B&B and Beyond: B+B Edinburgh
An award-winning formula comes to Edinburgh, where the B&B is given a hotel-style makeover. By Lucy Gillmore
Boutique hotel meets B&B: that's the idea which has twice won the team behind the B+B Collection the Visit London award for best B&B. It was pioneered in London's swish Belgravia neighbourhood and followed by Weymouth in 2008. Last August, Edinburgh made up a triumvirate and there are plans to open future locations elsewhere. One of the benefits offered to guests is the B+B Club. If you become a member of Belong + Benefit, for every six nights you stay in one of the properties you get one night for free.
With 22 rooms spread over four floors of a Grade II-listed building, and five more in the basement, B+B Edinburgh definitely feels more boutique hotel than traditional B&B. The building was designed in 1883 by the renowned architect Sydney Mitchell for the owner of The Scotsman newspaper, John Ritchie Findlay.
The grand entrance hall sets the tone. It's not so much a case of period features having been retained, as designer touches added to a heavy baronial pad. There's a touch of the posh private school about the place. Some parts work while others have a contemporary-but-only-temporary air.
The library on the first floor is the crowning glory: original wood-panelled walls blanketed in books, two storeys high. The bar on the ground floor is also a cosy spot for a dram, the walls decked with framed front pages from The Scotsman and a portrait of John Ritchie Findlay, while above the zinc bar there's a healthy range of malts.
Rooms range from single to family (although the singles are a good size). Each floor has a different colour scheme: the fourth floor is bracken, the third a heathery purple and so on. A small lift offers access. All rooms are fitted with a flat-screen TV. There's free Wi-Fi – and you can also bring your dog.
Our room, number 5, on the third floor, sports huge sash windows and panoramic views over Dean Village and the Water of Leith to the Forth and hills of Fife beyond. The design encompasses Perspex tables, funky lamps and bespoke tartan cushions. The room has a free-standing tub, and in the bathroom itself a monsoon shower. The only niggle: the carpets are a bit doctors' surgery in style – rough and serviceable.
The breakfast room is a heavily ornate wood-panelled space scattered with white, plastic designer chairs. The wooden moose's head on the wall is a light touch and the mix of old and new almost works, but somehow the room overpowers it all, making the furniture seem flimsy. The breakfast includes porridge, of course, and the Full Scottish comes with haggis. In the summer there's a small terrace looking out over Dean Village where you can eat outside.
A Russian entrepreneurial scientist, Professor Vladimir Kulchitsky, and his British partner Penny Brown – although you don't get to meet them, of course, as this is essentially a boutique hotel. Trevor, the manager, was happily helpful, while Agnes, the pretty Polish receptionist, was, at the risk of sounding like my grandmother, delightful.
B+B Edinburgh is in the West End, the city on your doorstep – a city that, with the right footwear (those cobbles can be a killer), is ripe for exploring on foot. You're on the edge of the gracious Georgian New Town and just a short schlep from the higgledy-piggledy madness of the medieval Old Town.
If you want to escape the crowds, wander down to the Water of Leith and the footpath that hugs the river for 12 miles emerging at the now swanky docklands of Leith. Veer off the trail to visit the Dean Gallery and the Scottish Gallery of Modern Art (0131-624 6200; nationalgalleries.org) and the Royal Botanic Garden (0131-552 7171; rbge.org.uk) a 70-acre haven with contemporary visitor centre and magnificent glasshouses. And if you're visiting during the festival (edinburghfestivals.co.uk), there are still rooms available at the B+B.
There's a folder of local restaurant menus in the library if you're stumped for foodie inspiration. However, a 10-minute stroll away is The Honours (58A North Castle Street; 0131 220 3523; thehonours.co.uk), Michelin-starred Martin Wishart's new brasserie focusing on French classics with a Scottish twist. The creamy crab cappuccino (£7.50) is liquid heaven, while the lamb tagine (£11.50) melts in the mouth.
B+B Edinburgh, 3 Rothesay Terrace, Edinburgh EH3 7RY (0131-225 5084; bb-edinburgh.com). Doubles start at £140, singles £99 and family rooms £180, all including breakfast.
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