FANCY a weekend break in Edinburgh that won’t cost a fortune? Then look to the Auld Alliance – France’s Ibis Hotels have been popping up across the capital apace, with new examples of all three brands – Ibis, Budget and Ibis Styles – and I managed to fit the lot into one whistle-stop weekend.
BUDGET OR BOUTIQUE?
Yes. The new Ibis Budget at Edinburgh Park serves the value end of the market, while Ibis on South Bridge and Ibis Styles at St Andrew Square both hit the mid-range – but with very different mission statements.
The Budget is surprisingly funky for the tiny price, with bright, futuristic fittings that stay the right side of gaudy. Kids will love the bunk set above the parents’ double bed in the cocoon-style Triple Room and the company’s patented Sweet Beds – they’re present across the brand – make for a superb slumber. Tea and coffee comes from vending machines in reception, but there’s bottled water waiting in the room. There’s no room service with Ibis, but you can order food to collect, and the unlimited breakfast buffet is first class. Plus, there’s easy free access wi-fi in all the hotels, along with air-conditioning and flatscreen Freeview. The sci-fi shower has a light-up head (little things...). And if you’re driving, there’s free parking. The view is Edinburgh Park, unsurprisingly, but it’s perfectly sited for the tram stop.
The latest Ibis on South Bridge in the Old Town has a parking arrangement with nearby NCP, as this towering newbuild – it rose like a friendly phoenix from the ashes of the 2002 Cowgate blaze – steps up from the Budget’s brilliant one-star to a rather fine three. Our room was comfortable, with a great view of the historic streets, and this time the shower and WC shared a spot. There were tea and coffee facilities but a paucity of power points – one UK, one continental – meant we had to drag the kettle across the room, balance it on the suitcase stand, and hope for the best. Still, how many hotels offer a shoeshine machine – fun for all the family!
The 103-room Styles venue knocked our socks off, with modernist décor that nods to the building’s past as a finance house and revels in cheery Scottishness. Rooms feature digital wall art depicting the likes of banknotes, stags and highland cows; there are guides to Scots terms embroidered into the carpets; the bedside table is a whisky barrel... It all sounds a bit mad, but it’s rather witty and wonderful, as was our top floor view of the New Town looking to the Forth. And there are plenty of plugs if you want to make a cuppa. This place is a three-star hotel with five-star thinking, and it has a parking deal with the nearby Omni Centre. The Styles staff were as helpful as everyone we encountered over the weekend (and how we love it that South Bridge staff wear Converse shoes with their suits). Our one quibble is common to all three hotels – no hand towels. Anyway, just pack a wee cloth or two and you’ll be fine.
WINING AND DINING
Edinburgh Park isn’t exactly a fine dining area but there’s a Frankie & Benny’s across the road at the Gyle shopping centre. The two city hotels, though, are well-sited for posher places, such as Castle Terrace, the Witchery, Ondine, along with every other eatery you can think of. In-hotel facilities include a rather nice restaurant at South Bridge and both it and the Styles offer suave bars.
WORTH GETTING OUT OF BED FOR
All three Ibis brands are designed for city breaks, so are not trying to tempt you to stay in the hotels. Hence, you won’t find gyms and spas. The decent-sized rooms at the Budget and Ibis, though, are inviting enough for a rest in between activities such as a Mercat vaults tour (ask for the brilliant Linda) or a trip to Edinburgh Zoo or Castle. Or the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Or the Royal Yacht Britannia... get a VisitScotland pass to save money on dozens of attractions. The Styles hotel, however, does make staying in a delightful prospect, with the sheer splendour of the rooms, the arty wee bar and sundry cosy nooks.
South Bridge greeted us with classy sweeties, while the Styles had still and sparkling water and branded cupcakes – yum.
Ibis Budget Edinburgh Park, rooms from £35 per night, breakfast £4.95, (0131-446 5900); Ibis Edinburgh Centre South Bridge, rooms from £59, breakfast included, (0131-292 2000); Ibis Styles St Andrew Square, rooms from £79, breakfast included (0131-292 0200, all details at www.ibis.com). www.visitscotland.com, www.mercattours.com