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“Lots of local colour”
Review of Castlebay Hotel

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Castlebay Hotel
Ranked #1 of 3 Hotels in Isle of Barra
Reviewed July 22, 2014

Our first night's stay on our cycling holiday with teenagers. The rooms and the public areas felt very authentic 'Outer Hebridean', as well as being spacious and comfortable. Beautiful views of the bay and the castle. A few minutes walk from the ferry. A lovely start to the holiday.

  • Stayed: July 2014, traveled with family
    • Sleep Quality
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank Liz G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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187 - 193 of 388 reviews

Reviewed July 21, 2014

I love this hotel, not for its stunning views across the bay, not for outstanding (though pricey) food, not even for the very conveniently located Castlebay Bar - but simply for the staff. Every single member of staff within the hotel were wonderful, positive, helpful and a great credit to the Island. I had booked a table for dinner for 9, events over took us and we arrived at 940. They still accommodated us, fed us, were cheerful and delightful throughout.

To maintain balance, the only real downside are the rooms. They are a little tired and dated, and could do with a little update. Price of £60 for a single is very fair, and better than any other hotel price I was quoted. As hinted at, the restaurant is quite expensive, but does serve good food. Castlebay Bar, is a lovely bar with warm and friendly locals, a great taste in live music, and a barman who can get you back into the hotel if you leave your key in the hotel room and the front door was locked.

On balance, I think its fair to say I love this hotel, and look forward to returning.

Room Tip: ask for a sea view - more expensive, but it is a view to die for
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  • Stayed: July 2014, traveled on business
    • Value
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Thank Cnoc
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
NeilMcGougan, General Manager at Castlebay Hotel, responded to this reviewResponded July 29, 2014

Hi There

Firstly thank you for your kind words, we really do try to be the friendliest hotel on the Island, and it makes our day we someone comes over and has such a great trip. We look forward to see you again in the future. And rest assured I will pass your compliments on to all the staff.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 14, 2014

Excellent view from room 15 and easy to access especially from the back ramp. Had our laundry back in one hour which must be a record and very reasonably priced. Food was very good but had new young wait staff.

  • Stayed: July 2014, traveled as a couple
    • Value
    • Rooms
    • Service
Thank Michael G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
NeilMcGougan, General Manager at Castlebay Hotel, responded to this reviewResponded July 16, 2014

Hi there

thanks for your kind words I so Glad you loved the view from room 15 - we love it !
We try to get peoples Laundry back as soon as possible - if you time it correctly when the rooms laundry is not being done then we can get straight on it, I will pass on your compliments to margaret for this. Our Wait staff are young with us being a very small island, it tends to be teenagers and uni students who look for summer seasonal work. They may be young but I believe our staff are some of the friendliest on the island, and we think the world of them. I will pass on all your compliments thank you so much for your feedback

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Reviewed July 14, 2014 via mobile

We went to the Castlebay Hotel om the first part of our honeymoon.
The weather on Barra was not something to write home about.
Our room was nice, clean and cozy.
Breakfast was excellent, the staff great with all the guests.
The atmosphere in the hotel unlike most hotels we visited.
Thumps up.

Stayed: July 2014
Thank Jcl81
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
NeilMcGougan, General Manager at Castlebay Hotel, responded to this reviewResponded July 29, 2014

Thanks for your review

Im glad you chose us to begin your honeymoon with. And would like to take this time to wish you all the best of luck, love and heath with your new found partner. I hope the rest of your trip went just as well. And if you ever find yourself in Barra again we hope you can consider this a home away from home

Until the next time - goodbye from everyone at the Castlebay Hotel

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 13, 2014

My husband and I took our first trip to Barra last July. We were very lucky with the weather.
Our flight was the first one that week not to have been cancelled and it looked as if it might be the last, as mentioned by the attendant at the check in desk. The flight from Glasgow International took approx.an hour with Logan Air. It was a very cosy flight! The flight holding only 19 passengers. That day I think there were 10 of us. The scenery of the islands and clear blue waters below us were mesmerizing! The highlight, landing on the smallest beach. It was amazing!
We walked down the stairs and on to the beach, through the 200 yard airport lounge, out the other door to the smallest luggage claim I have ever seen! We meet a couple on the flight travelling to the Castlebay hotel too, so we all jumped in a taxi. There is a local bus that comes round but it hadn't appeared before the taxi had. Check in was straight forward and the service very friendly. We went straight up to the room. It was lovely and clean, front facing on to the harbour. We had booked a package directly with the hotel which included dinner and breakfast. If we were to do it again, we would have just have taken the breakfast. As after booking we had found out about an award winning Chinese restaurant a few minutes walk away. Though if doing this you need to make a reservation! The meals were of good size and quality. Service in the restaurant was very good too. Our ferry left before breakfast on departure day. The reception staff were very forth coming and eager to help us with a breakfast. we had a tray in the sitting room waiting for us. This included cereal, fruit, yogurt, milk and fresh orange juice. We were very pleased and impressed. Would highly recommend!!

Room Tip: We were automatically given a front facing room on to the harbour. But if this is something you wou...
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  • Stayed: August 2013, traveled as a couple
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Service
Thank MDHarding
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 11, 2014

We, a group of four friends, stayed in this hotel in July 2014 for 2 nights. The welcome was warm and we were given, at no extra cost, 3 rooms instead of 2. At £110 for a twin room, it's not a cheap option. However, the hotel is nicely decorated, has gorgeous views and the food is good. We had dinner one night and we enjoyed our meal. Breakfast was good. Given the price of the room on a bed and breakfast basis, it would have been good to have been served toast with our breakfast rather than have to do it ourselves and wait ages for the toaster to deliver toasted bread. All in all, a very good hotel in a beautiful part of the Outer Hebrides.

Room Tip: You pay extra for a sea view. Probably worth it. We had a room on the ground floor at the back of th...
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  • Stayed: July 2014, traveled with friends
    • Value
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
1  Thank Andrew J
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed July 9, 2014

Booking and Room experience
After checking out Tripadvisor reviews and being unable to to find an access statement for this hotel, which is built on a hillside, I had at least a couple of detailed telephone conversations last September with the Manager, John, with regards to suitable access for anyone with a mobility problem, availability of a sea view room with a king size bed and one which would not be near the public bar which is well known for late night live music.
It is a fact that the hotel parking is on the main road and access to the reception is up 3 flights of about 36 steep steps, NOT at the bottom of a short staircase, as has been recently published in a response to a review by the present General Manager of the hotel and neither is it a matter of not WANTING to walk up them as he states but being UNABLE to walk up them due to a disability. I was assured that parking and access could be from the back of the hotel via the public bar car park and once inside there was about 9 stairs or so to get to the upstairs bedrooms. There was also a superior room with a king size bed which was not near the public bar. On this basis I went ahead with the booking for 3 nights dinner bed and breakfast for £175 per night.( £20 supplement per person towards the dinner menu)

