Review by Leonie Glass, published 21st March 2010.
Budget hotels offer a widely varying degree of value for money. Just because they are cheap doesn't mean they are worth staying in: a run-down chain hotel that requires a two-mile taxi ride into town from the ring road may not be worth your money, however little. But a cheap hotel that also occupies a great location – beside the London Eye, say, or overlooking rolling Worcestershire countryside – that's a different story: then it becomes a real bargain.
Here are the 25 budget chain hotels that occupy the most enviable locations in the country.
Mecure Francis, Bath
The Francis occupies a Grade I listed, mellow stone building in Bath's largest Georgian square, with the Roman Baths, Royal Crescent and Thermae Bath Spa all within strolling distance. Other plusses include friendly, helpful staff and parking (£12 for 24 hours). On the down side, many of the bedrooms, bathrooms and communal areas are badly in need of some TLC.
- Queen Square (0122 24105; mercure.com); from £82
Ibis, Belfast Queen's Quarter
Ibis has two new hotels in Belfast: one in the city centre, the other in the Queen's Quarter, a district buzzing with trendy coffee shops, bars, restaurants and boutiques. The (small) rooms here are spotless and warm, with very comfortable beds. Street parking outside is free, and it's a 10-minute walk to the centre, with the stunning Botanic Gardens nearby.
- 75 University Street (02890 333366; ibishotel.com); from £49
Village Hotel, Bournemouth
The location, opposite the General Hospital on the outskirts of Bournemouth, may not rank as one of the finest but guests are compensated for the dull setting with an excellent leisure centre comprising huge indoor pool, plus spa pool, steam room, sauna and gym, included in the price of a room. If you are visiting Bournemouth for the sun and sand, but it's raining, this is the place to stay.
- Wessex Fields, Deansleigh Road (0844 847 2972; village-hotels.co.uk); from £75
Premier Inn, Brighton City Centre
With Brighton's plethora of expensive and often disappointing boutique hotels, budget accommodation makes a sensible choice, leaving plenty of pocket money for the city's nightlife and shopping. This five-storey corner building on North Street is just five minutes from The Lanes and the Pier, and less than a mile from the station. Roomy, contemporary public areas, with integrated restaurant; spacious bedrooms; helpful staff.
- 144 North Street (0870 990 6340; premierinn.co.uk); from £29
On the A40 roundabout, a short walk from Burford's lovely sloping high street, and perfectly placed for touring the area, the Travelodge is housed in a handsome Cotswold stone building and is a rare example of a budget chain hotel in a rural setting. What you save on accommodation, spend on a cosy dinner at one of Burford's several characterful inns, such as the Lamb.
- Bury Barn, A40 (0871 984 6018; travelodge.co.uk); from £19
Big Sleep, Cardiff
A former British Gas building is home to the original Big Sleep. Unpromising as this sounds, the individual offices have converted into 81 large, bright rooms, ranging from budget to suites, with cool blue decoration, Ikea-style furniture and city views. Opposite the International Arena and new St David's shopping arcade, it's also a stone's throw from the Millennium Stadium (prices soar for rugby internationals). There is a 24-hour bar.
- Bute Terrace (029 2063 6363; www.thebigsleephotel.com); from £45
Big Sleep, Cheltenham
Ask for a room at the back, or pack your ear plugs if you're staying here on a Friday or Saturday night. This branch of the mini chain (in former Inland Revenue offices) is bang in the centre of the Regency spa town that comes alive at weekends. All white, with splashes of bold colour, it makes a great base if you're going to the races, or one of Cheltenham's festivals, on a budget. Limited parking (£5 per night).
- Wellington Street (01242 696999; www.thebigsleephotel.com); from £45
Holiday Inn Express, Chester Racecourse
A much better bet than the substandard Comfort Inn Chester, this attractive, modern hotel is located within the racecourse grounds, but it's also just five minutes from the city's historic centre, whose cobbled streets make one of the best and most picturesque places to shop for designer clothes and accessories in the country.
