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Review: the Kimpton Charlotte Square hotel, Edinburgh

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This is our review of the Kimpton Charlotte Square hotel in Edinburgh.

Kimpton is not a brand you might be familiar with in the UK.  The chain was only in the US when IHG bought it back in 2014.  The first European property was Kimpton De Witt in Amsterdam, which we have reviewed twice (see our latest Kimpton De Witt review here).

Back in 2018, IHG announced it was purchasing the small UK hotel chain Principal and rebranding many of them as Kimpton.  Kimpton did not, at the time, have any UK presence.

Principal Charlotte Square is one of these properties and re-opened in March under the new name.  You can also see Rob’s mini-review of the Principal Manchester which is still transitioning to the new brand.  I also visited Principal St. Davids Cardiff which ended up as a voco (review here).  We have also had a tour of London’s Kimpton Fitzroy which you can read here and which may be the best IHG hotel in London.

You can see the Kimpton Charlotte Square page on the IHG website here.

IHG offered us a free night at Kimpton Charlotte Square.  I was up in Edinburgh to review the new Aspire Lounge at Edinburgh Airport, which you can read here.

Our review of Kimpton Charlotte Square

Kimpton Charlotte Square is housed in several former Georgian town houses, although it has been a hotel since the mid 1800s. If you know Edinburgh it is very conveniently located just off the west end of Princes Street.  It is within short walking distance of pretty much all the major Edinburgh attractions and shops.

(As an aside this was my first time in Edinburgh and I was surprised at the beauty of the city but also how compact the city centre is. It is very, very doable on foot.)

Click on any of the pictures to enlarge:

Kimpton Charlotte Square

The main entrance is through the front door of one of the original town houses, which gives the hotel a lovely homely feel.  Here is the lobby:

Kimpton Charlotte Square lobby

I was quickly checked in and given a ‘Superior Townhouse’ room on the second floor, which had views over Charlotte Square itself.  Unfortunately I was too late for the classic Kimpton ‘Wine Hour’ from 5pm-6pm which happens across the Kimpton chain.

The room

My room was in one of the original buildings. (There are also rooms in a newer wing):

Kimpton Charlotte Square room

and

Kimpton Charlotte Square room

It was a generous size, with plenty of space on either side of the bed. On the far wall is a small writing desk as well as wardrobe with mini-fridge, coffee and tea facilities, safe, umbrella and yoga mat (!)

…. whilst there were two high-backed armchairs and table near the door:

Kimpton Charlotte Square room

The TV is mounted opposite the bed, between two windows.

The bathroom at Kimpton Charlotte Square

The bathroom is an elongated shape but again a decent size:

Kimpton Charlotte Square bathroom

It features a shower-over-tub and Master Vetivert toiletries.

I did notice, however, that no hand soap was provided, with only hand lotion at the sink. After asking at reception I was provided with a small wrapped bar of soap as well as an extra bottle of body wash. I got the impression that hand soap was not standard – I’m not sure if the hand lotion was meant to be liquid soap and had been placed there in error.

Leisure facilities

Kimpton Charlotte Square has a spa with pool, sauna and steam room as well as gym. Both facilities are in the basement of the hotel, and come with a changing room.

There were several people using the facilities when I went down to check it out, so I didn’t take any photographs. The pool is atmospherically lit and both the steam room and sauna are nicely appointed. Here is a stock photo:

Kimpton Charlotte Square spa

The gym positively surprised me.  It is remarkably big, although due to the restrictions of the basement it takes up a series of adjacent rooms and alcoves and is hard to photograph:

Kimpton Charlotte Square gym

This is one of the better hotel gyms I have seen, with plenty of cardio and weight lifting equipment. There were two personal trainers working with clients at the time I went – I’m not sure if these are hotel guests or external customers using the facilities, as is sometimes the case.

Back upstairs, the hotel has several rooms of casual seating akin to a lounge:

Kimpton Charlotte Square

….. which is great for business meetings or when you need a quiet spot to work. I’m not sure if they are serviced by the cafe or bar (I assume they are) but they are a nice place to hang out.

Dinner

The Kimpton Charlotte Square has two restaurants on site: The Garden and BABA.  The Garden, which is in a glass conservatory in between the different wings is a more ‘typical’ restaurant serving a range of burgers, steak, pizza etc.  BABA is a speciality Lebanese restaurant and appears to attract significant external custom.

Kimpton Charlotte Square BABA

It’s not often that a hotel has a Lebansese themed restaurant so I chose to have dinner at BABA. It is a very atmospheric, dimly lit restaurant although it has large floor to ceiling windows on two sides. There are a range of tables booth and bar seating, as well as a large shared table, which is where I sat.

