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Friday, 19 March 2010

A FOUR STAR HOLIDAY HOME

Although Daisy Cottage is a comfortable, well equipped holiday home, it is not Irish Tourist Board (Failte Ireland) approved.  And, you would rightly ask, if the house is so comfortable and well equipped why is it not Irish Tourist Board (Failte Ireland) approved?  Simply because Failte Ireland decided in recent years that they would only register holiday from then on for owners who had eight or more properties to let.  Ridiculous, yes.  Wrong, yes.  But there it is.  From the Failte Ireland site:

"The premises shall consist of eight or more accommodation units and one reception building, (hereinafter collectively called the premises) located on one site, all of the said units and reception building being at all times under the same management and control." 
  FAILTE IRELAND SITE

So to put prospective guests' minds at rest that Daisy Cottage is indeed a great place to stay, I went over to the Failte Ireland site and took a list of their criteria for a FOUR STAR holiday home ~ their highest rating.  These are printed below and I will answer each one as if I were able to register Daisy Cottage with them.  Their questions/comments (pasted directly from their site) are in black italics, my information/replies are in white print.  So it's all here in black and white!

(15th May 2010 ~ UPDATE at end of post).


The cottages shall be of substantial and durable construction, structurally safe and in good repair throughout, and constructed or adapted, furnished and equipped for letting as holiday cottages.
Daisy Cottage, being over 100 years old has walls about 2' thick is certainly of substantial and durable construction, in fact our engineer said the timber construction under the roof was one of the finest he had ever seen.   And having been fully renovated in 2008, is certainly structurally safe and in excellent repair throught.  Daisy Cottage, as many of my previous posts on this blog point out, is very well furnished and equipped for letting as a holiday cottage.


One cottage in the first eight and thereafter one in every twenty cottages must have wheelchair access to the entrance hall, kitchen, dining area and lounge, at least one bedroom, bathroom and toilet facilities.
Daisy Cottage has wheelchair access from the front door as that is level with the pavement/sidewalk outside, and to the rear of the house we had a concrete ramp construction built over the steps that were once there so that wheelchair access is easy from the back door too.  The living room and kitchen/diner are both on the groundfloor so access there is no problem and we especially turned another room downstairs into a bedroom with attached en suite ~ both accessible by wheelchair.  The en suite has been designed with wheelchair or less ambulent guests in mind and even has a 'disabled' loo with optional support bar which can be pulled down from the wall if needed.  One of our firsts guests last year was a lady in a wheelchair and she had no problem moving around the house.


The premises, which expression shall include the exterior and interior, outdoor areas, grounds, and car parks, should be well lighted, have proper directional signage, and shall be kept clean and well maintained throughout and in good decorative order to the satisfaction of an Officer of The Authority or the Contractor.
There is lighting to both the front and back of the house and the property is always kept clean and well maintained throught and it goes without saying that it is in good decorative order ~ the photos clearly show that.


Each cottage shall have a ground floor and separate ground floor entrance.
Both the front door and back door are ground floor.


The design and layout of the cottages may be detached, semi detached or terraced. There shall be no overbuilding, underbuilding or structural development above or below the cottages.
Daisy Cottage is fully detatched from all surrounding properties.

Each cottage shall be identified by number/name and shall contain sleeping, dining and lounge accommodation, storage, toilet, bathing and cooking facilities.
Why, of course ~ Daisy Cottgage is the name!  Daisy Cottage contains sleeping, dining and lounge accommodation, storage, toilet, bathing and cooking facilities.


Basic first-aid equipment shall be made available for guests and employees.
There is a first-aid kit in Daisy Cottage and is easily accessible and available for guests.  There is also a fire extinguisher and fire blanket.

ARRIVAL AND GREETING



Roads to be suitably surfaced to allow vehicular access for arriving/departing guests, e.g. concrete, asphalt, tarmacadam, or suitable alternative.
Daisy Cottage is in the centre of the village so the approach road and village road is tarmaced.  The rear, where guests can park up to 2 cars in our yard is topped with locally mined sandstone coloured gravel.


Exterior lighting on all units.
There is an exterior light at the front door and 2 exterior sensor lights to cover the rear of Daisy Cottage.


Adequate car parking per cottage.
We have more than adequate parking at Daisy Cottage, in fact one group of guests last year, who were arriving from different parts of Ireland, had 5 cars with them.  Two parked in our private back yard, the other 3 outside the front of Daisy Cottage.  So yes, more than adequate car parking.


Clear visible directional signage on the approach to the property.
As Daisy Cottage is in the centre of the village and painted bright yellow, it is not hard to find.  Not one of our arrivals last year had any difficulty whatsoever finding us immediately upon arrival in the area.


Local information at reception building, to include emergency numbers e.g. Doctor, Hospital, Garda, Pharmacy etc.
Yes, we have gathered many brochures on local places to visit and things to do.  Our guest book at the front door has all contact numbers.  Added to that, this year we will have a full and detailed 'House Manual' which will contain all this information and much more.  Our website which is currently under construction, is packed with information on the area together with photographs to view so that guests can easily decide what they want to do.  In relation to doctor/hospital information, I have even telephoned around to find out where the nearest kidney dialysis unit is and the terms of use for any guest needing such facilities. 


Pre-arrival guest information including brochure to be produced to a professional standard with extensive, clear information.
I talk at length via email and/or telephone with all our guests giving them lots of information both about Daisy Cottage and the area and encourage them to ask any questions they may have.  Our website will have all this information, and more, easily accessible for guests to read prior to arrival and during their stay with us as Daisy Cottage gives our guests free broadband access together with a computer for their use.


Directions to property including street maps available in hard copy and on the internet.
I email guests a link to aaroadwatch.ie/routes which gives a map to show the route and a printable 'how to get there' list which is handy for our guests and means they don't have to use a map on their car journey at all.  I also tell them that the village is now on sat.nav. if they are using it.


A wide selection of tourist information for local area and further afield available.
As I am so passionate about promoting Donegal as one of the best, if not the best, county in Ireland to visit, I have spent many years ~ long, long, long before we owned Daisy Cottage, gathering as much information on the county and her attractions as possible.  I have another website (which is currently being totally upgraded) which is devoted to Donegal.  I will be adding a link to this site on my blog once it is ready to go again.


Satisfaction check after first 24 hours.
I always telephone, email or text (whichever they chose) our guests the day after their arrival just to check they are fine.  Plus they are given the mobile/cell phone numbers of me, my husband, one of our sons, and a local man who is a friend of ours who can be with them in moments should any emergency occur.


Guests greeted on arrival.
We always meet our guests on arrival and spend about half an hour to an hour with them taking them through the house and pointing out things they may need to know.  Even this year when I have my 'House Manual' I will still spend a little while with our guests to make them feel welcome.  Our drive back home after greeting our guests is always most enjoyable.  Yes, we are wrecked after getting the house perfect for them, but it is the 'lift' they give you when they are clearly so happy with the house and have said things like 'it is even better than we expected' or 'it's fabulous ~ we love it!'.  And seeing the kids faces when they realise they have a wii and a games loft with an air hockey/pool table, a football table and a darts board ... well, it's just great.


Welcome pack provided on arrival. On a simple level it can be tea, coffee and milk but may also include some of the following: wine, fresh flowers, fresh fruit, bread, eggs, homebaking or preserves, starter meal or seasonal gifts e.g. Easter eggs.
The basics we supply for our guests include loo rolls in each of the four bathrooms, in the kitchen we leave tea, coffee, salt, pepper, vinegar, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and so on.  We also leave cleaning materials, dishwasher tablets (plus rinse and salt), refuse sacks, firelighters, a bale of fire briquettes and so on.  Guests then have just a few steps walk to the village store to purchase further supplies as needed.  As a welcome touch, I always leave a little extra ~ sometimes homemade vanilla ice creams and homemade strawberry sauce, or freshly baked scones, or homemade bread and a pot of homemade soup, I just gear these little welcome gifts to the weather: ice cream when it is warm, soup or savoury products when it is cold (together with the fire lit for them on cold days). 
Comprehensive guest/tourist information provided which may include local interest books, ordnance survey maps, walking route information, restaurant guides etc.
All of the above are in Daisy Cottage and on our website ~ see more comprehensive answer above.


