||[Jul. 4th, 2015|09:20 pm]
For the ten summers since we decided we were too old for this driving to Lindisfarne overninght (and then driving back again) lark, we have rented a house for a week on the island: different houses, some we return to, some once only. I suspect that Coble Cottage will turn out to be a once only.
It's a new house, replacing an older building, neatly fitted into the space, and I'd seen it under construction and wondered about it. The descriptions on the website were impressive - but so was the price. Eventually we agreed that it was worth a try, and that four bedrooms, all of them en suite, made it a good opportunity to invite the Bears to join us for the week. And that remains true, despite all my reservations about the place.
We got off to a bad start. The terms of the let were that we had possession from 4.30, which I thought was on the late side anyway. But the tide closed the causeway at 3.30 that day, and if we weren't on the island by then, we wouldn't be able to cross until the evening. The information sheet told us so, and added "If you are early we recommend the Manor House hotel which is a good place to have a cup of tea in the meantime." If we are early? Hmm... How about "If you are early, see if the cleaners have finished preparing the house for you; no guarantees, but we will try to schedule their work to fit in with the tides...?" We thought we'd try that, anyway, but discovering we couldn't yet open the keysafe, we took their advice and went to the Manor House for tea.
With hindsight, we were misreading the situation. The keysafe was locked not because the cleaners were still at work, but because the cleaners had been and gone using their own keys, and so had not noticed that our predecessors had sabotaged the keysafe. Our first contact in case of problems was out, but fortunately the neighbour listed as a last resort was in, and able to provide a single key; we also phoned the owner, who arranged for the locksmith to call on Monday - this was not, it seemed, an unprecedented problem. On reflection, and after talking to the locksmith, we think that our predecessors had taken an excessively literal view of the instruction: "upon leaving, go through the process again, leave the keys in the safe, change the combination lock to any random numbers and close the flap." Clearly what is intended is that you should first close the lock, then change the display to a random number; if you reset the combination to a random number and then close it, no-one will be able to open it, because they don't know your random number. Nonetheless, this is what they had done, and that was what had happened. I have suggested that the instructions might be clarified...
The first impression inside the house is good: after a short passageway between two bedrooms, the entrance opens out into a light and airy space, with doors to two more bedrooms, a utility room, an additional toilet (the less mobile members of the party would have appreciated the option of an upstairs toilet, but no) and French windows onto the patio. Stairs lead up to a large open plan space, a T-shape whose crossbar consists of a kitchen and second sitting area, separated by the dining room. The main sitting room is spectacular, and the picture on their website makes the most of it, squeezing the camera up into the corner to show the big comfy sofas and the view across to Lindisfarne Castle, while minimising the extent to which that view is obstructed by the roof on the right. GirlBear, much impressed, asked if I had known that the house would have this view when I booked it: I had, but we have stayed in other properties where the view extends from Lindisfarne castle across the sea to the more distant Bamburgh castle, with the Farne islands between. Nonetheless, this was a good view, and a good room in which to sit and admire it. The shared space is the cottage's strong point. I should probably include in that the courtyard / garden, where we might have sat if the weather had been better: as it was, it became the scene of the BoyBear's morning t'ai chi routine.
Any sense of relaxing into a luxurious space was lost, though, when you entered the individual bedrooms. I had wondered how four bedrooms could be fitted within the footprint of the building: by making them very small, of course. These are not rooms in which to do anything but sleep, but even so I had to turn sidewise to walk round to my side of the bed. The specification boasts that the ensuite facilities have Villeroy and Boche fittings, but I was unimpressed by the tiny sink, and the tightness of the gap between the tap and the basin (presumably in order to accommodate a large mirrored cupboard which I had to lean backwards to open). On the plus side, the shower was generously proportioned, and there was natural light - I love a bathroom with an actual window. But I thought of the wide open spaces of the bedrooms in Farne View, and the little attic bathroom, and had to remind myself sternly that we would all have been sharing that attic bathroom.
This slight mismatch between the top of the range equipment and its actual functionality reappeared in the electronics. I'm not talking about my failure to persuade the wifi to talk to my notebook: durham_rambler and valydiarosada had no problems, so the fault probably lies with my notebook, which (like me) grows old and crochety. But the televisions definitely were very oddly tuned. There were two televisions upstairs, plus one in every bedroom (ours was very neatly positioned, and not as obtrusive as I had feared) and we were unable to find standard BBC channels on any of them. On the large television upstairs we were able to watch BBC programmes in HD (with the exception of BBC4, which we ended up watching on the iPlayer via a laptop and the DVD cable) and to listen to the radio on the radio provided, but it was not possible to watch BBC channels in the bedrooms. The DVD player didn't work at all - though again, we were able to use the cable provided to watch a DVD on the big screen by playing it on valydiarosada's laptop. Since there was only one DVD that we wanted to watch, this wasn't a problem, though it would have been more inconvenient if helenraven had been with us.
None of these drawbacks in any way spoiled my holiday; but I didn't warm to Coble Cottage as I might have.
tl:dr version - Coble Cottage is unusual on Lindisfarne in offering so many bedrooms all with en suite facilities, and if that is your priority, it delivers. Otherwise, you can probably do better.