Where to stay in Edinburgh

Ruth Jackson reviews two luxury hotels in the Scottish capital.

The Balmoral

What's so special

Edinburgh's most famous hotel, at the top of the city's main drag, Princes Street, opened in 1902 as a railway hotel, writes Ruth Jackson. Since then, the great and the good have stayed there: former residents include Laurel and Hardy and the Queen Mother.

How they rate it

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One of the keys to the Balmoral's success is its service. It may no longer have a dedicated entrance from Waverley train station, but the doorman still came to the platform to greet me from my train. Once inside, the service continues amid magnificent luxury the carpets you have to wade through, and the rooms are enormous.

My suite was so large I discovered an additional room just as I was leaving. My only complaint would be that, for £686 a night, I expect more than a self-service cooked breakfast, but that quibble aside, the Balmoral is still the place to stay in the city.

The menu

The Michelin-starred Number One restaurant is every bit as good as you would expect. It offers traditional Scottish dishes such as roe deer served with skirlie, beetroot, blackberries and pea pure.

The cost

Rooms start from £415 per night, room only. See www.thebalmoralhotel.com or call 0800-7666 6667.



What's so special

Situated out in Leith, a district to the north of the city, the Malmaison offers affordable luxury five-minutes drive from the city centre. It is housed in a former Victorian seaman's mission right on the harbour and has views over the water.

How they rate it

With rooms costing more than £300 a night less than the Balmoral, I was expecting a lot less in the way of luxury at Malmaison. However, I was pleasantly mistaken. The rooms are a lot smaller but without being pokey, and the finish is excellent, with muted checked wool throws, large beds and top notch toiletries and televisions. The rooms are quiet and it is a pleasure to look out on the water in the morning before heading down for a full Scottish breakfast.

The menu

The food at the inhouse restaurant is excellent, but out here you are a couple of minutes stroll from one of the best restaurants in Scotland, Restaurant Martin Wishart. It has a Michelin star and food that people travel from miles around to eat. So consider stepping away from the hotel one evening for a gastronomic treat.

The cost

Double rooms start from £89, room only. For more information, visit the website at www.malmaison.com or call 0845-365 4247.

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Hostellerie de l'Abbaye de la Celle

This ten-room inn (pictured)"oozes Provenal charm", from its gardens, where vegetables and herbs for the restaurant are grown, to the service, says Julia Brookes in The Times. Dinner (five courses), and bed and breakfast, start from £228 per person, including a cookbook from the proprietor and famed chef Alain Ducasse (Abbaye-celle.com).

Georges Blanc Restaurant, Vonnas

Chef Georges Blanc's family have been innkeepers in the Rhne-Alpes since 1872 and they own most of the village's buildings, including a three-Michelin-star restaurant and two hotels. A hotel room costs from £163; dinner costs from £110 per person (Georgesblanc.com).

Auberge du Vieux Puits, Fontjoncouse

Given that chef Gilles Goujon has three Michelin stars, the prices at this remote restaurant are reasonable. The menu features "ingenious creations", such as rotten' egg with black truffles, and "the cheese trolley is as big as a Smart car". The hotel is situated in the Languedoc-Rousillon. It is closed from January until mid-March. Menus from £57, rooms from £126 (see www.aubergeduvieuxpuits.fr/).

Bras, Laguiole

The three-Michelin-starred, Pyrenean Bras hotel and restaurant is "set into the mountain like a Bond villain's hideout". It has wraparound views and a choice of three "exquisite set menus". Open from April to October, menus start from £94 with rooms from £220 (Michel-bras.com).