Last weekend, I had the unprecedented luxury of staying overnight in a hotel without my husband and (more importantly) the kids, when I travelled up to Edinburgh to attend a friend's wedding reception. The reception itself was held at the Point Hotel on Bread Street in Edinburgh and I was faced with the dilemma of either staying overnight in that hotel (which was a little out of my slim budget) or putting up with the inconvenience of catching a taxi on my own to a different, cheaper hotel.
I ended up booking a single room at the Cairn Hotel through lastminute.com. I paid £44 for a single room for one night. I have to admit that I didn't check whether it would have been any cheaper to make the booking directly with the hotel, rather than through an intermediary website. (There is a clue somewhere in the last couple of sentences that I didn't plan this trip as much in advance as I should have!)
Once I'd booked, I started to feel a little apprehensive about staying overnight on my own in a strange hotel. Lastminute told me that the Cairn Hotel was a 2 Star hotel and "a non smoking hotel situated in the lively theatre district of Edinburgh with the old town just minutes away. " I felt even more worried when I was trying to describe where the hotel was to my friend from Edinburgh and I read the above description. She just started laughing saying there is no such place as the 'theatre district' in Edinburgh. I was panicking wondering whether this was a euphemism for the local red light district!
When my taxi pulled up outside the Cairn Hotel, I was pleasantly surprised. It had a very grand exterior. I want to say that it looked like it was a Georgian building, but my knowledge of the history of architecture is woefully poor. It was certainly a period property anyway and the photo accompanying this review doesn't really do the hotel enough justice. The facade looked well-maintained which helped to reassure me as I approached the entrance. The taxi from Waverley Train Station cost me around £4.50 (October 2008) and I would imagine that it would be within reasonable walking district to get to the delights of Princes Street. The hotel itself was on Windsor Street which is heading towards the Leith side of town, if that means anything to you.
The hotel reception was clean and welcoming. I showed my email confirmation and was given my room key and directions to my room. As I'd reserved online, I had paid for the room in advance. I did notice that other guests were expected to pay for their whole stay on arrival too. The directions to my room seemed a little confusing to me! I'm the sort who gets lost after a couple of 'take the first door, turn left....' and any more than that my brain just switches off! Luckily, all the room numbers were clearly signposted as there were over 50 rooms altogether and the layout of the hotel was quite unusual and complicated! Nonetheless, I found my room without too much anxiety and, obviously, managed to find my way back out again.
The room itself was small but perfectly adequate for a single traveller. I've become accustomed to family rooms so it was a novelty sitting in a tiny room with a single bed. (It was even more of an unaccustomed treat to be able to make use of the tea-making facilities without having any tired and irritable children to take care of!) Talking of tea-making facilities; these were fine but they were not overly generous with the supplies of UHT milk and tea-bags. The tea-bags were Tetley though and not the generic 'cheapo' varities some hotels try to pass off! There wasn't sufficient tea and milk for my drink on arrival, my pre-going out drink and the two cups of tea that I need in the morning before I feel even vaguely human. Extra supplies were soon obtained without any fuss.
The room included a small en-suite bathroom. On arrival, I noticed a steady dripping from the shower cubicle and was a bit put off thinking that was likely to disturb my sleep. Luckily, all it needed was a twist on the dial and that solved that problem. I was looking around for faults and quibbles as I'd already decided to review the hotel once I discovered that there were no reviews on DooYoo when I placed the booking. I have to say that there were signs of mildew around the seal on the bottom of the shower cubicle and the shower itself looked like it had seen better days. Other than that, I couldn't find any fault with either the facilities within the room or the cleanliness of the room at all.
Bedding was nice and fresh and there were plenty of sheets and two nice firm pillows. (I have to admit that I did miss my other half, but it would be a completely different sort of hotel altogether if it attempted to cater for that particular requirement!) The hotel did offer some unusual services though - including reiki, yoga and even handwriting analysis (all subject to an additional fee) which seemed a very bizarre range of extras!
One my way out, the receptionist ordered a taxi for me and was very friendly and amenable. I sat in a pleasant, comfortable lounge area by the front door whilst waiting for the taxi. When I left, I had to leave my room key at reception and show a card with my room number on my return to get my keys back. Whilst this might seem a bit of a faff, it was a blessing for me as I didn't have to worry about looking after a clunky room key after one too many drinks! The front door is locked after 12am, but it was just a matter of ringing the door bell to be admitted by reception. Even though I returned after 1am, there were still plenty of guests up chatting in the lounge area and it seemed to have a nice atmosphere.
I have to confess that I didn't have any breakfast the next morning, so I can't comment on that aspect. Before you jump to your own conclusions, I wasn't hungover (well, not that hungover) but I couldn't face eating and didn't really want to eat breakfast on my own! Breakfast times seemed reasonable. At weekends, breakfast was served between 8am - 10am and there was a choice of either Full English or Continental breakfast. The room didn't have to be vacated until 11am on the day of departure so I had plenty of time to recover from the excesses of the night before without rushing about! Unfortunately, there were no facilities at the hotel to leave any luggage behind. There are left luggage facilities at Waverley Train Station though, which cost £6 for the day.
So, that was my little mini-break to Edinburgh. My overall verdict on the hotel is a really positive one. I'd definitely come back and use the Cairn Hotel as a base to spend more time exploring Edinburgh. Next time I'll even consider bringing the kids and the husband too!
(I've posted an edited version of this review on the Holidays Uncovered website and Ciao.)