The Carlton Hotel stands in a prominent position in the Edinburgh landscape. The hotel occupies the entire eastern side of North Bridge south of its ceasing to be an actual bridge over Waverley Station. Yet it hides its sheer size behind and above street level shops and a bank, and as a result is all too easy to overlook. And this is a hotel which should not be overlooked. The Carlton combines good quality accommodation with excellent dining and outstanding service and is a hotel we would recommend to anyone staying in the city. You can read our dining review for The Carlton Hotel here.
North Bridge was built to allow access between the Old Town and the New when the latter was developed in the 1760s. The railway then arrived in the valley below in the mid 1800s and North Bridge was widened between 1894 and 1897. The very fine buildings that stand on its east side were added in 1898. The Carlton Hotel originally occupied the northern half of the building it occupies today. It was only in more recent times that the hotel expanded to take over the rest of the block.
On entering from North Bridge you are greeted by an airy reception area finished in light shades. Off to one side you find the long reception desk, but your attention is drawn first to the magnificent staircase that leads up to the first floor and cries out "Hollywood" or, more prosaically, a solution to the problem of wedding photographs on a rainy day. There is also an entrance from Market Street, almost opposite the southern exit from Waverley Railway Station.
The rest of the public areas are on the first floor. Here you find the Bridge Bar and Lounge. This is open throughout the day (and late into the evening), offering snacks and light meals, afternoon teas and drinks. To one side of this is the Bridge Restaurant. Here guests are served breakfast over an unusually long service period, and here, too, are served the excellent dinners on offer. You can read our dining review for The Carlton Hotel here.
The rest of the first floor is occupied by meeting/conference function rooms, which can accommodation events of up to 220 seated in theatre layout, or weddings of up to 200. The Carlton's central position makes it an obvious location for a meeting, and it no surprise that it is also becoming increasingly popular as a wedding venue. The hotel's leisure facilities are also very popular, both with guests and local members. Hidden way in one of the lower levels of the hotel is a swimming pool, unusually large fitness and training areas, a gym and a steam room, beauty treatment areas, and, remarkably, two full size squash courts.
There are 189 en-suite guest bedrooms at The Carlton. They are housed on the upper four floors of the hotel and enjoy outlooks in every direction, including over North Bridge itself and the High Street (part of the Royal Mile), while others look north towards the New Town and east towards Holyrood Palace and Park. There are three main types of room on offer: doubles, twins (which can be linked to form doubles) and premium rooms, though some larger family rooms, and some singles, are available. All are equipped to the standards you would expect from a good four star hotel, and standards of maintenance and, especially, housekeeping, are very good indeed. The emphasis is on straightforward comfort rather than a design-led boutique approach, though the more recently refurbished bathrooms would give many boutique hotels a run for their money. As with any city centre hotel, some rooms look out onto nearby roads while others have a quieter outlook.
Accessibility is good. There are six largely accessible rooms, and access is straightforward in the public areas, where facilities are available.
We approached our visit to The Carlton with high expectation, while recognising it is about as "city centre" as a city centre hotel can be. Our expectations were easily surpassed in all areas. Guest accommodation is comfortable and the beds and bathrooms are especially good. The public areas are welcoming and well thought through. And the free WiFi is very welcome. But the one thing that holds all this together and really makes your stay a memorable one is the commitment of every single member of staff you meet to giving you the best possible stay: from those on the reception desk to the waiting staff in the dining room and the man with the ladder emerging from the lift as we were departing.