re spoilt for choice. Make 2016 the year of train tripping through the UK and take in the sights, sounds and history around you.

 

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Old Scottish castle in a scenic Scotland

Go Down In Scotland’s Secret History

If visiting the UK and exploring Scotland is one of your top New Year’s resolutions for 2016, why not take a trip down memory lane and discover Scotland’s secret history? We’ve looked into the weird and wonderful nooks and crannies of Scotland’s past to bring you some of the most intriguing and curious places and stories that you won’t find in the history books.

 

Secret Tunnels at Inchindown

 

Excavated out of solid rock in a hillside near the Invergordon naval base, these six bombproof tunnels were constructed across 1939 to 1941 to secretly store reserve fuel supplies for British warships. The tanks themselves were long corridor spaces with arched roofs, lined with concrete walls 45cm thick. Despite still being in use during the Falklands War in 1982, the tanks were eventually decommissioned in 2002. Not only are these tunnels a must see for anyone with a predilection for the more unusual sites in Scotland’s secret history, but also for those acoustic scientists with a keen ear for all things record breaking. Last year, a team from Salford University placed a new Guinness World Record for the longest echo in a man-made structure with a gun short reverberation lasting 112 seconds, beating the previous record of 15 seconds by well, a long shot…

Chest filled with gas masks

The Britannia Panopticon Music Hall

 

You might not expect to find the world’s oldest surviving music hall down the street from a queued out Greggs and hidden above the false ceiling of an amusement arcade, but find it you most certainly will. Ta-dah! The Britannia Panopticon in Glasgow is definitely a hidden gem in the search for Scotland’s secret history, with a fascinating and curious story spanning from its opening in 1857 to it’s rediscovery in 1997 after sixty years of silence, boarded up and forgotten. In it’s heyday, the Britannia presented the biggest music hall stars of the time, giving Stan Laurel his first performance before he famously teamed up with his rotund other half, Oliver Hardy. Thanks to the funds raised by trustees and volunteers, the original 1920s stage has now been restored, and hosts a selection of Victorian themed shows, so if you’re keen on all things nostalgic and fancy a jaunt down memory lane, then this is the place for you.

The Treasure of Loch Arkaig

 

Ok. Bear with us. In the grand scheme of Scotland’s secret history, the treasure of Loch Arkaig, otherwise known as the Jacobite Gold, ranks pretty highly because, well, it’s still a secret…. In 1746, seven caskets of Spanish gold arrived at Arisaig on French ships to support the Jacobite cause, but by this point the Jacobites had been defeated, Bonnie Prince Charlie was hotfooting it back to France, one casket had already been stolen, and the remaining six were due to be distributed amongst the clan chiefs by Macpherson of Cluny who was entrusted with the gold. But he decided to run off with the money, hide in a cave, and live as a fugitive instead. As you do. The fate of the money remains unclear, and continues to baffle historians. It was reputedly buried at the head of Loch Arkaig, but a recent discovery of an 18th century deathbed confessional from a Jacobite supporter, reveals that he stole a bag of gold and buried it near Arisaig under a black rock with a tree root springing from it. And the rest, as the saying goes, is history. So, who needs a lottery ticket when all you need to do is arm yourself with a map and metal detector? The Spanish gold could be yours…

Chest full of treasure

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Things to do in 2016

The social circus in the UK today makes for a diverse cultural experience spanning the shores of Britain. But where to be in 2016? The taste for culture seems to be spilling from the pot of 2016, and the samples of what to do in 2016 from this blog have barely skims the surface of how to experience and sample our Great British culture. Best UK Hotels looks at a sample of young, old and cultured preference and the diversity of samples proves where to be and things to do in 2016 marks the cultural centres of the UK.

 

Race into Riches

The races is a day out for anyone. But Aintree is the place to be. With the hats, the horses and hordes of champagne, the Grand National celebration is the surely the grandest event in the racing calendar. With the gates opening to thousands of spectators, pockets full and eyes open, the atmosphere becomes more Monte Carlo than Great Britain. What could be a more traditional British event to experience in 2016 than the Grand National itself? The cameras of the world soaking up the famous races and dazzling outfits. Of all things to do in 2016, why not spend a day at the races being treated like the royalty you secretly are?

 

Rewind All The Way to Perth

Rewind festival is the ultimate hidden gem. Tucked away in the remote Scone Palace of the quiet village of Perth and Kinross, Rewind Festival is one of those events that fans consider a landmark of their year. Taking you back in time to the 1980’s with stars such as Bananarama and Steve Perry gracing the stage, it takes you back to the eighties while camping out, dancing and drinking with all the fun of a modern day festival. Take your wellies, hats, neon paint and roll back in time with us, dancing and raving into the darkness as if time stood still. Or why not try the phenomenon that is Glamping? Taking your style and suave with you into the raving, muddy fields of Perth, Rewind seems one of the ultimate things to do in 2016.

Perfect Pride In The Capital

Of the million things you could attract yourself with in London – the shows, the tours, the shops. Perhaps one of the most not to be missed things to do in 2016 is the LGBT Pride event in London. Having grown from a small festival of dance and celebration, the Pride Parade in London now is a cultural extravaganza that takes over the city, from Trafalgar Square to Oxford Street. Lose the stigma and this is now one of the hottest places to be. With the music, culture, stalls and atmosphere, the celebration of equality and pride is sure to having you grinning like a Cheshire cat and lost in the moment. Stay in the heart of the drama, as this event takes over the whole city, commanding the attention of its audience, and enjoy our tips for why booking direct is always more beneficial as a consumer to catch the best deals.

 

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