- The Racecourse (01244 327900; hiexpress.co.uk); from £49
Big Sleep, Eastbourne
In a resort town not noted for its hip hotels, the newest of Big Sleep's three branches brings a welcome freshness to the elegant, timeless Promenade, as well as welcome prices. There are amusing furry curtains in the bright pink or blue bedrooms, a cool retro-style bar/lounge/breakfast room and a pool/table tennis room with computers in the basement. Family rooms, sleeping up to six plus baby, are the best bargain. And the location, on the seafront, is spot on.
- King Edward's Parade (01323 722676; www.thebigsleephotel.com); from £45
Holiday Inn Express, Edinburgh Royal Mile
Choose between this splendidly located, modern hotel and the Holiday Inn Express in Picardy Place, housed in a listed Georgian building. The exterior has less character, but the Royal Mile branch provides comfy, quiet rooms and a surprisingly satisfying, complimentary breakfast. Handy for all the sights and very welcoming staff.
- 300 Cowgate (0131 524 8400; hiexpress.co.uk); from £49
Not a picturesque location – but an extremely handy one for an early flight. The tiny couchette-style cabins are fresh and airy, with flat-screen television, pull-out desk (free Wi-Fi) and a tiny bathroom separated by a glass screen with monsoon shower, basin and loo. Minimum stay four hours. There's also a branch at Heathrow, Terminal 4.
- South Terminal, Gatwick Airport (020 7100 1100; yotel.com); from £65
Ibis, Leeds Centre
No frills and no thrills, but with room prices starting at £35, this 168-room Ibis is a hard-to-beat budget option in Leeds. Just off the busy Inner Ring Road, but conveniently close to the shops and station, it has its own restaurant (open 6-10pm) and bar (open for drinks noon-1am, but serving 24-hour snacks). Bedrooms are pristine, with tea/coffee-making kit, flat-screen televisions and – a welcome feature – windows that open.
- 23 Marlborough Street (0113 220 4100; ibishotel.com); from £49
The vast majority of Liverpool's chain hotels are found in the regenerated dockland area; arriving at windswept Malmaison, for example, by a circuitous one-way route, makes one feel as if one is leaving the city far behind. This cool Novotel, however, has the advantage of being in the heart of town, 10 minutes' walk from Lime Street Station and the Echo Arena, and close to the nightlife district. It also has an indoor pool and fitness centre.
- 40 Hanover Street (0151 702 5100; novotel.com); from £65
Premier Inn, London County Hall
Tucked away in the old GLC building, this well-kept Premier Inn benefits from a recent top-to-toe makeover, with plain but pleasant bedrooms (trademark purple curtains and throws) and an airy restaurant and lounge bar. Many rooms overlook Jubilee Gardens while others look east down the Thames. Best views are from the fifth and sixth floors; room 600 takes the prize, with the Millennium Bridge, the City and the adjacent London Eye all visible. Try for a room with a view by phoning the hotel direct, though note that requests can't always be guaranteed.
- Belvedere Road (0870 238 3300; premierinn.com); from £29
Travelodge, London Covent Garden
Not one of Travelodge's finest, at least in terms of decoration and upkeep, but its Drury Lane location, set back from the street on its own small piazza, is not to be sniffed at. Drury Lane Theatre, currently showing the hit, War Horse, is almost opposite and the Royal Opera House, and the shops and restaurants of Covent Garden are just around the corner. Family rooms are located in a separate building at the top of Drury Lane.
- 10 Drury Lane (0871 984 6245; travelodge.com); from £19
Etap, Manchester Salford Quays
Bedrooms are basic, each with a bunk above a double bed, a basin, minuscule loo and shower cubicle. Prices are basic, too: three people can stay for £32 a night, plus £2.95 per person for buffet breakfast. Popular with Man U supporters (Old Trafford is a 15-minute walk), and visitors to the Imperial War Museum North, Lowry Arts Gallery, MEN Arena and the shops (all within walking distance).