I went for the baba ganoush:

Kimpton Charlotte Square baba ganoush

…. as well as chargrilled prawns:

Kimpton Charlotte Square prawn

…. and iberico pork neck, mojo verde, pineapple and lardo:

Kimpton Charlotte Square pork

The irony of going to a Lebanese restaurant and ordering pork rather than lamb was not lost on me.  The food was excellent and fresh, and the menu and Mezze style dining means that you can experiment with lots of different dishes which I always enjoy.  If you are nearby I would recommend BABA even if you are staying elsewhere.

Breakfast at Kimpton Edinburgh

Breakfast is served in the aforementioned Garden restaurant:

Kimpton Charlotte Square the garden

The main focus is the a la carte menu.  If you are in a hurry, there is a small buffet with juices, cereals, yoghurts, fruit and smoked salmon:

Kimpton Charlotte Square breakfast

and

Kimpton Charlotte Square the garden

The majority of the food is cooked to order from an a la carte menu.  This was a refreshing change and a relaxing way to start the day.  I ordered the full Scottish breakfast:

…. which came with haggis.  I have never had haggis before so I had to try it and it was remarkably good. If I had not known what it was made of I would have enjoyed it a lot more, however! The bacon, however, was a bit overdone.

Conclusion

Barring the odd case of the missing soap, Kimpton Charlotte Square has a lot to offer and I was very pleased with my stay. I was particularly impressed by the leisure facilities which were clean, modern and clearly well looked after.

The food was good too and serving Lebanese food in BABA makes the restaurant stand out. If you’re not a fan of Lebanese food there is also the option of The Garden or, of course, you can take a short walk into further into town.  (There is a Las Iguanas opposite, although that is clearly a downgrade.)

Remember that you should aim to arrive before 5pm if you want to make the most of the Wine Hour.

As an IHG Rewards Club redemption you are looking at 55,000 points per night.  This is very poor value off season, when rooms can cost as little as £115.  Using points might make more sense as you get into the Summer peak.

Rob’s valuation of an IHG Rewards Club point is 0.4p so you should be saving rather than spending your points unless your room will cost more than £200.

You can see more about Kimpton Charlotte Square on the IHG website here.   Thank you to the hotel team for arranging my stay.

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Comments (47)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Derek Scott says:

    I would add that BABA faces onto George Street, which is just around the corner from the hotel,entrance, and George Street has a whole host of great restaurants and bars to choose from. Cafe Andaluz (Spanish), is a particularly well known and popular one in the city.

  • Neil P says:

    Thanks for the review. For those of us outside of London who often travel by car, could you include in your city centre hotel reviews information on car parking. This can vary significantly both in cost (where available) and security/safety, and is often an important factor in choosing a hotel, particularly in such a wonderful city as Edinburgh.

    • Colin MacKinnon says:

      In the case of Edinburgh – with a train from London in just over four hours and buses and trams from the airport – I would say forget about the car!

      If you are planning days trips to East Lothian, St Andrews etc, then stay in a hotel outside Edinburgh.

      If going to see the sights in Edinburgh, you’ll be walking around the city – or taking a taxi. There is simply no parking in the main tourist areas (or what there is means you’ll spend more time walking to and from the car park than you would just walking where you want to go!)

      So the key to Edinburgh, I feel, is a city centre hotel. The Roxburgh – sorry, Kimpton – ticks that box.

      Although some would say you might be even better in The George, or whatever it is called now, in the middle of George Street. And there is a school of thought that the fun in Edinburgh is moving from the West End to the east at the end of the tram line, such as Broughton Street. In which case the Glasshouse is a fabulous hotel – and quiet!

    • the_real_a says:

      I agree. For sure you wouldn’t expect people to arrive in a car for central London, but properties outside of London i would expect car parking availability and cost to be an important consideration. Its a major omission IMO… but as Rob tells us the site is read mainly by London folk who presumably dont have cars.

      • ankomonkey says:

        No cars? Sounds like a real backwater, this London place…

        • Shoestring says:

          carless probably frees you up if you live in a city! and saves you money

          last time it happened for me, I was living for a year in Florence/ Firenze as a student so obvs couldn’t really afford a car

          it was great in terms of Florence, ie cheapo buspass getting you everywhere, I used to go to Fiesole to read for a couple of hours etc

          and whenever a longer journey came up, no problem – skiing a few times plus Sicily and down south by train

          but no car sorts of limits you in terms of just feeling you can go on a jaunt for peanuts whenever the urge takes you – obvs the sunk costs are there but the variable costs are negligible

          speaking as the guy with 5 cars – and they don’t cost a bomb to keep on the road – though I did give 2 bottles of bubbly to my local garage, ace guys who don’t rip me off

      • David says:

        Disagree, especially for Edinburgh. You don’t want a car.
        Also disagree for city centre hotels in all other places too.

