Category 3 in my awards is for accommodation.
2021 feels like it has had much more to offer than 2020, but it has still been very restricted as a result of pandemic problems. Almost all my accommodation experiences were in Scotland and Northern Ireland, but I did manage plenty variety and lots of quality anyway.
As was the case for my airline category (v1) my first overnight escape after the winter lockdown will stick in my memory for a while. I had an Airbnb cottage in Elgin for 4 nights at the end of April. It was a lovely place in an area I know so well, and I really enjoyed it in spite of the restrictions in pubs, restaurants and cafes which still applied.
My first foreign travel (and the last as it turned out) post lockdown was very memorable as well. By coincidence it too was an Airbnb, but in Porto.
As far as normal trips are concerned, I stayed in hotels or bed and breakfasts in Glinn Eilg/Glenelg (near An t-Eilean Sgitheanach/Skye), Bac/Back (outside Steòrnabhagh/Stornoway on Leòdhas/Lewis), Burray (close to Kirkwall in Orkney), Inverness (the airport hotel – a Marriott), Belfast (another Marriott), Newcastle, Coimbra and Lisbon.
Less than normal were my overnight escapes, just to get away from home and the cabin fever effect brought on by the lockdown restrictions at the start of the year. These took me to Edinburgh three times, Aberdeen twice, Dundee and Glasgow. One of my two visits to Belfast falls into this category.
I was delighted by all the places I stayed on those overnight escapes, and went back to the same places in Aberdeen, Belfast and Edinburgh. I got some excellent deals too, brought on by the downturn in tourist numbers.
My other Airbnb experience was beside the sea in Rosemarkie. It is on the Black Isle, northeast of Inverness. Yet again I was delighted by the space, comfort and privacy I enjoyed.
I have found it quite hard to come to a decision in this category, which is a good sign obviously. Different places at different stages of the pandemic during the year had differing significance at the time, and still do in retrospect. It is still slightly strange to reflect on booking a time slot for breakfast at the Residence by Marriott in Aberdeen, to receive my food in a box to take back to my room.
Part of me would like to give an award to all of them, and the staff working there. Invariably management and staff were working very hard to maintain service levels within the restrictions, mostly – but not always – with the cooperation of the guests.
Glenelg, Rosemarkie, Bac/Back and Burray gave me rest and recovery in quiet seaside locations. Wonderful. The food was fantastic too.
Porto, Coimbra and Lisbon gave me foreign travel again after 18 months of pandemic. They are wonderful cities and I had a great time. The places I stayed were a big contribution to the experience.
My city breaks in Scotland got me away from home over my weekends, with the opportunity to relax over a coffee, a drink or a dinner.
Belfast seemed exotic after so much time restricted to the house, the local area or Scotland.
In the end I am giving the award to my Airbnb studio in Porto. It was exactly right for what I was wanting. It was quiet. It was clean, well furnished and comfortable.
The host was excellent in terms of checkin and checkout. The location was ideal, within easy walking distance of the centre but in a quiet street away from traffic and people noise. I had lovely restaurants and shops within 400-800m.
ⓒ iain taylor, 2021