- 19 Trafford Road (0161 848 0898; etaphotel.com); from £32
Premier Inn, Oxford
The city of dreaming spires has never been noted for its hotels, especially reasonably priced ones. To find the kind of value offered by this Premier Inn, you have to stay three miles outside in the Oxford Business Park (there's a bus into town). Rooms have good beds, superior linen and tea/coffee-making facilities. Meals are served in the Beefeater next door.
- Garsington Road (0870 197 7204; premierinn.com); from £29
Holiday Inn Express, Portsmouth
The two best features of Portsmouth are its Historic Naval Dockyard, home of the Mary Rose and HMS Warrior, and the regenerated Gunwharf Quays, now full of shops, restaurants and bars, plus sail-shaped Spinnaker Tower for a bird's-eye view of the coast. The superbly located clean, airy, curved-glass Holiday Inn Express stands in the latter, a stroll away from the former.
- The Plaza, Gunwharf Quays (02392 894240; hiexpress.co.uk); from £71
A welcome break from the usual formula, this Travelodge inhabits a listed farmhouse and an immaculate new building in similar style. Though only a few miles south of the M42, it stands in Worcestershire countryside with views of rolling fields. The interior is standard, but rooms are clean and quiet. Decent food at the Meadow Farm pub next door, and it's well placed for excursions to Stratford and Cadbury World.
- Meadow Farm, Dagnell End Road (0871 984 6344; travelodge.co.uk); from £19
Holiday Inn, Salisbury-Stonehenge
Though it doesn't have a view of the famous stone circle, and its location, in the gleaming Solstice business park on the A303, is hardly romantic, this new hotel is justified in claiming to be the closest to Stonehenge and its Visitor Centre. Bedrooms, in tones of black and burnt orange, are bold, and the Solstice Bar and Grill is a cut above.
- Solstice Park, Amesbury (0845 241 3535; hisalisbury-stonehenge.co.uk); from £71
Travelodge, Scarborough St Nicholas
The setting could hardly be better, perched on top of Scarborough's North Cliff with spectacular views of the North Sea coastline and sweeping surf bay, and yet only a few minutes on foot from the town centre. You don't pay extra for the large, airy rooms with sea views, but phone first to request one. Family-friendly, with charming staff. Cooked breakfast and dinner in the bar-café. Recently renovated and metered parking outside.
- Saint Nicholas Cliff (0871 984 6430; travelodge.co.uk); from £19
Mercure Shakespeare, Stratford upon Avon
A top-of-the-range Mercure with plenty of old-world charm and affordable prices. A special deal could reduce the cost of your room to £69, including breakfast for two. The building is Tudor, with a stunning half-timbered façade, leaded windows and smattering of beams inside. Open fires burn in the lobby and sitting room, and some of the bedrooms have four-posters. It takes only five minutes to walk to the RSC Theatre. Recommended.
- Chapel Street (01789 294997; mercure.com); from £82
Premier Inn, Torquay
In an 18th-century building with a fine outlook over the bay, this seafront hotel is one of Premier Inn's most popular hotels. The beach is on the doorstep so it's ideal for families with young children. Inside, all is spick and span; bedrooms have good-quality beds, the result of a recent refurb. The on-site Beefeater serves decent chargrilled food. Plenty of free parking.
- Belgrave Road (0870 423 6486; premierinn.com); from £29
Mercure Wessex, Winchester
The average rate for a room and breakfast across the board is around £100 at this city centre hotel, but if you pay an extra £10 on booking you will be guaranteed one of the 28 (of 94) rooms that enjoy a view of Winchester Cathedral. A further eight rooms have partial views. The hotel includes a restaurant, pay parking, 24-hour room service and use of a nearby leisure centre.
- Paternoster Row (01962 861611; mercure.com); from £82
Novotel, York Centre
Wend your way from York's Novotel just outside the city walls, where it is set peacefully on the banks of the River Foss, through the charming "snickelways" (or lanes) to the famous Minster, and climb the central tower for a breathtaking panorama. A great choice for families, the hotel has a small indoor pool, Xbox, Wii and special children's menus; b & b free for under 16s in family rooms.
- Fewster Way, Fishergate (01904 611660; novotel.com); from £65