Information provided relating to local farmers’ markets/organic food suppliers.
This is one of the things I am most proud of in the area ~ the access to buying freshly caught fish in nearby Killybegs six days a week.  There is also a great fruit, veg, preserves, eggs, etc. market there a couple of days a week.  There is now even a man locally who will deliver fresh fish to the door!  Added to that, in the village itself there is an excellent butcher who sells reasonably priced, excellent steaks and other meats.  He even sells a variety of home made sausages and free range eggs.


E-mail reservation and booking confirmation available.
At least 90% of our bookings are taken via email and as I use the services of paypal, guests can pay their deposit and balance safely on line.  (Payment can of course also be taken by cheque or bank transfer for those not wishing to pay on line).  This year (2010) ALL of our bookings to date have been via the net and paid via paypal so it seems to be the most popular method of booking. 
 
LOUNGE AREA
The lounge area shall contain lounge room furniture of good quality and condition and be of sufficient size for the sleeping capacity of the cottage subject to the following:


A floor to ceiling height of not less than 2.4 metres;
Being a 100 plus year old house, Daisy Cottage has fairly high ceilings, certainly higher than modern houses and certainly way heigher than 2.4 metres.


A minimum floor area of 14 sq. metres;
The living room in Daisy Cottage has a floor area of 16 sq. metres.


At least one window to provide natural light and ventilation, windows at first floor level or higher must have child proof locks;
The living room window is large, set into a deep wall of about 2' thickness.  The opening does not have child locks because it is way too high up for a child to access.


Lounge seating equal to the sleeping capacity of the cottage. Occasional tables of suitable height and size;
There are three very comfortable, matching sofas in the living room of Daisy Cottage together with one large coffee table and a second table upon which sits one of the three table lamps in the living room.


Carpet and/or rugs unless floor surface is of special design or treatment acceptable to Fáilte Ireland;
The floor of the living room is high quality laminate which is surfaced with a medium dark wood of fairly thick width.  There is also a big rug especially chosen for it's design which matches the tiled floor in the adjoining hallway.


Additional lighting for reading purposes;
There is a ceiling light and three table lamps so more than adequate for reading.  And we even supply reading glasses of various strengths incase guests forget their own.


Where a lounge has an open fire a fireguard, poker, fuel container and ash disposal unit must be provided;
There is a full companion set which includes a brush, a shovel, poker and tongs.  The ash collector under the fire is a metal box (which makes lifting the ashes very easy) and this can then be emptied into the metal ash bucket supplied for that purpose.


Radio to be provided either in lounge or dining area;
The radio can be listened to in the living room via sky (making it very clear), and in the kitchen via the internet or on the radio in the kitchen area, or even on the cd player/radio with speakers in the dining area, so lots of radio access for those, like me, who love listening to the radio!


Plain walls to be decorated with framed pictures or prints.
As collectors of art works over the years, we have a number of original paintings by Irish artists in Daisy Cottage together with high quality prints and other wall decorations chosen to match the style of Daisy Cottage.  This year I hope to have a couple of my photos from my collection of Donegal (and especially the locality) made into prints to enhance the walls.


Living rooms must have supplementary lighting in the form of wall, table or standard lamps.
As above, the living room has a ceiling light and three table lamps.


Television with remote control; minimum screen size 51cm/20 inches or if flat screen 40cm/15 inches.
The television in Daisy Cottage is a large, 32" flat screen tv.  More than double the size required by Failte Ireland's specifications.  Further there is Sky family pack and sports with it.


