Ratings can never be precise, and are always personal. The best way to understand the way we think at Bird & Dine is through examples.
What makes a Stunning (5*) location? Well, it has to have the “Wow” factor. That should be your reaction when you arrive at the place. So take a look at the combination of sea, islands and mountains at the Stein Inn, Shieldaig or the Three Chimneys in Scotland . They are designated 5* because the scenery makes you say “Wow! Look at that!”.
How about a Lovely (4*) location? Perhaps a little less spectacular, but still somewhere that might make you exclaim to your companion(s) “Isn’t that lovely?” Good examples might be the Orasay Inn in Scotland, The Watersmeet Tea Gardens in Devon or the Pandora Inn in Cornwall.
Pleasant (3*)? The sort of place where you take a seat, look at the view and say, “This is nice, isn’t it?.” Examples include the Potting Shed Tea Room at Aviemore or the Five Horseshoes in Maidensgrove.
What do we mean by Faultless (5*) when ranking food? Well, we mean perfect! Beautifully chosen, cooked and presented, with great service. A wonderful experience. This kind of thing is rare! The Three Chimneys has an International reputation, and is a great example.
Excellent (4*) means that the food is still a bit special, well cooked and presented, and the service efficient and friendly. It will still be a very pleasurable experience to eat here. The Orasay Inn (which inspired B & D) sets the tone here.
Obviously, Rare and exciting (5*) ratings for wildlife are very subjective, and if you live somewhere unusual you may see species generally regarded as rare every day! We’re aiming at the majority here, so places with a decent range of species like Golden Eagle, Merlin, Hen Harrier, Chough, Snow Bunting would tick the box. So 5* wildlife locations include the Three Chimneys, the Orasay Inn, and Cley Marshes Visitor Centre.
The next rating, Uncommon species and/or great views (4*), allows a bit more flexibility. It could be that you can get close to species that are mostly seen at a fair distance, (perhaps visiting feeders) or you may see birds or animals that you rarely encounter. Examples of locations are the White Horse in Brancaster and the Potting Shed Tea Room near Aviemore.
A rating of Interesting (3*) applies when you may have opportunities to see a good range of species with one or two perhaps on the nest, or displaying, or just flying close by. A good example is Slebech.