Great Places to Stay
- The Howard, Edinburgh
Travel writer Vivien Devlin found The Howard full of luxury on an exquisite, small scale, oozing with quality, tradition and just the right emphasis on formality. Her feature article below explains why.
Located in the elegant heart of Edinburgh's prestigious New Town, The Howard is the most perfect place to stay for the discerning guest in search of first class traditional standards of comfort and hospitality. Great King Street, just a short walk into the city centre, is a most attractive wide cobbled avenue of grand Georgian homes, balanced at each end with the private gardens of Drummond Place and Royal Circus.
Not a "Hotel"
The Howard is always referred to as such - to apply the term "hotel" would not seem applicable. This is more akin to a private townhouse where registration is discreetly taken care off in your room, butlers will attend to your every request and you may select a luxurious suite with your own front door leading to the street through a patio garden for ultimate privacy and seclusion.
The Howard consists of three adjoining terraced houses originally built as individual homes for wealthy merchant families in 1829 and now immaculately restored to provide eighteen beautiful and individually designed bedrooms and suites. The elegant hallway framed with two tall marble pillars, a table with a vase of fresh lilies and beyond the sweeping staircases leading to your room, is warm and welcoming.
Whatever your accommodation you will find delightful rooms with ensuite bathrooms, quality fabrics, drapes and furnishings in rich colours of burgundy, royal blue and gold, canopied or four poster beds, roll top claw-foot Victorian baths, classic style wallpapers, pictures and prints and even perhaps an classic black bakelite telephone. The graceful drawing room is quite stunning featuring a crystal chandelier, antique furniture, oil paintings, comfortable sofas, scatter cushions table lamps and vases of fresh flowers - the ideal setting for afternoon tea or pre-dinner drinks. On the other side of the hallway is the intimate and charming Atholl Dining room, featuring original hand-painted murals. Janey Armstrong and Mhairi Taylor carefully created the artistic renovation and contemporary yet classic interior design.
Peter Taylor of the Townhouse Company, which also owns and manages two other superb Edinburgh hotels, Channings and The Bonham, purchased the Howard in 1995. The entire renovation over the past few years has been a dedicated labour of love to ensure that the quality, style and overall ambience has been retained in keeping with the Georgian period architecture.
Staying at The Howard
On arrival at the Howard one Friday evening at around 6pm, my partner and I were taken immediately downstairs to our room, the Marchmont, one of the newly designed terrace suites on the garden level. These magnificent exclusive "apartments", to use a more descriptive word, offer everything you could wish for to ensure a very comfortable stay for leisure or business with home-from-home facilities and space which are perfect for relaxing, in-room dining and entertaining.
There is a spacious drawing room, with sofa, armchairs, coffee table, dining table and large satellite TV. This room has access via your own [securely locked] front door, leading through a private patio to Great King Street. You may then come and go, day or night without venturing through the hall and public rooms, ideal for celebrities, honeymooners or anyone wishing that little extra touch of privacy.
There's a guest bathroom beside the lounge and also, off the hall, a small kitchenette cupboard with fridge and kettle for drinks and snacks. At the far end of the hall with a view over the back gardens is a sumptuous bedroom, with four poster bed and classic old-fashioned dark mahogany dressing table and wardrobes. The en-suite bathroom is huge, featuring a rather special (and extremely romantic) jacuzzi bath as well as a separate power shower. As you might expect the complimentary range of soaps and toiletries is top of the range, Floris of London, with piles of soft white towels on a heated rail and comfortable, cosy bathrobes in which to lounge around after a restful soak in the hot tub.
We were informed that Johnny was our butler for the evening and if there was anything we required - room service, drinks, theatre tickets, restaurant booking, ironing - any request would be personally attended to. Unpacking our overnight case we realised that a shirt and silk dress would now need pressed before dinner. These were immediately collected and returned within twenty minutes. This level of attentive VIP service is just so welcome - and certainly beats struggling with the trouser press and a borrowed iron from housekeeping.
Dining at The Howard
Room Service has always been an important and extensive part of hospitality at the Howard, where guests may appreciate private dining for breakfast or dinner. For the past couple of years following the closure of the No. 36 restaurant to make way for the three terrace suites, there has not been a hotel dining room. Therefore a butler would serve a full three course dinner in your room if required. Now, while you may still request room service, dinner is also served in the Atholl Dining Room, offering a limited yet carefully selected menu featuring the very best of Scottish cuisine with a French twist.
The menu is a neat collaboration between French Head Chef at the Bonham, Michel Bouyer who took four years` classical training in Paris before moving to Edinburgh and Scottish chef Brian Jaram, previously sous-chef at Channings and now Senior chef at the Howard.
For example to start with a velvety smooth White Onion soubise with blue stilton dumpling or a very tasty, almost main course size, Organic Nicoise Salad with quails egg (precisely one!) and seared tuna, Whisky cured Summer isles Smoked Salmon accompanied by blinis and creme fraiche. Then a choice of Oven roasted Rack of Lamb, dauphinois potato and roast garlic jus tranche, Scotch beef "Facon Rossini", a vegetarian wild mushroom Risotto or Pan Fried Scottish salmon with a confit of fennel and chive butter sauce. Thus for those who do prefer fish there is rather too much reliance on salmon.
The Atholl has just recently opened and is slowly developing its own individual style with a new menu every few weeks to ring the changes.
Puddings include a fabulous lemon tart with fresh berries, vanilla creme brulée and a selection of French cheeses. Complete the dinner with coffee, a Drambuie perhaps and petit fours in the drawing room in front of the fire.
As the Howard is a sister hotel of the Bonham and Channings, an alternative choice of dinner one evening during your stay is to visit their very individual and excellent restaurants and just a short taxi ride away. Just a five minute walk away is the new Harvey Nichols and other great fashion shops on George Street and Princes Street, as well as a selection of excellent stylish bars, restaurants and National art galleries.
This is luxury on an exquisite small scale, oozing with quality, tradition and just the right emphasis on formality. If you are looking for superior accommodation but are often frustrated with the vast, often-anonymous city centre hotels, then select the Howard for a taste of the genuine article. A perfect blend of old fashioned homely comforts and a tranquil ambience amidst beautiful classic furnishings and style.
Here you will find truly personal service where your butler and all staff take pleasure to pamper you with every care and attention. For the romantic at heart, this is your address in Edinburgh for a discreet liaison, where you can hide away in a suite with your own private front door.
The Howard was recently awarded 4 red stars and has been selected for the elite list of the top 200 best hotels in the UK, according to the new AA Hotel Guide, 2003 which describes the Townhouse as "quietly elegant....unique....splendid....impressive".
Indeed. I feel that the most discerning world traveller would be inspired and impressed by the quiet gentility and understated perfection which goes someway to describe the delicious experience of staying at the Howard.
For more information or to make a reservation, see The Howard Website.
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