Excellent co-ordination of furniture and soft furnishings with additional features such as scatter cushions evident.
But of course.  The sofas are all matching and have lots of extra large cushions for added comfort for our guests.


Well positioned, high quality lighting, giving excellent levels of illumination for various purposes.
Failte Ireland have a strange obsession with lighting in the living room.  For the third time, Daisy Cottage living room has a ceiling light and three table lamps.  I would have thought it better that rather than keep mentioning about lighting in the living room, Failte Ireland instead wanted holiday homes meeting their criteria to have other things in the living rooms of their listed properties such as lots of books, dvds, dvd player, cds, cd player, and board games ~ ALL of which Daisy Cottage has.

INVENTORY FOR 4 STAR HOLIDAY HOME PER FAILTE IRELAND

Knives (table and dessert) ~ Forks (table and dessert) ~ Spoons (dessert, soup and tea)
Daisy Cottage is very well equipped with all the above with good quality, matching cutlery.  And along with the inventory required for 4 star grading, we also supply large serving spoons and even corn on the cob prongs.


Plates (large and small) ~ Tea cup and saucer or mug ~ Cereal/soup bowl ~ Egg cups
All the dishes in Daisy Cottage are matching white dishes.  We supply dinner plates, breakfast/side plates, tea cups and saucers AND mugs, cereal/dessert bowls, soup bowls and soup plates, and matching white egg cups.  We also supply serving dishes (for vegetables and so on).  Along with all these dishes, we also supply 'sundae' glasses, picnic/outdoor eating plates, bowls and salad bowls.


Water glasses and jug
Just water glasses and a jug?  For a 4 star property?  In Daisy Cottage we supply water glasses and a number of jugs, together with wine glasses, champagne glasses (and a champagne bucket), high ball glasses, beer glasses, Irish coffee glasses, and brandy glasses. 


Also to be available per property;


Bread knife ~ Carving knife & and fork ~ Sharp vegetable knife
Yes to all those, except a carving fork.  We have a range of excellent quality and very sharp knives in the kitchen of Daisy Cottage.  These are all stored safely out of the reach of little hands on a magnetic knife holder above one of the work tops.


Tin opener ~ Corkscrew/bottle opener and wine bottle re-sealer ~ ladle ~ 2 tablespoons ~ potato peeler ~ Tea strainer ~ Cutlery box or divided drawer ~ Kitchen scissors
Yes to all of those plus many extras such as lots of wooden spoons, slotted spoons, fish fryers, spaghetti measurer and spaghetti spoon, pizza wheel, rolling pin, sieves,an electric hand blender and much more.


Butter dish ~ Sugar bowl ~ Milk jug
Yes to all those including a large milk jug and 2 small milk jugs (all matching the dishes).


Juice extractor
Yes, both a manual one and a large electric fruit and vegetable juicer.


Toast rack
No.  Toast rack?  It's 2010 not 1960.  We put the toast onto the very nice wooden bread board on the table and take our toast from there.


Condiment set ~ Utensils ~ Kettle ~ Toaster
We supply two matching white condiment sets together with a pepper grinder (and peppercorns).  The kettle and four slice toaster are matching good quality items chosen for their design as well as their function.


Teapot ~ Coffee Pot/Coffee Maker
We supply two teapots together with an electric coffee machine and two cafetiers.


Fridge freezer
The fridge/freezer in Daisy Cottage is a large side by side model with and ice dispenser which supplies lots of ice on demand and a chilled and filtered water dispenser.


Microwave oven
Yes.


Saucepans and Lids (large, medium and small) ~ 1 Large saucepan for six or more persons ~ Frying pan
We supply a number of saucepans of various sizes together with one very large saucpan and lid, two frying pans and one wok.

Oven roasting tray ~ Casserole dish and lid
We supply a roasting tray, roasting pan, and casserole dish with lid.  We also supply loaf tins and cup cake baking containers.


