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Issue 27 - A new lease of life

Scotland Magazine Issue 27
June 2006


This article is 12 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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A new lease of life

The Old Waverley Hotel is blessed and cursed by its past. Sally Toms reports

Ensconced in a comfy corner gazing at an array of spirits bottles on the bar, it’s hard to believe that when The Old Waverley Hotel originally threw open its doors it was the first Temperance hotel in Scotland.

Opening a teetotal hotel in 1848 on the best street in the city was a bold move at the time, and as such it became popular with radicals and reformers of every kind.

In its day, it was very grand indeed.

It is still the oldest operating hotel in Scotland, but time takes its toll and in recent years this distinguished old gentleman was starting to look a bit tired.

But, all that is set to change. Experienced hoteliers the Kapoor family bought the hotel last year and have given it a new lease of life.

The new owners are keen to maximise its potential, but from a business point of view there are problems modernising a B-listed building such as The Old Waverley – you can’t touch the exterior and there’s only so much you can do to the interiors to bring them up to date.

“It’s restricting,” admits Ricky Kapoor, commercial director, with an expression that says it’s more than restricting.

The hotel lobby, for example, is on the first floor and there is no elevator that can be used. There is a bell to ring for the porter if you need help with luggage.

The layout of the building hasn’t changed in 150 years; there are high ceilings and narrow corridors with twists and turns and steps. The benefit of which is that you don’t feel like you’re sandwiched together in identical boxes. The trouble with long corridors found in many modern hotels is that sound travels right along them and you can hear your neighbours coming and going at all hours. The warren-like layout of The Old Waverley may seem dated, but gives you an element of privacy.

The staff seem rather apologetic about it all and really go the extra mile when it comes to customer service.

“We’re a three star hotel with four star service,” boasts Ricky.

Similarly, all the bedrooms are different in size and layout. They have high ceilings and large windows reminiscent of the period, but have all been refurbished with big comfortable beds, soft carpets and heavy curtains. The en-suite bathrooms are decked out in trendy granite and all the rooms are equipped with the standard hotel survival kit; television, broadband, tea and coffee facilities, etc.

Cranston’s Restaurant (a nod to the hotel’s temperate founder, Robert Cranston) is bright and sunny, and the Kapoors are obviously trying hard to lure back its diners.

The bar area is a perfect spot for shoppers to grab a quiet bite to eat well above the madding crowds on Princes Street.

But what really sets this hotel apart is its location.

The front facing bedrooms are so close to the statue of Sir Walter Scott on his monument, you can count the pigeon droppings on his head.

From the window in your bedroom you can see right across Princes Street Gardens to The Mound and the Castle beyond.

You can hear the pipers busking on the corner of Waverley Bridge and the chatter of shoppers as they hurry along Princes Street.

Of course, the rooms are unavoidably noisy on this side of the hotel. If it really bothers you take a room at the back of the hotel where it’s quiet – but you’ll be missing out on what makes this hotel so special.

As a tourist, you couldn’t ask for a better base from which to explore the city. Next door to The Old Waverley is Jenners and Princes Street is still the best street in the city (for shopping that is). World class attractions, art galleries, restaurants and everything else that Edinburgh has to offer are all within a stone’s throw.

It couldn’t be easier to get to, either.

Waverley Bridge, barely a two minute walk from the hotel, is the dropping off point for buses from the airport. The £3 fare is not bad price to pay to be delivered to your door.

The big red sight seeing buses also pick up from the bridge and go all over Edinburgh.

Buy a ticket and you can hop on and off all day as you wish.

Admittedly, The Old Waverley Hotel is a few stars short of likes of The Balmoral and The Caledonian, but it’s the better choice for those on a budget; presently the rates are £129 for a single room or £169 for a double, and special deals are frequently on offer.

Short of pitching a tent in Princes Street Gardens, you couldn’t get much closer to the heart of Edinburgh.

And what price can you put on that?

The Old Waverley Hotel, 43 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 2BY Tel: +44 (0)131 556 4648