“O wad some Power the giftie gie us To see oursels as ithers see us!” Robert Burns
We used to travel around Britain extensively when I was young in the 1960s and 1970s in a succession of camper vans. My parents would pore over AA Maps and guide books to decide where to go and off we’d head for a week or so. Our plans were entirely governed by the few scant paragraphs which we’d take with us to brief us along the way.
With the rise of the web we have a better toolkit. This week I mended an oven and now know how to change the screen on an iPhone thanks to the best library in the world. With the huge amount of information available has come the concept of Egosurfing – checking yourself out online to see whether you’ve made a mark in cyberspace. With this in mind I thought I’d take a look at how the rest of the world sees Ashbourne.
First stop is TripAdvisor. I use it all the time to plan my trips and holidays with a very high success rate. There are thousands of Ashbourne reviews but I thought I’d have a look at Things To Do. There are five things to do in Ashbourne apparently – and none of them are in Ashbourne! They are Dovedale ravine, Sudbury Hall (with the Childhood Museum listed separately), Pipes in the Peaks and Glass in the Barn. All highly reviewed but not really Ashbourne. No mention of the Tissington Trail, Heritage Centre, Market, Walking Tours round the town, Leisure Centre, Recreation Grounds, Sticky Fingers etc.
Slightly disappointing but maybe the hotels will be better represented. There are 17 reviews of hotels and inns on the site. Our top hotel is the Station and there are a number of very well rated B&Bs such as Holly Meadow and The Lilacs. Having looked for a decent B&B in other towns we do seem well blessed in this category. One area we are underrepresented is in the “speciality lodgings” which is where all the campsites and cabins should feature but only four are in this section.
Looking at the restaurants is a mixed picture. The Lighthouse is number one with lots of other 4+ stars reviews. Of the ones in the town The Bowling Green is numbers two with the Lamplight just behind.
My overall view is that Tripadvisor doesn’t really reflect my town but it is a social site – it depends on your reviews to correct the view. How many reviews do you put back on the site. I really believe that we should be constantly looking at how Tripadvisor views the town – correcting the things which need fixing but helping potential tourists by making sure everything we have to offer is represented. I would add a widget for TripAdvisor to this blog if WordPress allowed it.
Those who don’t use Tripadvisor will Google us. I think everyone will get different listings through Google depending on their surfing habits but my page has the Wikipedia listing at the top on Page 1. This is still quite sparse and could do with being spruced up – especially the Tourism section.
Second up is the Visit Ashbourne website which is our official tourist destination full of information about events and news.
We then have the somewhat odd Ashbourne-Town website hailing itself as the Official Town Website. Unfortunately this looks a like a worthy but failed school project. It has done well to get up the Google rankings but, for me, creates confusion. I assume it was set up in the absence of a viable alternative and has carried on.
There is also an article from the Guardian in 2009 called “Let’s move to Ashbourne, Derbyshire – it’s an English market town straight out of central casting”. This is overall very favourable and has some good colour to it with vox pops from local residents. http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2009/nov/28/lets-move-to-ashbourne-derbyshire
The point of this blog is to raise awareness of the profile the town has to the rest of the world and what we can do to improve, or to harm, it. Reviews are important – whether positive or negative they show the breadth of things the town has to offer. A personal bugbear is that on TripAdvisor there are forums with people wanting information and no-one from the town is representing Ashbourne consistently. I recently assisted a couple from Florence who were coming to Derbyshire for a long weekend to visit the town as part of their itinerary. They like antiques and wanted to know where they could call in on in the Peak District!