Bread/Chopping board ~ Bread bin
We supply a bread board but no bread bin because I don't think they are very hygenic things.  We also supply catering standard colour coded chopping boards with colour chart for safe chopping and no danger of cross contamination of foods.  These also ensure that any vegetarian/vegan guests need have no concern about meat products having been cut on the vegetable board by previous guests.


Tray ~ 1 litre measuring jug ~ Colander ~ Wooden Spoon
We supply a catering grade non-slip tray.  There are 2 measuring jugs, a large colander, and about a dozen wooden spoons for ease when cooking.


Biscuit/cake tin ~ Pie dish
Pie dish, yes.  Biscuit/cake tin, no.  As with the bread box, I believe them to be unhygenic.


Whisk ~ Grater
There are various whisks of different sizes, and a stand up grater and a grater attached to a catcher bowl.


Carving meat plate/tray
No meat tray, but one of the colour co-ordinated chopping boards is specifically for carving cooked meat (there is a separate board for cutting raw meat).


Mixing bowl ~ Spatula/Fish Slice ~ Tongs ~ Rolling pin
There are 2 mixing bowls ~ a glass one and a metal one, a few fish slices and a metal spatula.  Long handled tongs are supplied as is a rolling pin.  There is also a salad spinner, a hand blender, an electric mixer and various other kitchen equipment and utensils.


Household
Table mats/cloth ~ Dish cloths ~ Oven mits ~ Aprons ~ Tea towels ~ Washing up brush ~ Sink tidy ~ Washing up basin
Yes to all those except sink tidy (on the grounds that they are unhygenic) but there is a plastic draining board which I run through the dishwasher prior to guests' arrival.


Cleaning/Utility
Hoover/carpet sweeper ~ Dustpan and brush ~ Sweeping brush ~ Mop ~ Bucket ~ Floor cloth ~ Bin ~ Bin liners ~ Dusters
Yes to hoover, dustpan and brush, sweeping brush, mop (three - an old fashioned white mop, a sponge mop, and a long flat mop for the large kitchen/diner floor), floor cloth, bin/bin liners (we supply various bins so that waste can be recycled and taken to the recycling bins in the village.  Because they are emptied regularly and washed prior to guests' arrival we do not use bin liners which in themselves create more problems for the environment).  Dusters and spray polish are also supplied.

Spare light bulbs and fuses
Spare light bulbs, yes.  Fuses are not needed because we have a non-fuse fuse box.  Should something fuse the appropriate switch can just be flicked to fix it.


1 dozen clothes pegs ~ Clothes line
Yes to both (more than a dozen pegs)


Iron and ironing board ~ Suitable cleaning materials.
Yes to iron and ironing board and lots of cleaning materials.


Per Bed
3 blankets and a bedspread or 1 continental quilt and cover
All the beds have continental quilts with pure white Egyptian cotton covers.


2 pillows per head
Yes.  And each pillow is covered with a flat protector AND a lightly padded protector and topped with a smooth Egyptian cotton pillow case.


3 coat hangers (not wire)
We supply lots of good quality wooden hangers.


Full length mirror in at least one bedroom
Not full lenght exactly but the mirror in the master bedroom is huge and one can easily see oneself from head to foot in it.  We also supply one hair dryer per bedroom (making a total of five hair dryers for our guests to use).

So to conclude.  From checking off the criteria for a four star listing with Failte Ireland (if only I had eight houses or more to let!) I now know Daisy Cottage easily meets their standards and indeed exceeds them in many cases.

UPDATE (15th May 2010)


Forget any authoity giving ratings, much, much more important is what guests thought of Daisy Cottage and I am delighted to say we had the following comment from guests staying in May 2010:


"First class accommodation.  If they were giving out stars this house would be 5 star plus."

UPDATE: Since writing this article Failte Ireland are now accepting single properties for rating.  Unfortunately the price of such a rating is prohibitive at the moment as any spare money I always spend on improving what we have.  But I am happy we more than meet their four star rating standards.

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