“ Address: 79 Lauriston Place / Edinburgh / EH3 9HZ / Scotland „
The Scottish capital, like any other, is home to a wealth of hotels and guesthouses to suit all tastes and budgets. As a regular visitor to the majestic city, I am, unfortunately, duty bound to respect a paying client's preferred supplier list and my (rather forced) hotel of choice is currently the Best Western Central. After about eight visits in the last twelve months, here's the low down for prospective guests.
Tucked innocuously away along Lauriston Place in Edinburgh's Old Town district, the Best Western Central is, initially, a rather uninspiring prospect. The main entrance is to be found to the rear of the hotel, behind a rather drab little foyer and a mass of screens and furniture obscure the reception desk as if to warn you not to bother. But, surprisingly enough, it can be worth the effort here.
The hotel is about three miles from the M8 (junction 1) and easy to find with Google map in hand. Despite the Central name tag, unless you're one of those hairy caber-tossing hunks, the hotel is rather more than a stone's throw from Edinburgh's Waverley station though (a mile as the crow flies) and a taxi is recommended. By foot, it's probably a good twenty-minute walk, much of which is very steeply uphill and if you're carrying luggage, it's a bit of an ordeal. (Without luggage, and of a warm summer evening, it's not entirely unpleasant though.) Generally, the location is a good one for business or pleasure. The city's most popular sights are all pretty much within walking distance (including the castle) and the location is good for visitors to the university campus too, which is roughly a five-minute walk away.
The hotel's public areas seem a little scruffy. The mouth-watering posters advertising the chef's specials in the restaurant forget to mention that the orderly arrangement of tables and chairs is not unlike a village hall wedding reception and the dining room must be the least atmospheric eatery known to man. The corridors and hallways are relatively labyrinthine and share the same sense of décor as the restaurant, namely shabby chic. The lift is located some distance from the reception desk, tucked away in a little corner that's easily missed. It's slow and old and by the time you've navigated the dated corridors, piled into the lift and crawled inexorably to your floor of choice, it's almost certain that you'll be wondering whether you might have been better in the Novotel across the way.
But fortunately, once inside the bedroom, some pleasant surprises await. The bedrooms are clean, well-fitted and in consistently good condition. Large flat-screen LCD televisions normally dominate one of the walls, but the beds are spacious and comfortable. There is normally room for a small table and chairs, along with a desk, as well as tea and coffee facilities, replete with organic tea and authentic Scottish biscuits. The luxury of windows that actually open (albeit in a limited fashion for safety's sake) means that you can get plenty of fresh air into the rooms, which is often necessary as the central heating seems to be on most of the year round. Beware the autumn months though, when the room temperature seems deceptively warm until you turn the radiators off and wake up shivering with cold as the old property's lack of insulation demonstrates its absence. This is Scotland, after all.
At the risk of stating the obvious, the bathrooms normally DO have a bath (I think I only had a shower in one of the rooms) but the showers over the baths are powerful and there are no problems with hot water or a shortage of towels. Complimentary toiletries are provided and the bathrooms are adequately proportioned for an adult to move freely around, without banging hip or head. Facilities in the rooms are otherwise quite limited (you have to ask reception to bring you up an iron and ironing board) but the good news is that wireless internet access is free in all rooms, with a powerful enough signal to surf and download perfectly adequately. The aforementioned televisions feature the terrestrial channels as well as a couple of the satellite channels and the reception is perfect.
The menu in the restaurant is vaguely ridiculous, a curious combination of world dishes with what seems to be a Scottish lilt. Nestled amongst the steaks and grills you'll find things like haggis spring rolls but the menu isn't generally daring enough to get away with these ostentatious little flourishes and it ends up looking a little contrived. The quality of the food itself isn't bad and is priced averagely for a hotel in this range - think around £10 for a main course. The main problem is the dining room's hideous layout and lack of atmosphere that pretty much negates this as a venue unless you're feeling very lazy or desperate. The same room is used for breakfast, where the orderly square tables are less off-putting and the traditional Scottish breakfast is reasonably appealing. The hot breakfast is always very hot although the potato scones are dry and tasteless and the sausages are often very gristly. The buffet selection is uninspiring and it's one of those rooms where it feels as though someone has just died.
The staff members here are very friendly, even if they do have a vaguely depressed air about them. Requests for things like those irons and ironing board are fulfilled quickly and with a smile and they don't mess around when you arrive or when you are ready to leave. There is a room service menu (unsampled) and the staff members always offer to call taxis or get bags carried without waiting to be asked.
Room rates vary enormously. Midweek, you can often pay upwards of £100 but there are reasonable bed and breakfast deals to be had if you look in the right places (an £85 rate seems relatively easy to find). Like most hotel chains, the Best Western hotels offer a rewards scheme and if you join up and book through the rewards site, you can normally get the best rates and deals.
Overall, I quite like this hotel. It's comfortable and rather more homely than many other city centre hotels. I'd strongly recommend a review of the dining facilities though. The location could lend itself to being lazy and dining in but neither the menu nor the dining room are really up to scratch and I suspect most guests would eat elsewhere. Recommended, nonetheless.