When we thought about visiting Edinburgh we had a very clear idea about how our accommodation should be: cosy, traditional and it had to involve tartan somehow. Because as much as we love design, when we travel we want to soak up the local vibes, traditions and hospitality. Whether it is an ancient palace in the Algarve coast or a renovated old building in Madrid, we love hotels that give you a sense of place.
And we found The Howard, a luxury boutique hotel located in Edinburgh’s New Town. It’s classic, elegant and remarkably traditional. However, the atmosphere is absolutely relaxed and the service is genuinely kind. You can say that staying at The Howard is like visiting your dear great aunt’s house: you feel welcome, you want to curl up with a nice book under a blanket, wear soft socks and nibble some biscuits, but the atmosphere feels so special and different from your own house… because probably your great aunt has only cashmere blankets and serves biscuits imported from Holland. Homey but luxurious.
Entering the premises – three beautiful Georgian townhouses-, you are transported to a quiet, extremely cosy and private world. The entrance sets the ambience: a discreet dark green door that opens to a wonderful carpeted hall with an impressive staircase. From here, everything seems out of a novel: rich fabrics, beautiful classic furniture and butlers that will bring to your room complementary tea or coffee any time of the day (with deliciously buttery biscuits), unpack your suitcase, prepare a bath for you with incredible Penhaligon’s bath oils and take care of anything you might need.
Every morning breakfast is served in the beautiful dining room that at night hosts the most romantic dinners of The Atholl, the hotel’s restaurant. But let’s focus on breakfast, our favourite meal of the day: a wonderful menu where you can choose full Scottish breakfasts, warm pastries or light plates of fruit among other things. With jazz playing smoothly in the background, that beautiful Georgian atmosphere, surprisingly good coffee and even better cheese your day can’t have a better start.
The rooms at The Howard reflect that cosy yet luxurious ambiance as well. With only 19 rooms named after Edinbugh streets you can be sure that your experience will be particular and different from other guests. Waking up to the rich decor, the textured fabrics and lovely, symmetrical views (the New Town streets are paradise for any OCD personality!) is a comfortive and restorative feeling. We couldn’t help but wondering if we were on the set of a historical period drama. And we loved it. Even more when every night we would come back to our room, carefully turned down, and would enjoy a lovely cup of camomile tea and a couple of those addictive biscuits.
But the jewel of the hotel is the beautiful drawing room where a discreet purple, green and beige tartan was the cherry on top of our Scottish extravaganza. The perfect place for a rainy afternoon with a nice drink and a good book by the fireplace or a delightful afternoon tea, which we enjoyed and which deserves a post on its own. Sit in one of those armchairs and stress will immediately disappear.
The Howard is not the new hippest hotel in town. There are plenty of them. The Howard is a traditional hotel with excelent service and a pleasingly calm atmosphere that offers a unique experience. Because, as you would expect from your great aunt’s home, you will leave reluctantly knowing that the camomile tea with biscuits after a long day, the newspaper left in your room every morning, the opulent fabrics and the thoughtful attention to detail might be old fashioned these days, but it’s exactly what you will miss at home. Like the cashmere blanket.