If you’re into steam trains and shopping, or have a passion for both simultaneously, then you’ll love Swindon but do we love the Doubletree by Hilton Swindon?
You’ll find the hotel located just off the M4 junction, in a business park also containing a beefeater, subway and Costa. You will need a car, or to master the public bus system, to get here. It does make this hotel popular with business guests during the week and another Doubletree brimming with coach tour guests. There is a large car park, which is number plate controlled by parking eye, charged at £3 per night or totally free for diamond guests.
The entrance and building are less than beautiful, with a small smoking shelter perched by the revolving door. The only outdoor area here is a small deck located overlooking the car park just outside the bar.
This is another Doubletree that has a past, and has been brought into the 21st century with a liberal coating of grey paint and a jazzing up of the public areas. In reception they have mostly succeeded, and it’s also a nice touch they have a tea/coffee station set up too. The welcome from reception was less than hearty, a Doubletree standard it seems these days, and as expected there was no upgrade or recognition of status but there were two drinks vouchers included in the room card package.
I had booked a queen room, and that’s exactly what I received. The hotel hosts lots of weddings in their function room, and on check out they stated that they prioritise these for upgrades rather than diamond members – as it’s their special day. I do understand that the bride and groom do probably require the honeymoon suite for their first night of permissible passion but I do not see why the guests require priority, they’ll most likely never stay at the hotel again. The same runs for coach party guests, they arrive normally without knowing their accommodation, chosen by the tour operator for the lowest possible cost. When you see a coach party at a hotel, it normally means you are in for an extremely value engineered visit, and this hotel is no exception.
On arrival at the room, the curtains were closed, and so, it was pitch dark at 3pm. You require a card to activate the functions of the room, including the air conditioning. This meant that the room was really hot, on this 30oC+ day, and the smell of damp was strong. I fired up the air conditioning, which did a great job of cooling the room down. The view from the room was a corner of the hotel and the business park, nothing spectacular but at the same time expected.
As you enter the room there was a a small wardrobe containing the iron., hairdryer (this fell apart in my hands) and a small safe. Attached to the end of the wardrobe is a vanity mirror, with handily positioned power point, but oddly and no chair or stool too use. Facing the wardrobe was the bathroom, a rather depressing place to be, with fixed shower head over the bath tub. The water pressure was acceptable, but the temperature fluctuated from boiling to freezing cold without any adjustment. The ceiling and shower curtain had a liberal coating of mould on, and the extractor fan clogged with dust. The sink area with heated mirror above was a nice feature, to add some positivity back in. There was also a full range of Crabtree & Evelyn products, and two face towels.
Returning to the main bedroom, there was a slightly dated flatscreen TV on top of a rather dented and dated wooden sideboard. On one side of the cupboards was an empty fridge and on the other a poorly stocked hospitality tray – where are my biscuits? Oddly enough, the middle cupboard was labelled tea and coffee making facilities but it was in the left hand cupboard.
Next to the sideboard was a decent size desk, with comfortable swivel chair. On the desk was the restaurant menu, which you can also have delivered to the room. Moving around underneath the window was a table with two bottles of warm water, one still and one sparkling, and an armchair in a fabric that reminds me of the dress that became an internet sensation with people trying to guess the colour.
The bed was small, a queen, and very hard. The linen was of an acceptable quality but the pillows had seen a lot of heads. The bed also creaked and moved whenever someone in it moved a limb, which made for a pretty poor sleep conditions. Each side of the bed was a lamp, complete with UK power socket and USB charger – great news. There was also the classic Hilton alarm clock with radio/aux cable built in, I still love to see these for some nostalgia.
The hotel restaurant is small, so much so that they’ve extended into the lounge with temporary tables and banquet chairs (yuck), and has to cope with the demands of the coach tours normally wanting to all eat at the same time. As with the Doubletree in Newbury and Oxford Belfry they lay on a buffet for these punters. You can’t get a table for a normal dinner before 8.30pm due to this demand, so we decided to venture out.
A short drive from the hotel, 5minutes, is the Swindon Designer Outlet. It’s a great place for shopping and has some dining options. We opted for Wagamama, which is a casual Japanese-inspired chain, for dinner and then had a stroll around the shops. There are great discounts to be had on Ralph Lauren, Jack Wills, Hobbs etc, without the volume of people experienced at bigger centres such as Bicester Village.
We returned back to the hotel at 8pm, and a wedding was in full flow. The function room is entered through the bar area and the smoking area is the terrace in the car park. This ultimately means the event spills into the bar area, complete with children, noise and shouting. We used our two drinks vouchers on a house white and a Peroni, after joining a long orderly queue with one member of staff serving, which were both warm.
Retiring to the room at around 10pm, with the bass and music from the wedding disco continuing until the early hours only to be replaced by the wedding celebrants going through the corridors enjoy life loudly. I was woken again by the housekeeping staff yelling commands at around 7am outside my door. I think they’d managed to not only fail on the upgrade, but also put me in the least preferential room in the building.
Nevertheless we had a hearty breakfast to look forward to, which is served in the main restaurant. We arrived at around 10am and were seated immediately, and the restaurant was very busy. The staff were turning over tables quickly, and also keeping the buffet well stocked. Orders for poached eggs were delivered quickly and, whilst not the best quality egg to grace a piece of wholemeal, were tasty enough. It was also nice to see chicken as a sausage alternative on the buffet too. You’ll also all be pleased to know mini muffins were present, and I even had two on this occasion.
After a upturn of my mood by a good breakfast, I checked out and mentioned the issues with my room. She did a good job of apologising, even offering a coffee or something to take away with me. I was promised a member of management would contact me ‘really quickly to deal with it’ but alas this hasn’t materialised. I did contact the diamond desk via the app, and they gave me a points bribe to soften the blow of a mouldy ceiling and shower curtain.
Would I come back? Not unless it was my company mandated choice in Swindon, but that will never happen.