We arrived at about 2pm on the Saturday to discover that a van was blocking the way into the back of the hotel so parked at the public bar car park. The walk to the hotel from the public car park is up a few steps and along a path which has a slight incline, past the outside seating area of the public bar and then up 8 steps ( last flight of the 3 flights of steep steps from the main roadside hotel car park) before reaching the front door. It is NOT a flat walk as the General Manager claims and he makes no mention of any steps to the front door.There is a hand rail up these steps that does not go all the way to the end. Even I was very wary when coming up and down these steps, particularly at the point where the hand rail ceases. As far as being able to walk a shorter distance by entering into the back of the hotel I was told and shown that the only entrances from the back of the hotel were via the fire escape stairs, one or two flights depending on which floor your room is situated. Steep steps to climb and still a problem to anyone with a mobility issue.
The room we were allocated by Mags was a sea view superior room with a king size bed up 2 flights of about 20 steep stairs and at the very end of the corridor as near to the public bar as could be. I was told that John was no longer at the hotel, that there were no notes or specific requests beside my booking, which I found surprising given the long and detailed conversations that had taken place giving the reasons behind my requests before I went ahead with the booking.
Although Mags was very apologetic the hotel was fully booked and the only room yet to be occupied was on the ground floor two along from the bar, was smaller than the one we had been given and did not have a king size bed. Apparently all superior rooms were at the end of the hotel near the public bar. So much for researching and planning ahead. This really put a dampener on the last 3 days of what had been a fantastic 3 week holiday in the Outer Hebrides.
Both inside and outside the public bar was very busy with drinkers. It was the annual Barra marathon weekend and there was to be live music that evening. I had a detailed conversation with the General Manager about the situation we had found ourselves in, he advised me that there may not be the noise we were expecting and if there was we should just go to the public bar and join the party. In other words put up with it! All the staff we spoke to told us it would be a busy, noisy night, it always was when there was live music, an example of how little the General Manager cared about what was going on in the public bar owned by the hotel and the impact it would have on guests in the hotel. We had every right to express our concerns to him and deserved a less scathing response from him.
The hotel offers free wi-fi but I could not get a connection to either my laptop or the ipad we had with us so I decided to try the ipad from the lounge area. There was another guest in the lounge who could not connect to her 'phone so we decided to speak to the General Manager about it. He tried to help us both to get a connection but gave me the impression that I was being a nuisance as he was able to get a connection on his device. In the end we came to the conclusion that the demand was too great on the server due to the volume of users. I got connected the next day. I did not complain about my 'phone signal being poor, I didn't even have my 'phone with me I think the General Manager must have been confusing me with my ipad problems with the other guest who could not connect to her 'phone. He told us both that the 'phone lines were down on the Island and could be for 3 weeks. I told him telephone connection had been intermittent during our 3 weeks away and this did not bother me at all.
I would ask why a simple discussion about why I was unable to connect to my ipad should be construed as making a complaint.

