A couple visiting Wester Ross as part of a honeymoon cycle trip last month are seeking a refund of more than £100 from the Aultbea Hotel after they were left without a place to stay.
Manchester couple Helen and Harvey Bell became the latest people to contact the Free Press about an unfilled booking at the Aultbea Hotel, which closed in mid-April after the disappearance of its owner David Michael Chalom.
Back in April, a former member of staff at the Aultbea Hotel told the Free Press that the establishment had shut its door at the request of Mr Chalom who had called during a breakfast service to say that he wouldn’t be returning and asked that staff immediately informed all guests that they had to find alternative accommodation.
Speaking this week, Mrs Bell said: “We had started from Strathpeffer and were doing a cycle loop, and Aultbea was booked for the second night on Monday 20th May.
“I had booked the room directly through the hotel’s website in January. It was the cheapest they had for a double, which was £110, so I went for that and paid the full amount.”
Describing their reaction when they arrived at the hotel, she said: “It was a shock. I wasn’t thinking ‘this isn’t this honeymoon that we planned’ but more the immediate ‘oh no, I can’t believe this has happened – where are we going to stay?'”
Mrs Bell was able to find alternative accommodation with the help of the local community. “The community had put up a sign at the hotel with some information which had a picture, address and phone number of a B&B in Laide,” she said. “We rang that number and they said they had space.”
However, the Manchester dietician said that her experience with the hotel had left her “wary” and less trusting.
“You would think they would have had some way of contacting the people who had booked to inform them that you couldn’t stay there,” she said. “I paid on my debit card and I went to my bank and I’m currently going through the process of trying to get my money back.
“Even if they weren’t in a position to give me my money back at least they could have said that they had closed down – we could have been really stuck. It was good that it was on a weekend when the B&B wasn’t booked up, because when you are on a bike it is not so easy as jumping in a car to find accommodation.”
To date, the Free Press has been contacted by people from Scotland, England, USA and Australia whose bookings with the Aultbea Hotel were not fulfilled.
For those affected
In Scotland, consumers can contact Advice Direct Scotland on 0808 164 6000 or via their website at https://www.consumeradvice.scot/
Consumers from England and Wales can receive further advice and support from Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 03454 040506 or by visiting: www.citizensadvice.org.uk
Non-EU citizens can visit the European Consumer Centres Network: https://ec.europa.eu/info/live-work-travel-eu/consumers/resolve-your-consumer-complaint/european-consumer-centres-network_en
By Adam Gordon