A city break in Edinburgh tops many a UK bucket list. But here’s the thing: the crowds attending its world-beating festivals and marquee events can make sourcing the right hotel an intimidating experience. There are the expensive ones, pocketed in miniature estates; and the pricey Princes Street bastions, which give Edinburgh Castle a run for its money in terms of jewel-dripping glamour. But in the wynds and alleys between there are plenty of less flashy, less splashy boltholes and boutiques worthy of your patronage.
Outside of August, December and the buildup to Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve, for those not in the know) prices drop, making it a super affordable getaway, particularly in early spring. Further discounts can materialise if you call the hotel direct and hint at a special occasion.
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Best for art lovers: 24 Royal Terrace
Neighbourhood: Calton Hill
Bought by Scots entrepreneur Alan Campbell, who could no longer find room for the contemporary art collection in his own house (a first-world problem if ever there was one), this Georgian townhouse in the shadow of Calton Hill is a mini National Gallery in waiting. The walls are hung with Campbell’s flavours of the month, leading via a spiral staircase to bijou rooms awash with artistic flourishes. Observe a chequered divan, flower-print wallpaper or an ornamental room divider. Our pick are the two feature doubles, both with cast iron roll-top tubs next to the bed. Downstairs is rt’s, not so much a hotel bar as a local’s haunt for cocktails and charcuterie.
Doubles from £79, bed and breakfast
Best for shopaholics: The Rutland
Neighbourhood: City Centre
The joy is in the details at this centrally located mash-up of the baroque and the modern. Buttery shortbread on arrival; a daily newspaper hung on the doorknob; Arran Aromatics beauty products; even hair straighteners. The real draw though is the location – many of the 12 rooms eyeball Edinburgh Castle, while it’s inches from the chain stores of Princes Street and George Street’s classy boutiques. There’s plenty for foodies and drinkers, too: Kyloe is one of the city’s finest steakhouses, while non-residents swarm to The Huxley for its sophisticated all-day dining. Below that, down some crooked stairs, is the subterranean distillery of Edinburgh Gin, where tours are available.
Doubles from £95, room only
Best for bibliophiles: B+B Edinburgh
Neighbourhood: West End
The stroll from Princes Street onto leafy Rothesay Terrace is an unassuming start for this 27-room boutique B&B: it’s away from the city buzz on a purely residential street of Georgian townhouses. But it far exceeds the expectations of a regular B&B with a full complement of quirks. There’s free bikes and afternoon tea, a whisky-stocked residents’ bar, help-yourself hot chocolate and biccies, and a Victorian-era library, with period fireplace and floor-to-ceiling bookcases. The rooms aren’t half-bad either: up the statement staircase, expect comfy beds and homely decor.
Doubles from £80, bed and breakfast
Best for millennials: Haymarket Hub Hotel
At the vanguard of Edinburgh’s savvy hotel scene, the Haymarket Hub is Scotland’s first ‘smartphone hotel’. The bait is free wifi and smartphones (including data and international calls to 10 countries), in-room Sky TV and sports channels, plus laptops and printers on request. As for the rooms, most are delivered in a binary red and white colour scheme (tip: request one with a window).
When not swiping or scrolling their news feeds, guests have best-in-show pubs and gin bars on nearby William and Morrison Streets to discover, plus Haymarket train station is an iPhone’s throw away. Neighbouring pub Platform 5, where breakfast is served, ensures a lively mix of locals and visitors before last-gasp train dashes. Book direct through the website and they’ll give a 10 per cent early booking discount and five per cent cashback.
Doubles from £40, room only
Best for Highland life: Hampton House
Dunstane Houses are a pair of much-awarded boutique heritage buildings with more than a smattering of gentrified Orkney charm. It’s Hampton House, the lesser-known of the two, that’s the better value, with 19 beautifully designed rooms and the luxury of all the facilities of posh big sister the Dunstane next door. The pick of the bunch are the Classic Wee Doubles, which come fitted with extravagantly comfy beds, heather and juniper colour scheme and Noble Isle toiletries – all good enough to make Edinburgh’s larger five-star offerings blush. For rugby internationals at Murrayfield Stadium, nowhere is better placed.
Doubles from £99, room only
Best for homebodies: Eden Locke
Neighbourhood: City Centre
Purposely out of step with many of the city’s hotels, this design-led apartment hotel is hidden with little fanfare inside a rebooted six-storey townhouse on George Street. It was bought by a group called Locke Living, which began with Leman Locke in East London in October 2016, before migrating north (a third venue in Manchester opens in autumn 2018).
Inside, the double-height ceiling rooms are nearly twice the size of most boutique hotel pads (up to 33 square metres), with everything centred around an L-shaped couch to create an idealised home from home. Whether you use the all-mod-cons kitchen is another matter, as there are plenty of great food and drink options outside, particularly at the rival Cambridge Bar and Oxford Bar on Young Street.
Studio apartments from £109, room only
Best for families: Apex Waterloo Place
Neighbourhood: Princes Street
Amid the new hotels changing the landscape, old stalwarts still thrive. With properties at Haymarket train station, on the Royal Mile and on Grassmarket, Apex hotels are part of such Edinburgh tradition. The most appealing location for a quiet night – and for families – are the fourth premises on Waterloo Place, opened in 1819 as the city’s first purpose hotel and once host to Charles Dickens.
Guests will split into two camps. Those who’ll use the swimming pool, spa, gym, restaurant and bar; and those who’ll enjoy it as a jumping-off point for the nearby Royal Mile, Holyrood Palace and Scott Monument. Like all the other hotels in the Apex family, this one has its own duck mascot, named after Sir Earl Grey, found in every bathroom and yours to take home.
Doubles from £89, room only
Best for nightlife: The Grassmarket Hotel
The ideal choice for party animals. It’s fun and funky, albeit compact and snug, and right in the midst of the raucous stag and hen do-packed pubs of the Grassmarket. There’s little breathing space in some of the rooms, yet the vibe is sociable and there’s direct access to Irish boozer Biddy Mulligan’s and the next-door Wee Pub (aka the smallest pub in Scotland). Room decor is hardly subtle, focused on magnetic wall-size maps of the city and Dandy comic book strips, with added novelties such as Tunnock’s tea cakes.
Doubles from £65, room only
Best for freebies: Stay Central
Neighbourhood: Royal Mile
Well tailored to those who want to hit the ground running, this is more of a megawatt hostel than a boutique hotel. There are S, M, L, XL and XXL rooms (anything from a pokey 10 square metres and upwards), but all have hi-tech frills (flatscreen TVs, iPod docks, charging ports, Bluetooth sound systems). The industrial-style furniture makes a change from box-standard hotel decor and the place is superbly located in the thick of the Cowgate’s subterranean action. In keeping with the young-at-heart vibe, there are plenty of tempting extras, including free PlayStation and Xbox hire, breakfast bag and a weekly running club.
Doubles from £60, bed and breakfast
Best for local life: No 11
On the south side of the city, past the sprawling greenery of the Meadows park, this restaurant with rooms is set in a fine four-storey Georgian townhouse with grand stone portico entrance. Even considering the distractions outside – the great restaurants, bars and independent shops of Bruntsfield and Morningside – there are plenty of reasons to linger. Rooms are fashioned with an abundance of 19th-century pomp, with four-poster beds, free-standing baths and tartan-trimmed seats, plus there’s a private garden out the back and a dazzling brasserie with a delicious seasonal five-course tasting menu.
Doubles from £100, bed and breakfast
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