Anne Gibson checks in at the Mercure Inverness, gateway to Scotland's Highlands.
Check-in: "Would it be possible to stay an extra night?" we asked. Embarrassingly, we'd made a mistake with the itinerary. "You've got the last room," we were told. Relieved!
The style: Old-world, solid, comfortable. This big place was rebuilt on the site of the original Caledonian Hotel and historic pictures in the extensive foyer tell that story beautifully.
The room: Flat-screen TV, tea and coffee-making facilities, non-smoking. Ours didn't have a river view but instead looked over the picturesque Old Town. Inverness had won the Scottish Cup when we stayed, so jubilation was in the air - and the bars. Free wifi, Nespresso coffee machine, newspaper, robe and slippers.
The bed: A vast king with separate bases and mattresses for partner anti-disturbance.
Extras: A box of Cadbury Milk Tray chocolates and two bottles of Springbourne "drawn deep from the volcanic hills of Montgomeryshire" water.
Noise: Well, Inverness had just beaten Falkirk to win the prestigious Scottish Cup on the night we stayed in late May, so the locals did have a fair reason to sing in that karaoke bar nearby. They finished at a respectable hour. But my, what skimpy outfits those girlies wear down the street in the chilly May evenings.
In the neighbourhood: Loch Ness is a short drive away.
Something to eat? The breakfast area is massive and staff cater admirably for the many coachloads of tourists at a time. Good thing, really. Upstairs and inside, those coach-goers help themselves to haggis, field mushrooms, toast, Nairn's Oatcakes, porridge, fruit, yoghurt, perfect eggs, bacon, baked beans and black pudding and watch the Ness flow by peacefully.
Transport? We drove and parked for free, securely in the outdoor hotel carpark opposite the River Ness. But the hotel is only 200m from Inverness Railway Station.
Best bits: Complimentary copy of the Scotsman with the daily Alexander McCall Smith chapter of his new 44 Scotland Street series. More-ish breakfast for only 10 ($24) each, included in our room rate. Haggis first-equal with Fort William's Alexandra Hotel, for tastiness and texture. But where to buy in Auckland? Maybe we just have to savour that memory for now.
Price: Just over 100 a night for the double room for two, although we did pay 140 for the extra night we had not booked in advance.
Would we return? Och aye!