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It was with some trepidation that I approached Edinburgh Holiday Inn on a work trip last week as the building is somewhat grey and nondescript looking. My worries were assuaged a little by my taxi driver's comments that 'it doesn't look much from the outside, but it is supposed to be quite good inside'. It turns out that he was right and that this was pretty much the perfect summary of the hotel.
The Holiday Inn is located halfway between Edinburgh's city centre and airport, approximately four miles from both and with regular buses between all three, it's in a pretty good location for whatever your need although not absolutely perfect for either.
The one thing that it is perfect for is Edinburgh Zoo. It would in fact be impossible to be closer as the driveway that takes you to the front of the hotel is also the driveway to the zoo's car park. Some of the rooms at the back of the hotel look onto the trees and the side of the zoo and I'm told that you can hear the monkeys screeching at each other when they wake up - not necessarily a good thing though!
Its official rating is four stars, but don't be mislead as the star rating system reflects the facilities a hotel has and not the standard of its rooms. Having said that, the rooms are very nice. They are light and airy, mainly thanks to the huge windows and neutrally painted walls. The furniture is exactly what you'd expect and comprises of bed, desk and chair, coffee table and lounge chair as well as a large wardrobe in the entrance hall. The beds are firm, but not uncomfortably so. They come with a choice of firm or soft pillows, which I thought was a nice touch, even though I struggled to tell the difference between the two.
My only complaint would be that they have tried to fit a little too much furniture in and floor space is tight, considering the size of the room. To be honest, I could have done without the coffee table and extra chair if it meant that I could have walked around the bed without constantly banging in to it. Each room is also equipped with hairdryer, tea making facilities, an ironing board and iron and a trouser press. You also get a remarkably modern LCD TV with a wide selection of channels. It was a welcome change to be able to watch Friends on E4 rather than having to suffer through the shambles that is BBC News 24, as is usually the case in hotels. Something they don't have, which hotels rarely ever do in my experience, is a plug socket by the bed. It may not be an issue for you, but it is something that really does irritate me when it comes to charging my phone - I really don't like it being on the other side of the room when my alarm goes off in the morning. Like I said though, that may just be me!
The bathrooms are again light and airy and fairly modern. The walls are tiled from floor to ceiling in white and it gives the impression that the room is larger than it is, which is nice. The bathrooms were also very clean and well maintained. The shower curtain over the bath was the star of the show though if you ask me. It was such a simple design but one you very rarely see; it had two pieces of material on the bottom half, one that hung on the inside of the bath and one that hung on the outside, meaning that there wasn't a drop of water on the bathroom floor during my whole three days there. A miracle indeed.
There is a gym and pool at the hotel on the ground floor. The pool is average sized, although I was there during school half term and it was continually full of children, making it look smaller. During school holidays, they operate a booking system for the pool to prevent overcrowding. The gym is pretty comprehensive and has a large number of well maintained machines. There is no booking system for the gym, but you do have to sign a disclaimer before you enter taking full responsibility for yourself whilst you are in there.
There are two restaurants at the hotel; Sampans which offers a selection of dishes from seven countries in the Far East and the bar area which offers a range of pub favourites. I didn't eat in Sampans because it was a more formal restaurant and I felt a little uncomfortable with that being on my own, but the restaurant offers pretty good views over the hills in the distance.
The lobby bar was comfortable and pleasant, with a good enough menu. The prices are reasonable although not cheap - around £6 for a baguette with chips and from £10 - £15 for a main course. I opted for the mixed starters on two nights and have to say they offer the best value. The first one I had was Chip Shop Platter, which included fish goujons, spicy prawns, chunky chips, mushy peas and bread and butter for £8.90 - which was actually £4 cheaper than the fish and chip main course and was the perfect size for one person. The other one I had was the imaginatively named 'Big Dipper' which was a party platter and included nachos, garlic bread, chicken dippers and onion rings - certainly not health food, but tasty all the same. I wouldn't recommend having anything with bread though because they seemed unable to keep it fresh - my chicken baguette was let down by the almost stale bread and was certainly not worth the £6.10 I paid for it.
If you don't feel like venturing out of your room for any reason, there is a comprehensive room service menu that is available 24 hours a day and with a service charge of £2.50. The menu includes dishes from both of the restaurants.
The hotel on the inside is well presented, with attractive communal areas. The public bathrooms, something which I always think offers a good indication for what the rest of the hotel is like, are modern and clean. The staff are extremely, competent and efficient, balancing that mix of professional and friendly well. The hotel is, in short, pretty good. The question is whether or not it is worth the £250 per night (bed and breakfast) rate advertised in the hotel itself. I'd have to say probably not, based on its location. If you want a base for the airport, the Hilton is much closer and obviously there are numerous choices within the city centre for that price or even less, which would be a more convenient option for a trip to Edinburgh. However I'd imagine that you could get a much cheaper price on that with a little research and so it would be a more attractive option, especially if you are planning a trip to the zoo during your stay.