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Best budget hotels in Scotland 2023: Where to stay for an affordable Scottish escape

Whether you’re sightseeing in the city or exploring the countryside, these hotels are ideal for bargain breaks

Robin McKelvie
Thursday 22 June 2023 13:30 BST
The spectacular Isle of Skye scenery can be explored on a budget
The spectacular Isle of Skye scenery can be explored on a budget (Getty Images (iStock))

Like the rest of the UK, you would be hard pushed to ever describe Scotland as a budget destination. Unless you’re staying in hostels or camping – or, on a real budget, wild camping – it costs cash to find somewhere decent to sleep in Scotland. This situation has been exacerbated in recent years by a Brexit-related loss of workers and the cost-of-living crisis. That said, there is real quality and value for money if you know where to look at the budget end of the market.

Yes, in all of Scotland’s eight cities and many towns you could check into a faceless room in one of the soulless chain hotels, but why would you when there are places to stay with real character – many of them family-run – dotted around the country? There are some surprising bargains in the cities, too, where rooms are more plentiful, as well as some wee secrets around the rest of the mainland and into the islands. Keep reading to discover our pick of the best budget options.

Best budget hotels in Edinburgh

Best for capital breaks: Motel One Edinburgh-Princes

Neighbourhood: Edinburgh city centre

This 140-room bolthole sits on the border between Old Town and New Town (Robin Mckelvie)

An affordable design hotel right in the heart of the Scottish capital, with views of Edinburgh Castle – impossible, right? Not at the best of Edinburgh’s two branches of the boutique budget chain Motel One. Think plush velvet sofas and striking use of tartan – Caledonian hipster rather than cheesy bling. This Princes Street 140-room bolthole couldn’t be better set up for sightseeing on the border between the Old Town and New Town, with a tram stop nearby and Waverley Station next door. Prices may be keen for Edinburgh, but you still get epic views from the sexy booths at the second floor bar and some of the bedrooms: choose wisely. Children under 12 years old stay for free, too.

Best for Edinburgh suburbs: Orocco Pier

Neighbourhood: South Queensferry

Book a room with a view of the world-famous Forth Bridge (Orocco Pier Hotel)

Slip out to the riverside suburb of South Queensferry – a retreat of choice for Edinburghers – for a budget steal. This 17-room boutique hotel is housed in a historic building on the town’s cobbled high street. Make sure to book a room with a view of the world-famous Forth Bridge and watch seabirds soar by and sunrises explode across the Firth of Forth. You can spend the money you saved on your room on dinner in the newly revamped Samphire restaurant or in the more relaxed Antico next door. Huge Antico breakfasts are included and are guaranteed to set you up for a day of sightseeing.

Best budget hotels in Glasgow

Best for stylish Glasgow digs: Clayton Hotel Glasgow

Neighbourhood: Glasgow city centre

This four-star hotel offers great value for money (Clayton Hotel Glasgow)

Settle into this Grade A-listed former customs house right on the banks of the River Clyde, in the centre of Scotland’s largest city. The Clayton is great value, as it’s a fully fledged four-star hotel, especially if you snare a room with a river view. As well as slick design, you’ll sleep on a King Koil mattress in each of the 303 rooms. The Custom House Bar & Restaurant is on site, too, with reasonably priced meals, given the four-star quality. You can savour cocktails at the glamorous bar without the expense of a taxi ride anywhere.

Best Glasgow base: Z Glasgow

Neighourhood: Glasgow city centre

The cheapest rooms come without a window – claustrophobes, steer clear (Robin Mckelvie)

This hotel has a superb location just around from Queen Street Station and the city’s main bus station with an airport link, just a stone’s throw from George Square, the Merchant city nightlife and lots of shops too. The minimalistic bedrooms (they love white here) are basic and small, but perfectly clean and they use the space well. The cheapest of the 104 bedrooms come without a window, so claustrophobes best steer clear. There is a café-bar in reception that does simple breakfasts, decent coffee and stronger tipples too.

