Aah, Edinburgh during the Festival: a whole month of culture, entertaining street artists, a cosmopolitan buzz...and overpriced accommodation. Delightful!
The brief: a double or twin room for one night, not too far from Hibernian's football ground Easter Road, and not too far from Waverley train station. You'd think it wouldn't be so difficult but Edinburgh rooms get booked up well in advance for this time of year and, of course, the accommodation in the centre goes first. Many bed and breakfast establishments also insist on a minimum stay of three nights during August, and well they might because they know they easily fill those rooms. As we were going to be taking a train out of Waverley at 6.00 a.m. the following morning, we wanted to be quite close to the station, at most only a short taxi ride away.
We booked through Expedia and found a double room at the Edinburgh House Hotel for just £46 for one night which was an absolute steal given that it was within fifteen minutes walk of the football ground and more or less the same to the top of Princes Street in the centre of town. Unfortunately the webpage seized up and when we refreshed the price had gone up to £77.00 which was a huge increase but still relatively reasonable in comparison with other options. We also went through topcashback.co.uk which earned us a whopping 8 per cent cash-back and 400 Nectar Points.
We were travelling to Edinburgh by train in middle of the afternoon, expecting to arrive in Edinburgh around 5.00 p.m. We would have to collect our match tickets from the ground and had been advised to do this early to avoid queues. With this in mind, I telephoned the hotel in the morning to say that we would aim to check in before the match and that if this was not possible, we would arrive sometimes after 10.00 p.m. This was fine and the lady I spoke to advised me of what to do if the front door was locked. As it happened, our train WAS delayed and we didn't have enough time to check in before the match. I telephoned again and confirmed that we'd be arriving after 10.00 p.m.: I was anxious not to lose the room.
The hotel was easy to find. It's on Pilrig Street which is just off Leith Walk, about halfway down and on the left hand-side as you come from the city centre. Although there's a steady stream of cars using this street, it's relatively quiet compared to Leith Walk. The hotel is actually two houses knocked into one and it occupies a large corner plot with a well tended and nicely planted front garden and a small secluded rear garden. It's an attractive, solid looking building but unlike others in the street, the stone hasn't been cleaned and I think this would make the property look much more appealing.
Another couple we coming in just as we arrived and they let us into the building. Just beside reception there was a side table on which was a telephone and instructions for getting assistance if reception was unstaffed. Two minutes later the lady I'd spoken to earlier that day arrived and checked us in. One thing that concerned us was that the confirmation from Expedia said that payment should be made at the hotel but when we got there, we were informed that they had taken the payment from the credit card we had held the room with. We might have paid anyway by credit card but this was not what we had been informed would happen.
We said we'd be leaving early and the lady happily phoned to book a taxi to take us to Waverley. She said that we would be leaving too early for breakfast but did not offer to prepare anything we could take away.
(Incidentally, the reviews I have read on other sites mention that the breakfast is a cold continental breakfast that, while plentiful, is not very exciting. As one reviewer says, Britain's B&Bs are well known for their cooked breakfast so it's a shame not to be able to enjoy one here. It does seem as if this hotel does the very minimum but charges relatively high prices).
We were not shown to the room or given any other information but I suppose that given the late hour and our early departure, there wasn't a great deal we might need to know. You could argue that it's not very helpful to review a hotel when staying only one night and basically spending about six hours there, however, I do feel that even in that short time, I picked up on a few points that it would be useful for potential guests to know about.
Our room was on the second floor and although we weren't shown to it, we found it fairly easily: the hotel is labyrinthine and there are little nooks and crannies all of the place so you need to look out for the signs directing you to different room numbers. The stairs were terribly creaky and not very wide: there were doors at the ends of each cluster of rooms but instead of reducing the level of noise, these heavy creaking doors served only to increase it.
The room was fairly small and had we been staying longer I'd have said it was too small. What's more there was an additional single bed in there too which was really much. We were in the eaves of the house and the sloping ceiling made the room feel even smaller. The only light came from a Velux window which only opened a little way, which was unfortunate given that the room was far too warm. There was a tiny dressing table stool (but no dressing table) and teeny wardrobe which was in actual fact a cupboard built above a ledge in the corner of the room, and a kettle and a tray of tea and coffee making paraphernalia was placed on one of the bedside tables which was slightly inconvenient. A flat screen television was on the wall at the end of the bed; it had only the five terrestrial channels and the picture quality was pretty poor.
Although the room was clean enough it was a little tired. The carpet was old fashioned and the divan bed didn't look very nice but it was, at least, very comfortable and, for once, the pillows were great. The en suite was also very clean and this was really the best feature of the room. It was small but clearly fairly recently renovated; superficially it looked well done but if you looked more closely it was not a great job. That said, it did look nice and it sparkled. There were two tiny bars of soap but no shower gel or shampoo; this was a disappointment as we had travelled very light, with only deodorant, toothpaste and brushes and a hairbrush. (We had left clean clothes to change into once back at work in Newcastle!) Given the price of the room, I'd have expected at least a sachet of something cheap and nasty that would have sufficed for one wash. Furthermore, there was no shelf or soap tray inside the shower cubicle for soap or any other washing items which I found a little irritating.
We did have a fairly good night's sleep, although for an hour or so after we'd turned the lights out we were woken a couple of times by noise from other guests and I would advise light sleepers to take ear plugs just in case. In the morning we left our room key on the table beside reception as advised. Reception is locked at night but when it is open there is a computer with internet access available. There's also a vending machine for hot drinks and a fridge with a variety of soft drinks.
Waiting outside for the taxi we were able to get a better look at the exterior of the building than we had been able to the night before; what I noticed that I hadn't the evening before was a big pile of junk beside the bins, hopefully waiting for imminent collection. Now, it's perfectly possible that the rubbish had been put there very recently, and may even have been collected just hours later, but it did really spoil the look of the place. A very scary looking monster of a seagull was picking its way around this heap as we left.
Edinburgh House Hotel is billed as a three star which seems a little extravagant. I would say that the hotel appears greatly improved since many of the reviews on Trip Advisor were written, but I'd say that the hotel is a decent two star, not three. We paid over the odds for our room because we left booking fairly late and were quite limited as to which areas we'd consider. The original £46 we were quoted would be a bargain, but the £77 we did pay was way too much. Location-wise this isn't bad at all; it's a short bus ride or a fifteen minute walk to the centre of Edinburgh with all its attractions, and the same walking time from the Royal Yacht Britannia, docked at Leith. The Edinburgh Playhouse is about seven minutes walk and there are plenty of pubs and restaurants on Leith Walk. As mentioned before, the location is handy for matches at Easter Road. There is parking available on the street for visitors coming by car; a taxi to Waverley costs around £6.00