Frequently asked questions and answers
Will Athole House suit everyone?
We are certainly confident that it will suit most people. We are located in a residential road just off the centre of the city – so those who like to be right in the middle of things may be disappointed. But the trade-off is a peaceful night’s sleep. While many places in the centre tend to get a great deal of noise from revellers and seagulls, our road goes extremely quiet at night and you will sleep soundly even without earplugs. So if you are planning a stag/hen party and intend to be part of the noise, you will enjoy staying in the centre a lot more.
The other trade-off is the tariff. You will find that our room prices are significantly lower than those in the centre (and lower than even many four-star establishments). And parking, which can be costly in the centre, is free. So even if you made every journey to the centre by taxi (approx. £5 including tip), we would still compare favourably.
You will also have to decide whether you are a "B&B person" or "hotel person". We do not have the grand marble entrance hall and bar or restaurant, or uniformed staff, but we believe that our rooms compare favourably both in quality and size with most exclusive hotels – while costing well under half in most cases. And we believe that our service is more personal and better in general. Athole House is also our home, and we enjoy sharing it with guests.
What time can we check in?
Rooms are normally ready from about noon, but you are welcome to arrive at any time. If the rooms are not ready, you can drop your luggage and car and explore Bath. It would be useful if you could let us know beforehand if you intend to arrive before 3 pm or after 7 pm.
When do we have to check out?
10.30 am during the week and 11 am at weekends. But again, you are welcome to leave your luggage and/or vehicle here during the day of departure.
Do you need to know our breakfast choice and time the evening before?
This is one of our personal pet hates when we travel ourselves. You are either asked before you go out to dinner (in which case you select "everything") or after you come back (in which case you will be inclined to think you will still be too full). So take your pick depending how you feel in the morning. And you do not have to decide in the evening when you will feel like getting up in the morning. We offer a larger-than-average window of 90 minutes for breakfast (8 to 9.30 during the week, 8.30 to 10 at weekends). You are on holiday, after all, and not in a prison camp.
Do we have to leave the house during the day?
Are there really still guest houses who chase their guests out of the house? We hope not. Once you have got your keys, the room is yours until you check out. We do need access for room service during the morning, however. In general, you will find Athole House refreshingly free of improvised commands and requests pinned to walls and staircases advising guests to do this that or the other.
What time do you lock up in the evening?
You will receive a front door key on arrival so there are no curfews.
Do you have background music in the dining room?
Another bugbear of ours. There's no way of pleasing everyone – one man's Elton John is another man's Beethoven. So all our public areas are guaranteed free of cheesy "muzak".
How do we get to you from the station?
As part of our package, we collect our guests from the train or bus station in Bath. Just ring us when you are about to arrive, and we will be down with you in five minutes.
When you arrive, take the “South” exit (just down the steps/next to the lift from the platform for trains arriving from London, or through the tunnel to the other side of the station from Bristol). We will be waiting for you in our car near the exit door.
If arriving by coach, please wait in the pick-up zone next to the round bus station tower, just in front of the bridge across the River Avon.
Our train is not until the evening. Can we leave our luggage with you?
Certainly. Or even better: we will meet you with your luggage 15 minutes before your train or coach time. This will allow you to enjoy the town care-free and no need to walk back to Athole House when you are tired after the day in town.
Is there free off-road parking?
Yes, we have plenty of free off-road parking behind gates.
Can we leave our car in your car park on our day of departure to explore the city on foot?
Yes, of course, we strongly recommend you do that. It is cheaper and safer.
Are you within walking distance to the centre?
A normally fit person will walk to the southern end of the centre in about 10-12 minutes. To the Abbey about 15-20, and to the Assembly Rooms, Circus or Royal Crescent about 30-35 minutes. We certainly advise against taking the car into town during the day. Parking is expensive, and driving in the centre is tricky. If it rains or you have done some retail therapy, a taxi will take you back the short distance for about £5 (including tip).
Do you have any four-poster beds?
You must be joking. If you like "four posters", I am afraid Athole House is probably not for you. Charging £20 extra for a room with dusty drape over your head is not our style. We believe in combining the charm of a beautifully restored old Victorian house with sleek, contemporary design and state-of-the-art facilities. Without faux Victoriana.
