I’ve never stayed in a hotel that was so bad in so many different ways. Usually in the past when I’ve had issues it’s been one or two things.
The main issue boiled down to nobody giving a single damn about any aspect of what they were doing, and when people are that demotivated, the customer experience suffers dramatically.
In the Best Western White Horse Hotel Londonderry (supposedly the best hotel in the Derry/Londonderry area), this manifested that the staff had poor attitudes and were rude. Whenever we had a problem (which was often, because of the carelessness that’s permeated every inch of the establishment), the response was not good. It’s another example of where the offer didn’t match the customer experience. The Best Western White Horse has positioned itself as a luxury hotel (and I believe it probably was, in the mists of time) but it falls short of what I’d expect from even a Travelodge or a B and B.
No one said at booking or check in that they were doing extensive loud dangerous building work next to our room with autistic toddler and newborn. At two points, I had to hold toddler to stop him running into a room where a bathroom was being ripped out with broken pottery and other dangerous things. Pipes were left exposed in the corridor.
I’ve stayed in a hotel during renovation before. There’s a right way and a wrong way to renovate a hotel while accepting paying guests. By contrast, when we stayed at the Mercure Barony Hotel in Peebles on the Scottish borders, they did it right, with heavily discounted rooms and ensuring guests were not accommodated next to building work.
Back to the Best Western (Plus) White Horse Hotel. I suspect one of the doors in corridor doesn’t actually meet building regs as my pushchair is exactly the right width for all internal doors in buildings, and it couldn’t get through one door and therefore neither could an adult-sized wheelchair (for the sake of pedantry, I’ve just measured my internal doors at home in Ireland, they’re 690mm and my pushchair gets through these. Building regs in the UK are 750mm). I had to take the babies out, remove all the bags, fold up the pushchair, carry it through this part of the corridor, then unfold it again to get through. Every time. The doorway was actually wider than the door and it had been badly-hung. I let them know about this and they made the right noises about sorting out some way for us to get to our room (like moving us or using another entrance) but no one ever did.
The thing that really upset me, however, was that they sent my takeaway delivery away because there was an issue with the phone in my room and they couldn’t be bothered to knock on the door to let me know, or to even tell me when I went to reception and sat waiting for the food for 40 minutes, so my poor toddler didn’t get dinner until 8pm and a local business nearly lost money if I hadn’t driven to get the food myself as my Irish phone had no signal.
We only got a takeaway the second night because the restaurant at the hotel was ridiculously overpriced and they “lost” our reservation when we arrived, but the food was nice. Breakfast was nice, too. It just didn’t fit with the quality of the rest of the hotel at all. I didn’t like at dinner that when I asked what certain things were on the menu (e.g. garlics) I was given incorrect information. As a result I ordered something that was supposed to be roasted vegetables but was actually potatoes.
The only members of staff who left us with a good impression were the lady who helped us at breakfast and the one at check-in.
They didn’t clean our room until after 2pm, when raised they said they were prioritising check-outs still. At 2pm. We just wanted towels, clean cups and some bottles of water. They said they would do this. When we got back from our fourth outing of the day (to give them time to clean as our toddler couldn’t nap and is terrified of hoovers as part of his autism) those three things hadn’t been sorted (they gave us STAINED hand towels instead of bath towels, WTF). After their “industry leading cleaning” the main bed still had brown staining like someone had sat near the pillow on their period. I had to change the bed myself when fresh bedding was brought after newborn was sick on the bed and despite the fact we’d said on the phone to reception that we needed a new duvet as ours was covered in vomit, they didn’t bring one until I pointed out that this one would be wet from the sick.
There were supposed to be bathrobes in our rooms but these didn’t appear until the room was eventually cleaned, at which point only two came for a room with 4 occupants, and they were no use because we’d used up all our booked swimming sessions. The bathroom in our room stank like a public toilet. By this point we didn’t actually have any energy left to raise this and didn’t feel optimistic that any of it would be heard as the staff were in “deny there’s a problem” mode rather than actually sorting things out.
Even the swimming pool, the main attraction for us, wasn’t very good. The Aqua Tots woman was rude to my husband and weirdly territorial. I never found the gym so missed my booking. The pool was too cold for my baby (even the baby pool) and grim hazard tape was wrapped around one ladder. Pool noodles were strewn everywhere with no care at all and when we came the second day they were still there. We asked someone for towels for our second swim and they took ours away but refused to give us any clean ones (and I mean they literally refused, they didn’t forget to get back to us they outright told us no). We ended up buying towels at Home Bargains. To use in an allegedly four star hotel.
Additional issues included the fact that the third bed was pushed up against the window, which had no safety stopper on it, so it opened widely and our toddler could have opened it and fallen out. We checked in with our baby and toddler yet no one offered us a cot and there was no way of requesting one online. The beds had no safety rails for toddlers/babies and were very high off the floor. There was no room service menu and I couldn’t honestly tell you if they offered room service. All this for £87 a night excl. breakfast. Abysmal.
At check out I was going to make (another, more formal) complaint but the woman picked up the phone and pretended to be talking on it as I approached so I chucked the key in the key return box and left because at this point I was so angry and disappointed in the utter shambles that I would have caused a scene. When something is that bad, I feel like there’s no point complaining repeatedly because the staff are the main part of the problem. If it wasn’t fixed the first time it was brought to someone’s attention, it’s not going to be fixed next time.
We won’t go here for another mini break. We also won’t be recommending this hotel to family when they come to visit us. I’ve stayed in hundreds of hotels worldwide at all price points for my job and this was one of the worst because the staff don’t care. I’m stunned that Best Western have allowed this hotel to be part of their franchise and I don’t really know who gave them 4 stars.
They’re obviously renovating at the moment but making the rooms pretty is not going to fix the fundamental problems which are poor service and shockingly bad cleanliness.
I was going to turn this into an article weaving in the underlying theme of the state of decline of the tourist industry since Covid, and that the staff are disaffected because they’ve been away from customers for such a long time but I don’t think this hotel is really worth me taking the time to do that so I’ve stuck to the facts instead. At some point I’ll write an article on business lessons that can be taken from this experience.
For a much better Northern Ireland hotel with a swimming pool, I recommend the Hilton Belfast Templepatrick which we stayed at just before we moved to this side of the country and was perfect.
Tl;dr: Not staying there again.
Photos of the Best Western White Horse Hotel: