The VisitScotland Quality Assurance Scheme, still branded as "STB", from the organisation's old name "Scottish Tourist Board", uses trained and impartial inspectors to visit properties every year and provide a 1-5 Star grading that is consistent across Scotland. You can find out more about the scheme here.
- Five Star means "Exceptional"
- Four Star means "Excellent"
- Three Star means "Very Good"
- Two Star means "Good"
- One Star means "Acceptable"
"Gold Stars" are awarded for particularly high levels of customer service.
Star ratings can be applied to all forms of accommodation, as well as to a wide range of visitor attractions. The categories of accommodation to which they are applied by VisitScotland are:
- Guest House: "A guest house normally has at least 4 letting bedrooms, some with ensuite or private facilities. It is usually run as a commercial business. Breakfast is available and evening meals may be provided."
- B&B: "Accommodation offering bed and breakfast, usually in a private house. B&Bs normally accommodate no more than 6 guests, and may or may not serve an evening meal."
- Farmhouse: "Bed and breakfast or guest house accommodation provided on a working farm or small holding."
- Hotel: "A hotel normally has at least 20 letting bedrooms, of which most have ensuite or private facilities. They serve breakfast, dinner and, normally, lunch, and they usually have a drinks licence (it may be a restricted one)."
- Small Hotel: "A small hotel normally has a minimum of 6 letting bedrooms and a maximum of 20. Most bedrooms have ensuite or private facilities. Small hotels serve breakfast, dinner and, normally, lunch, and they have a drinks licence (though it may be a restricted licence). They are normally run by the owner(s) and reflect their own personal style."
- International Resort Hotel: "A hotel with a 5-star quality award that has a range of leisure and sporting facilities. These include an 18- hole golf course, swimming pool and leisure centre, and country pursuits."
- Country House Hotel: "A country house hotel with ample grounds or gardens, in a rural or semi-rural situation with an emphasis on peace and quiet."
- Town House Hotel: "High quality town/city centre properties of individual and distinctive style with a maximum of 50 rooms and a high staff-to-guest ratio. Public areas may be limited. Possibly no dinner served but room service available instead."
- Metro Hotel: "A town/city hotel providing full hotel services with the exception of dinner. Within easy walking distance of a range of places to eat."
- Lodge: "Overnight accommodation, usually purpose-built and situated close to a major road or in a city centre. Reception hours may be restricted and payment may be required on check-in. There may be associated restaurant facilities."
- Budget Hotel: "Budget Hotels are always part of a large branded hotel group and offer clean and comfortable en-suite facilities, 24-hour reservations and a consistent level of facilities."
- Inn: "Bed and breakfast accommodation within a traditional inn or pub. The bar and restaurant is open to non-residents, and provides food at lunchtime and in the evening."
- Restaurant with Rooms: "The restaurant is the most significant part of the business, and is usually open to non-residents as well as those staying there." Breakfast is usually provided.
- Campus Accommodation: "The accommodation provided by colleges and universities for their students is often made available - with meals - to individuals or groups at certain times of year, typically the summer, Easter and Christmas holiday periods."
- Guest Accommodation: "Similar to a guest house though there may be some differences in the amount of services and facilities."
- Exclusive Use Venue : "Accommodation exclusively for one customer group or party with a minimum let of one day. It will normally have a minimum of three letting bedrooms, will hold a residential licence or equivalent and provide a full range of services to guests including all meals."
- Self Catering: "A house, cottage, apartment, chalet or similar accommodation, with self-catering facilities, which is let normally on a weekly basis to individuals, although shorter breaks may be available."
- Serviced Apartments: "Essentially self-catering apartments where services such as cleaning are available. Meals and drinks may also be available, either to each apartment or in a restaurant and/or bar on site."
- Hostel: "Star-rated accommodation often in shared rooms with bunk beds but family rooms may also be available. Hostels normally welcome individuals, families and groups, many of whom are staying on a short-term basis. Hostels often have a quite formalised structure, which may or may not include restricted access, meal service, etc."
- Backpackers: "Very similar in style to a hostel, but may be run on less formal lines, such as 24-hour access. They are often more appropriate for longer term independent travellers and the younger end of the market and they tend not to take family groups."
- Group Accommodation: "Star-rated accommodation often in shared rooms with bunk beds. Predominantly group bookings only accepted. May be fully serviced or self catering."
- Activity Accommodation: "Star-rated accommodation normally provided on a group basis. The establishment will also offer fully certified or licensed activities."
- Bunkhouse : "Rural accommodation which can be booked by groups or individuals. Services and facilities may be limited but will include a self-catering facility. Bunkhouses are not star rated but will meet or exceed minimum standards for cleanliness, maintenance and quality."
- Bods, Bothies and Camping Barns: "Simple, overnight accommodation, usually in remote or rural locations where facilities and services may be limited."
- Holiday Park: "A park that offers holiday homes and, most likely, touring and camping pitches."
- Touring Park: "A park that offers touring pitches, and may offer camping pitches as well."
- Camping Park: "A park for camping only."
- Caravan Holiday Homes: "Individual caravan holiday homes are not star rated but will meet or exceed minimum standards for cleanliness, maintenance and facilities."
- Thistle Caravan Holiday Homes: "The Thistle award recognises a high standard of caravan holiday home based on a 4 or 5-star park."