Best budget Mainland hotels

Best Borders bolthole: The Townhouse

Neighbourhood: Melrose

The bedrooms are swish with a touch of tartan twee and a boutique hotel vibe (The Townhouse Hotel)

Excellent value and a warm welcome await in the rolling hills of the Borders in the trim market town of Melrose. This three-star, family-run hotel on the main square has been lovingly cherished by the Hendersons for decades. The 11 bedrooms are swish and well-kept too, with a touch of tartan twee and a boutique hotel vibe. Breakfasts are hearty, with local produce from the town’s butchers and other producers helping set you up for the day. Melrose is great walking country – enjoy a free day out on the Southern Upland Way, St Cuthbert’s Way, or the Borders Abbeys Way. Afterwards, a huge portion of Borders lamb awaits at The Townhouse.

Best for families: Loch Melfort Hotel

Neighbourhood: Ardfern, Argyll

Resident goats and hairy highland cows await visitors at Loch Melfont hotel (Robin Mckelvie)

The charmingly welcoming Ross family are at the helm at this seaside hideaway in a deeply scenic corner of Argyll. There are 10 main-house bedrooms and 20 lodge sea-view rooms to choose from, most with a view of the water and the sprinkling of offshore islands. Enjoy the view for nothing, while entertaining the kids for free at the playpark in the 17-acre grounds, where little ones will be thrilled to meet ‘Guest Experience Managers’ Bracken and Thistle (the resident goats), the two rescue dogs and a trio of hairy Highland cows: Dougal, Campbell and McDonald. At night, save more cash as guests get free entry into Arduaine Gardens, with its 20 acres of flora and fauna.

Best for budget style: Apex City Quay Hotel & Spa

Neighbourhood: Dundee

The best of the 151 bedrooms have views of both the city and the River Tay (Robin McKelvie)

This is the City of Discovery’s original boutique hotel, and still surely the best value. This four-star hideaway sits right on the revamped waterfront, just a short stroll from the unmissable V&A Dundee award-winning design museum and the city’s burgeoning list of subsidiary attractions. There is the Quayside Bar & Grill for spending money you’ve saved on your room, plus Yu Spa for some similarly great-value pampering and a swimming pool. The best of the 151 bedrooms have views of both the city and the River Tay, so book wisely.

Best budget hotels in the Scottish Isles

Best for island-lovers: Kinloch Hotel

Neighbourhood: Isle of Arran

This hotel has been in Crawford family since 1954 (Kinloch Hotel)

Most visitors to the isle dubbed ‘Scotland in Miniature’ flock to the busy east coast – don’t be one of them. Climb up the ‘String Road’ over the mountains and, on the other side, this seaside oasis awaits, overlooking the brooding hulk of Kintyre. The Kinloch Hotel has real heritage and continuity: it’s been in the Crawford family here in Blackwaterfoot since 1954. From your bedroom window, you can watch gannets diving, and look out for seals and cetaceans too. You don’t get many hotels with a swimming pool for this price, and they don’t overcharge for the local Arran malt whiskies and beers, either.

Best for tradition: Stein Inn

Neighbourhood: Isle of Skye

The eating space features a roaring fire and live music sessions (Stein Inn)

Let’s face it – securing accommodation on the deeply popular Isle of Skye can be a nightmare. And very expensive. At the Stein Inn, you get to stay in a historic inn (it is the oldest on the island) right on the waterfront in a cute village with views out to the water, too. All very proper Skye. Rooms are cosy rather than spacious. The eating space downstairs awaits with drams, a roaring fire and both local shellfish and venison. If you’re lucky, there will be a live music session on, always a good opportunity for meeting the local community. There are only five bedrooms, so book ahead – this is Skye, after all.

Best for foodies: Polochar Inn

Neighbourhood: South Uist

Treat yourself to freshly cooked local lobster during your stay (Polochar Inn)

Getting a bed for the night in the Outer Hebrides these days can be tricky if you don’t have your own motorhome or a tent. So, book the 11-bedroom Polochar Inn well ahead. You can stay somewhere with real character that offers some of the finest sunsets you will ever see (best enjoyed by the prehistoric standing stone just outside), in a truly beautiful part of the world. As you won’t have broken the bank when booking a stay at this traditional inn, you can treat yourself to its speciality – freshly cooked local lobster. There is lobster toast on the breakfast menu, too.

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