  • Joe says:

    I stayed here back in May and wasn’t that impressed, although in large part that’s because we were given a tiny room overlooking the bins and were woken up by bottles being emptied into them early in the morning despite requesting a quiet room. This was disappointed after receiving very generous upgrades at Kimptons in the US and at the Principal Manchester, but perhaps that’s me having unreasonable expectations (I’m Spire).

    We also had issues at breakfast with items being missing from the cooked to order breakfast – since breakfast wasn’t included in our rate and it wasn’t cheap to add it I also wasn’t impressed. We chased the missing items but no one brought them. They did give us a discount, but only after I asked.

    I’m fairly certain the gym is open to the public – there is actually an entrance to the hotel directly from Rose St which goes past the gym, however from Rose St the entrance is branded much more like a gym than a hotel.

  • Mr(s) Entitled says:

    The article opens with the admission that HfP could have hosted a small (for that is HfP’s expectation) gathering this year in Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Manchester with minimal effort. Publication in advance of date, time, location of hotel bar/lounge is all the effort required. Something to consider in the future to mitigate the London bias comments each time HfP host another London event?

    • Doug M says:

      I don’t understand this, it looks like a hotel review to me.

      • Mr(s) Entitled says:

        Join the dots.

        The articles shines a light on the oft repeated reason that a meeting outside London isn’t viable because it would take 3-4 days of work, multiple trips to source venue etc. This against a back drop of insufficient numbers.

        But if HfP is in Edinburgh anyway, host a drop in. I’ll be in X bar between 6-8pm if anyone is local and wants to say hi.

        Seems like a win/win and an easy bit of PR.

  • Tom says:

    Sorry Rhys, but I can’t help but feel Joe’s review as a Spire above is the far more accurate one.

    The fact that pretty much every HfP review these days starts with ‘x offered us a free night’ or ‘x airline offered us a free ticket’ makes me take every HfP review with a massive pinch of salt these days. It’s not just that there may or may not be bias on the writer’s part as a result, more importantly it’s that the hotel very much ‘knows who you are’ and therefore likely treats you far better than even a standard guest with top tier status can probably expect otherwise. Still find a lot of HfP content useful, but the reviews which are not paid for by HfP directly I could absolutely do without.

    • Nick says:

      +1 to that…I don’t usually pay much notice when it’s a gushing review as you can probably guarantee it’s not the real traveller experience

    • MikeL says:

      Valid point

      • Rob says:

        But what ‘special’ treatment is there?! No bottle of champagne at check in. No suite upgrade. We were not upgraded to that room from a base room, it is what they gave us for the review (and if you want a similar room you can have it for cash).

        Even when we review paid stays it is on the back of top tier status which is equally distorting in terms of treatment.

        If you look at my St Regis New York review this year, for eg, I get upgraded to a $2500 suite and get $90 breakfast credit due to status. That is arguably more distorting. No-one complained that a non-Titanium Elite wouldn’t have anything like as good a stay.

        • Tom says:

          Come on Rob, you’re smarter than that, upgrading to a suite or offering a bottle of champagne for free is pretty obvious. I’m talking about making sure you get the best room in a category, briefing the staff not to make you wait at breakfast, make sure the reviewer feels looked after, etc. That’s pretty easy to do when you are already identified as a reviewer before you even arrive. If you don’t see it, fine, choose not to.

          • Doug M says:

            If you find bias in the review ignore it. If a travel site of this nature is offered a room for a review anyone should be smart enough to factor that in to their take from the review. What I would say if I’ve stayed many times in some hotels, and the room you get is usually to suit the hotel not the customer.

          • Rhys says:

            The only place where this was even mildly possible was at my stay in the Four Seasons Langkawi where literally everyone, including the golf cart drivers, knew my name and who I was.

            I have never experienced that since. Even if there is a note on the booking, the only person that sees this is the person checking you in. Everyone else – breakfast staff, spa staff etc do not know who you are or what your name is!

          • Doug M says:

            I’ve just thought of the best example of that I’ve personally encountered. Stayed in a place in Santa Monica, small tower. At check-in was offered a high floor Pacific view, thought yes please, having expected a room overlooking the dumpster based on what I’d paid. Short version, the back of the hotel overlooked the Santa Monica Courthouse and the OJ Simpson civil trial was on. The entire rear of the hotel was booked out by TV stations looking for camera shots of the courthouse. The front views of the Pacific were of no interest.