We have to leave early for the airport. Can we have breakfast earlier?
Nobody should leave us without breakfast. As the housekeeper does not arrive until 8 am, not the whole range of our buffet and cooked breakfasts may be available, however.
How late can we arrive?
Don't worry, we will let you in even if you arrive late. But please give us some advance warning.
Is the central heating and hot water restricted?
The days when guest house owners thought they knew best when you were cold or wanted a shower are (we hope) gone forever. Heating and hot water are available 24/7. All radiators are thermostat-controlled.
Do you offer full English breakfast?
Of course, but also much much more. Check out our online menu! And what is more, if you have special dietary requirements or just fancy something a bit different, you can send us an e-mail from the menu page to put in your advance order.
Do you cater for vegetarians/vegans/special diets?
Absolutely our menu includes many suitable options. Or order what you fancy see under the last question above!
Do you have power showers?
Certainly not, if by "power showers" you understand the rather sadly misnamed electrically heated showers from which a pathetic drizzle of water appears. Our heating and water supply system was specially designed by a heating engineer when Athole House was converted into a guest house. We would be very surprised indeed if you found better shower pressure anywhere in the UK.
Do you have bath tubs as well as showers?
No. We offer large, sparking bathrooms, but without tubs. If you have read our guest quotes, you may already have noticed that our bathrooms get a lot of mentions on our quality assessment forms.
Can I have a discount?
All discounts are indicated in our "Special offers" section and are designed to encourage you to stay midweek and for longer. No other discounts are available. Not only would this be unfair to guests booking at regular prices, but our standard prices are already very reasonable indeed and lower than many four-star establishments. So reasonable, as a matter of fact, that we are prepared to offer a free bottle of bubbly to anyone who can get a better room price at a Gold Award five-star guest house with equivalent facilities in Bath.
Why are your prices lower than those of other five-star guest houses in Bath? Where do you cut corners?
As a small guest house, we are exempt from VAT. We pass this advantage on to our guests. And we like the buzz of a full guest house our lower prices mean we are 90% full even in low season.
Is there enough to do in Bath to last a week?
Absolutely, and for longer! Bath itself takes a few days to discover and unfold all its charms to visitors. Places like Stonehenge, Wells, Glastonbury, Salisbury, Stourhead, Longleat can all be reached by public transport or by car within an hour or so and Bath is at the southern end of the Cotswolds with its magnificent scenery. We have a comprehensive collection of great walks and maps for you as well as many ideas for itineraries.
Are you licensed?
No, unfortunately not. But we will be pleased to buy any beer, wine etc. on your behalf locally and pass them on to you at the original shop prices.
What exactly is the difference between a deluxe and standard room?
The difference is size. Our standard rooms are very spacious and certainly above the average size of rooms you will normally find in a B&B. The deluxe rooms are the largest rooms in our large Victorian house and include an extra sofa and armchairs. The fittings, bathrooms and décor are very similar and high class in all rooms.
Can we use your garden to relax in?
Certainly. And if it gets too cold, take a book from our library and relax in our large conservatory instead
What do the stars and award mean? Who inspects you?
In England, two organisations offer independent inspections of guest houses and hotels: Visit Britain and the AA (Automobile Association). Guest houses can reach ratings of 15 stars. Hospitality and cleanliness play the major part in the assessment. There is no legal requirement to be inspected, however. Athole House has received 5 stars, a "Gold Award" (awarded to the top 10% of establishments in their category), and a special "Breakfast Award" from Visit Britain.
Are you a "boutique B&B"/"boutique hotel"?
How we hate those words! Is there anybody out there who can actually explain what they are supposed to mean? But be warned: if you ask us this question we will say “yes” and double our price (because that is what they do, isn’t it?).
Do you accept pets?
Sorry, no. Moth, our slightly elderly cat, is extremely friendly with guests, but not so keen on four-footed visitors.
Can we book through booking.com, lastminute.com or similar booking websites?
We have not signed up to any of these websites, as they take a high commission (up to 18%). We prefer to keep our prices down instead to attract and benefit visitors.