The Howard Hotel, Edinburgh

34 Great King Street, Edinburgh, EH3 6QH. (Tel: +44 (0)131 557 3500).

Photo: The Howard Hotel.In the middle of January Jim and I felt that we needed to relax and enjoy a little bit of luxury so we headed through to Edinburgh and spent a most enjoyable couple of days at The Howard Hotel. This wonderful little hotel is a member of the group "Small Luxury Hotels of the World' and has consistently been recognised by the AA as one of the top 200 hotels in Britain and Ireland. Bearers of this knowledge we set off with high expectations and we were in no way disappointed.

Photo: desk and windows. In fact our positive impressions were gained before we left home when we received an email from the Guest Services Manager offering assistance in planning every aspect of our stay. This included help in organising itineraries, making theatre or restaurant reservations, beauty treatments and even 'exclusive golfing' or 'private fishing'. In fact any type of assistance with 'no request too large or too small'. We had no firm plans so had no requests, however, when we arrived we very much enjoyed being looked after by the Howard's team of butlers.

Really, the staff were so pleasant and could not do enough to make you feel welcome. When we arrived at the hotel, situated in the heart of the city, in a lovely Georgian terrace, we were grateful for tea and homemade shortbread, which was served in a beautiful sitting room in front of a toasty fire.

Photo: The Howard Hotel.The hotel is small, with eighteen bedrooms, which are named after streets in Edinburgh. They are all quite different and our traditional double room was Melrose and we loved it, with its large canopied bed and tasteful drapes, little writing table, and comfy couch and most of all the three windows overlooking George Street. It was spacious and relaxing with a lovely bathroom with a great big tub and also a shower.

The comfort of the room was very important as my energy levels were still a bit low after a troublesome chest infection and I tended to run out of steam before Jim, so when I felt a bit tired I left him to investigate more galleries and more bookshops and I happily trotted back to the hotel to relax.

Photo: Edinburgh Princess Street winter night.Edinburgh is a great destination and surely has one of the best main streets of any city. Princes Street is always great with Edinburgh Castle looming above, the shops bustling with activity on one side and the gardens opposite. With the Christmas lights and Winter Gardens it is even more spectacular. We enjoyed all the bustle of the late evening shoppers plundering the January sales; the drama of the Edinbugh Wheel creating an interesting skyline and watching the motley crew of mixed ability skaters making their way around the Winter Wonderland ice rink.

Photo: aaron connolly. We took in the old and the new; we had dinner in Harvey Nichols' restaurant with its superb views over the city, went to visit the Scottish Parliament (for the first time)and wandered up the Royal Mile past the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Like true tourists we bought some tartan tack and we also took time to check out the work of Ranald McColl, Glasgow Westender, who designed the very intriguing Albanach Pub, where we were served by a charming Irishman, Aaron Connolly.

Photo: The Bourne Gallery. I had a great time investigating all the the lovely little boutiques in the very elegant George Street and met up with Jim to dine in CentrOtre - a super stylish Italian restaurant. Then afterwards we ventured back out into the frosty night and walked down Hanover Street admiring all the little galleries.

We loved our short trip and came home very refreshed. I particularly enjoyed our leisurely breakfasts in The Howard, with great porridge, toast, tasty sausages, lashings of tea and coffee all served with a smile.

Everything at The Howard was perfect and our trip allowed me to thoroughly throw off those Winter blues.

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You will find more photographs from our trip to Edinburgh in Jim's January Photo-Diary

9th February, 2006.