Affordable Luxury in ‘Auld Reekie’

It was so long since I had been in Edinburgh I had forgotten how beautiful the city centre is, said Brian Ogle… there can't be many capitals in the world with such a jaw-dropping vista from the main street

It didn’t matter that the cold wind from the Firth of Forth would have ‘cleaned corn’ to use an old-fashioned Ulsterism during the entire four days of our stay. Revisiting some of the old haunts – and indeed some new ones – convinced me that I will be back sooner rather than later.

But my brief sojourn in Auld Reekie was made really memorable not by Edinburgh Castle dominating the skyline over Princes Street, but rather our accommodation for the short stay – absolutely superb luxury apartments at the end of Princes Street and close to the Grassmarket, a mere 10-minute walk to the castle battlements.

The Five Star Scottish Tourist Board approved Rutland Serviced Apartments are modestly described as “luxury serviced apartments.” Five of them are located in two townhouses in Rutland Street next to the Rutland Hotel from where you collect your key, and indeed can deposit your luggage – if you arrive early in the day.

We found a very, very helpful front desk receptionist (Jamie I think) who despite the early arrival took charge of our luggage and had our bags waiting for us four doors away in the Apartment later in the afternoon. The expansive luxury apartments are literally crammed with the latest gadgets, furniture and fittings. Indeed, you will instantly feel so comfortable and spoilt that there’s a real temptation to stay indoors and do your sightseeing through the window if the weather is at all inclement.

The Apartments are located at nos. 15 and 19 Rutland Street (we occupied the ground flower one bedroom apartment at no 15). All of the apartments have top of the range features such as virgin cable televison with, high speed fibre-optic internet, underfloor heating in both the bathrooms and kitchens, a mix of rainfall showers and free-standing feature baths, Nespresso Machines, Corioliss hair straighteners (bit redundant in my case) and a fully-stocked mini bar.

Each apartment has its own individual style, equipped with traditional Scottish architecture complemented with contemporary decor – I particularly liked the portraits in the hall and stairway where a dog’s head is substituted for presumably what was an eminent elder statesman.

The apartments are within a short walk of the castle as well as Edinburgh’s main conference hub, and are ideally placed in the city’s financial district. So they are perfect for the city gent – or lady – who wants to have a good night’s rest before a busy working day ahead. They are also convenient to Waverley and Haymarket train stations as well as public transport to Edinburgh airport. The ground floor and first floor apartments also have a study area – perfect if you want to dive into work mode for an hour or two. As well as being ideal for the corporate client, the apartments are also ideal for the short break visitor who wants something more spacious and welcoming and with more soul than a hotel room. And if you want to bring the family or a group of friends the lower ground floor apartment is ideal.

The Apartments are modestly and competitively priced considering what you get for your money. Our one bedroom ground floor at no 15 was priced at £235 a night, and far better value than hotels at a similar or higher price. Two bedroomed apartments run to £285 a night.

We had our breakfast in the Huxley at the end of the street (also owned by the Rutland Hotel people) and even managed to squeeze in a couple of bar stools at a hectic Sunday lunchtime in the highly popular Kyloe restaurant upstairs. Kyloe is a breed of small Highland cattle and everyone seemed to be having huge steak, and enjoying them, but we broke the mould by ordering oysters.

But there is a drawback to the Rutland Apartments if you are driving… Edinburgh is a nightmare of one-way systems and traffic restrictions, and traffic flows, I was told, change all the time. I found this out when I was tootling down Princes street next to buses, trams and taxis only to realise that cars are of course prohibited.

Using the old maxim, ‘might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb’ I brazenly drove the length of the street and more by accident than design, stopped right on the corner of Rutland Street only to ask a passerby where the Rutland Hotel was. He thought I was winding him up and pointed to the Rutland Hotel sign just across the street.

This experience made it an easy decision to park the car for the rest of the stay and use the NCP car park a couple of streets away. When leaving, the ticket is validated at the hotel giving a quite reasonable £12 rate for each 24 hour stay.

The Castle is of course Edinburgh’s main must-see attraction, but hopefully it will be milder than when we were there. To say it was windy and cold would be an understatement and because of this we did not do it justice.

But a big plus was a visit to Holyrood Palace. What a wonderful informative two-hour tour we had…

I am not a big fan of zoos, but recognise that they do a really worthwhile job in conservation and education – and of course Edinburgh Zoo has two giant pandas! The Press will be filled any day now with speculation as to whether the female panda is pregnant and whether or not there is the chance of the patter of tiny little panda feet later in the year. That undoubtedly keeps the crowds coming in and is the reason that you must pay the rather extortionate entrance fee of £19 (plus another £4 for parking). Apart from the pandas our own much-maligned Bellevue beats Edinburgh Zoo hands down in value for money and for the range and quality of its exhibits – Elephants, Giraffes, Hippo, Large Reptiles and even Kangaroos were conspicuous by their absence when we were there.

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