We decide that we had to make the best of the situation we found ourselves in and try to enjoy the rest of our holiday.
As we had been told by Mags that the Sunday night would be much quieter, I decided to ask the General Manager whether there would be a room downstairs for the rest of our stay in order to avoid having to go up the steep stairs.The General Manager informed me that he had already given us a free upgrade to the suite on the ground floor for the remaining 2 nights of our stay. I thanked him for this. This was the last time we spoke to the General Manager although he was in the office when we paid our bill on the Monday evening but chose to ignore us.
It was, as expected, a noisy night.
The next morning we were told by Mags that the suite was booked for the Monday night and could not understand why the General Manager had booked us into it. She suggested that we move to the superior room beneath the one we were in to save us from moving again and although near the public bar it should be quiet. We didn't see the room and although commenting, NOT complaining, that we could lose a bit of the view we told her that we considered it worth it if it was expected to be quiet and we did not have the stairs to tackle.
This turned out to be a big mistake the noise from outside the public bar from men and women a bit the worse for drink went on until 1am then some returned at 3am. We were not going to mention this but on returning to the hotel that evening Mags asked us how we had got on.I mentioned the noise and may have commented that it was a pity that we had to keep our window closed in such beautiful warm weather in order to try and keep the noise out. I was Not complaining about it being too hot as the General Manager claims.
Mags said she would let the General manager know about the bar going on for so long as there should not have been any noise after closing time. All was quiet on the Monday night, perhaps because we were so tired we didn't hear anything!
Mags had deducted £30 per night off the total price of our stay as compensation for the noise which we told her was not necessary.
Both rooms were dated and in need of some TLC. The second room had mildew around the tiling in the bathroom and both had plastic mattress protectors on the beds which did not fit properly and were uncomfortable, no soft covers here. Do they expect guests to be incontinent or do they know no better? The duvet covers looked as if they either hadn't been ironed or had not been changed as a new top and bottom sheet had been provided. I suspect the latter. The mattress in the second room was uncomfortable and lumpy and was stained at the top left hand corner.The duvet was also had a red stain at the bottom corner
Breakfast experience
Breakfast was no more than acceptable. The buffet is pretty basic but adequate, my main problem with it was the cheap boring sliced brown and white bread still in the plastic packets for self toasting (no brown on our last morning) when it would have been nice to have some of the varied bread that we know is available on the Island. Butter is cut into chunks on a plate with no utensil to pick it up with.
The fact that the ferry dictates supplies is no excuse for poor quality or running short of produce.We have lived and worked on Scottish Islands and remote parts of the mainland for many years when transport was much worse than it is today. For years we have visited the Scottish islands and would have to say that this hotel drags you back to the seventies and something you don't come across often, thank goodness. Perhaps that is the charm for some but not for us. Grossly overpriced at £145 per night bed and breakfast.
The full breakfast menu choice is good but despite not asking for the full breakfast we nevertheless got it.The bacon was hard and inedible and the potato scone, which neither of us asked for looked quite unappetizing. The problem is not the variety or choice but rather an issue with how it is cooked and presented.
Restaurant experience
There is a varied choice for evening meals all cooked adequately but with little imagination. There are various areas where the extra touches that you would expect were missing. Langoustine starter (just under £10) served freshly cooked with a slice of lemon, too hot to handle for a while but no utensils, finger bowl or dish for empty shells as you would normally expect anywhere else. No steak knives to cut meet dishes. Food brought out at differing times to the table instead of being served together. On our first evening my husband asked for some mustard and was presented with a Colman's jar which turned out to be completely empty and with a cracked lid. the General Manager was waiting on tables and we pointed this out to him. He removed the empty mustard jar and made a disgruntled comment as if it was our fault. This was NOT a complaint about a cracked lid but a simple request for mustard, although I would have expected it to arrive in a proper dish.
A word of caution. If you have any adverse comments or constructive criticism to make during your stay, even in the course of general conversation with staff, these will be noted and twisted in the General Manager's response to any review you might make to justify themselves rather than use them as a learning tool on how to improve customer service.
My husband reviewed his stay at this hotel and in his response the General Manager claimed that my husband had complained, which is simply not true. My husband made a number of comments/ observations which could not have been construed as complaints. The General Manager's defensive attitude in this respect seems indicative of a failure on his part to understand basic customer care and his approach to dealing with any constructive comment for improving the service is to see it as a complaint.
Barra is a beautiful Island and everyone we met was very friendly and helpful. What makes this hotel are the views and very friendly and helpful staff. We were more than happy to reward them for this before we left.

Room Tip: Keep clear of the public bar unless you want to join the weekend party. Choose a room at the front o...
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  • Stayed: June 2014, traveled as a couple
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Service
1  Thank epiShropshire
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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Additional Information about Castlebay Hotel

Address: Castlebay, HS9 5XD, Scotland
Location: United Kingdom > Scotland > The Hebrides > Outer Hebrides > Isle of Barra
Bar / Lounge Beach Beverage Selection Free High Speed Internet ( WiFi ) Free Parking Restaurant Room Service Suites Wheelchair access
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 3 Hotels in Isle of Barra
Price Range: $59 - $175 (Based on Average Rates for a Standard Room)
Number of rooms: 15
Official Description (provided by the hotel):
Overlooking the bay and Kisimul Castle, the hotel has 15 rooms, most with sea views, and the busiest restaurant on Barra. The hotel is the oldest on the island and the only one open all year round. We have a room specially designed for the less able-bodied. The hotel featured in the BBC TV series "An Island Parish".We are the only full service Hotel open year round on the Isle of Barra ... more   less 
Also Known As:
Castlebay Hotel Isle Of Barra, Scotland

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