          • Rob says:

            In which case Rhys would not have had a burnt breakfast!

            In general you give too much credit to people. We don’t get free status or discounts and even getting review nights is like pulling teeth much of the time.

            If I was running IHG UK I’d be giving top tier status to the 25 most influential reviewers and sending them invites to every new opening. Doesn’t happen – which is stupid given our reach. When I was at The Langley in Summer, at least 4 of the 40 rooms were occupied by HFP readers and those were just the ones who identified themselves.

    • Rhys says:

      You’d be surprised how often staff don’t know who you are or why you’re there.

      Or that – despite knowing that – they still screw it up somehow (see the lack of soap etc etc).

      It can also be very easy to see (especially in flight reviews) whether you’re being treated the same as everyone else – just watch the cabin crew deal with those sat in front!

      • Dev says:

        Rhys,

        In my experience, most Four Seasons hotels in Asia make an effort to recognise guests by name. From the bell desk team on arrival, to housekeeping staff and servers in the hotel restaurants, I am usually addressed by name. Clearly I am not a travel blogger.

        Every morning, I understand that the FS teams are briefed on the guests, especially returning guests, and most team members remember the names. On one occasion, I was returning to a particular FS property after almost two years. When my taxi stopped at the front door, one of the team members opened the door and said “Welcome back Mr. B…”

        So it is not surprising to me that the staff at the FS Langkawi knew your name. Not necessarily anything to do with this blog.

        • Rhys says:

          Agreed – this is what I mean. At Four Seasons they are trained to recognise guests by name, so they could *theoretically* be on their best behaviour.

          At most other hotels the staff have no idea who I am, so I could be anyone!

      • Alan says:

        Although they clearly do do some briefings at times. I was booked into the Doubletree Dundee for a month when repair work was underway at my flat and was greeted the first morning at breakfast by staff welcoming staying they’d heard about me at their morning briefing! They were a bit shocked I only wanted cereal but I dread to think how much weight I’d have put on with a full cooked breakkie every day 🙂

    • RussellH says:

      I would be tempted to agree that one ought to get preferential treatment when a hotel offers you a free stay – except for the not insignificant number of poor stays that I have had under these sort of circumstances!
      Yes, there was one hotel where the proprietrix made a big thing of how I should stay on such-and-such an day, as she wanted to be able to give me one of the very best rooms.
      But there was also the hotel where I must have waited 30 mins. to be served breakfast (it was very busy) only to have the owner come to me and say “You are the travel professional, yes? So you understand how it is – sorry, but it will be another 10 – 15 minutes before we can get to you!”.
      ie – you have got a free room, be grateful for that and do not expect anything special!

      I can give you at least three other examples of poor service, just for 5* places if you want, though these situations are slightly different, in that the room had not been gifted directly to me, but to the German National Tourist Office at a very knock-down rate and then oassed on to me, and others.

  • Colin MacKinnon says:

    And now, to add to the spirit of Xmas, isn’t it really really really annoying when a hotel charges for breakfast on redemptions?

    I have two nights in a Protea Hotel in South Africa and the ONLY people in the hotel paying for breakfast will be those on redemptions – breakfast is even free for people booking its hotels.com and the like!

    Emailed the hotel to confirm, and they said yes, it is a tenner each per night!

    ps. My UK free night with SPG card was OK to be used in South Africa. So shouldn’t be too grumpy! It is Xmas after all!!

    • Alan says:

      Totally agree, Colin. Thankfully at the Radisson Blu Waterfront they only charged us for breakfast for one of our two nights then at checkout I managed to get them to take even that charge off as Gold 😛

    • TGLoyalty says:

      Yes agree. if it’s included in all paid rates regardless of discount then it should be included on redemptions.

  • Alan says:

    Glad you enjoyed your first trip to Edinburgh, Rhys – hopefully you’ll be back for an HfP mini-do sometime 😉 Would highly recommend visiting in August during the Fringe, suddenly 55k points will seem a total steal compared to the cash prices!

  • ankomonkey says:

    “There were several people using the (spa) facilities when I went down to check it out, so I didn’t take any photographs.”

    No need to be shy. I think you should take the photo regardless, give a little wink to those being photographed and say, “For the personal collection…”

    PS Las Iguanas is much better than most/all UK restaurant chains. I loathe the Italian chains and their bland, ready-meal-style slop.

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