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THE PRICE OF A BRITISH HOLIDAY

23-10-2007

Dave Woodhall enjoys a few days away in his own fair country. And not for the first time, he feels ripped off.

Last weekend the weather forecast was good, we'd not got much on and it's probably the last opportunity to get away before winter sets in. We thought we might as well have a night away, see a bit of the countryside and forget there's a world where work and deadlines exist. Not too far; the Welsh borders, or maybe the Cotswolds. Drive there on Saturday, have a look round, stay the night, come back Sunday.

I've written about this before, but anyone planning to spend a Saturday night in a hotel in Britan should seriously wonder whether it's worth it. Cities aren't too bad, there's usually plenty of empty rooms in the business hotels and plenty of cheap deals can be had. Go outside, though, and it's a different matter entirely.

Accommodation in the smaller towns, or the countryside, tends to largely fall into three categories. First, there's the traditional B&B. The old seaside landlady image might be outdated, but there's still a lot of inconsistency. They're also not very cheap, especially as all you're paying for is a room - none of the extra services you might get in a decent hotel.

Then there's the mid-price chains, such as Best Western. These can be okay, but Saturday night tends to be wedding night. Stay here and the restaurant's liable to be closed because they're busy making sausage rolls and cheese sandwiches, you'll be kept up until past midnight listening to New York New York and Sailing and share breakfast with a load of hungover revellers. And a Travelodge on a lay-by off the A5 isn't really very romantic.

And finally, the independent hotels. I looked at a few of these online and I'm still recovering. 100 seems to be standard for a basic room - one review said the hotel was "Not too good but you get what you pay for" - which for the room in question was 85.

We ended up in Leek, a nice small town on the edge of the Peak District. The room was okay, clean but nothing special and for 80 definitely less than we'd have got for a similar price on the continent. Speaking of which, we enjoyed a distinctly cosmopolitan Saturday night.

There's a bar in Leek called Den Engel, which serves over 100 Belgian beers, and we tried a good few of them. Then, reliving our youth, there was a promising Turkish kebab shop. And finally, a traditional British end to the night, walking our weary way home round three police cars while their occupants arrested a couple of youths, as a crowd of onlookers threatened to "Start a riot and burn somebody's house down."

I do like holidaying in England, and there's so much more of it I intend to explore. But every time I book a room for a night I wonder why it is that we're so much more expensive than abroad, and why I should bother trying to help our national economy when the hotel trade seems so determined to price me away.

Is Dave right? Can you recommend any good UK hotels? Leave a comment in the TV, Music, Arts section of our Message Board.

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