It came of something of a surprise to find that the hotel named in 2013 by Expedia as the best in the UK and the ninth best in the world isn't what you might normally think of as a hotel. The Knight Residence offers guests a real home-away-from-home experience: STB 5 Star serviced apartments that combine elements you'd expect from a hotel with everything you'd want from top-notch self catering. And all in a superb location close to the heart of Edinburgh's Old Town, yet tucked away off the main streets.
Actually, the description "home-away-from-home" doesn't really do The Knight Residence justice. Not many of us enjoy a home environment that includes a maid service and superb standards of housekeeping, or a friendly concierge ever ready to help you out with those essentials you may have forgotten to bring with you, and with suggestions of things to do and places to see in what many regard as the best city in the world.
It's often the smallest of details that make all the difference. Guests' names on the plate on each apartment door express a welcome in a way that is hard to beat, and give a sense of ownership of "your" apartment for the duration of your stay. We were also particularly impressed to find that not only was WiFi easily accessible, there was actually a separate network installed for each apartment: though many of the apartments also provide a second phone line for those who prefer their Internet connections wired. And when we turned up on a particularly hot day (Edinburgh does have them) it was nice to find a large and effective fan in the cupboard in the lounge. Oh, and though it's far from a small detail, it is a real bonus to find city centre accommodation with secure parking readily available. This should be pre-booked and comes at a modest daily charge: it is nice to know that profits raised from car parking are sent to Trees4Scotland to plant trees on guests' behalf.
The Knight Residence can be found in Edinburgh's Lauriston Street, just to the south-west of the Grassmarket and within an easy walk of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street and much else that this remarkably compact city has to offer. What you find is a modern apartment block which accommodates most of the apartments. This is accessed via an attractive entrance on Lauriston Street, while the parking is reached from High Riggs to the rear.
Beyond the front door is the reception lobby, which offers a small library of books and a much larger one of DVDs: and there is a vending machine nearby which carries everything from Kettle Chips and drinks to flannels and adaptor plugs.
The Knight Residence offers 28 one, two and three bedroom apartments. Guests can also choose between "City Apartments" in the main building, and "Comfort Apartments" in the neighbouring annex building. The City Apartments are available as studios or with one or two bedrooms. The Comfort Apartments come with one, two or three bedrooms. As you'd expect, more bedrooms in an apartment also bring more lounge, dining and kitchen space. The differences between "City" and "Comfort" apartments are more subtle. The Comfort Apartments come with slightly better equipped kitchens, while the City Apartments have a 7-day maid service (as opposed to 5-day in the Comfort Apartments); wired Internet in addition to the WiFi enjoyed by all; more recently updated bathrooms; and original artwork. The other difference is that Comfort Apartments are available for a minimum period of four nights.
Whichever you choose, it is worth remembering that the accommodation is graded by VisitScotland as 5 Star, and the standards of fixtures and fittings and the provision of equipment are appropriate to that grading. Disabled car parking is available beside the car park entrance to The Knight Residence, and all floors are accessible by means of a lift.
We approached our stay at The Knight Residence with high expectations. It was fascinating to see this slightly unusual form of accommodation in action and very heartening to see it being done so well, and in a way that achieves such a positive response from guests staying there. Expedia's rankings are driven by customer feedback, and the 2013 result was no flash in the pan. Expedia has regularly rated The Knight Residence among the top 1% of world hotels for customer service: and we can understand why. For those looking to travel further afield, it is worth knowing that Highland Apartments by Mansley in Inverness is owned by the same group and is also outstanding.