For as popular as Edinburgh is among tourists, I sure have a hard time finding accommodations that meet my expectations. Granted, it’s a longish list: good location, warm and welcoming hosts, updated rooms, excellent wifi, yummy breakfasts, and a touch of luxury. Prior to my previous visits to Auld Reekie, I’ve spent hours and hours combing TripAdvisor, blogs, and guidebooks trying to find that perfect place to stay that will put a new spin on my time in the city. There have been hits and there have been misses, sadly. But since my dad would be traveling with me I decided to take no chances and return to my favorite Edinburgh stay: Elmview B&B. I visited Elmview back in 2009 when my entire nuclear family went to Scotland, so this was to be both my dad’s and my own second stay at Elmview with Robin and Nici.
It was just as delicious as I remembered.
It’s very easy to spend £100/night for a two-person room in Edinburgh and be left underwhelmed at the value. It’s one of my least favorite feelings because I can stomach that rate if my longish list of expectations is met. When it’s not met, however, I often wind up wondering why I didn’t just stay at a hostel. Happily, Elmview delivers on all accounts and I’m glad to recommend them.
Elmview B&B is situated on the northwest corner of The Meadows park just south of Old Town. I love this location. The massive green space makes me feel like I’m in the Scottish countryside yet New Town is only a 15-minute walk, and the Old Town and southside are even closer. Bus stops are right around the corner and provide easy access to all of Edinburgh, Leith, and Midlothian. Elmview’s building looks over the Bruntsfield Links and Robin and Nici make available golf clubs and balls for guests looking to do a little pitch-and-putt. Many of these period buildings have two doors: one just above street level and one just below. Elmview hides just a staircase below the sidewalk.
My dad and I went straight to Elmview upon our arrival to Scotland. You know how it is when you get off that long flight. You’re cramped and tired, and you just want to settle in and clean up. At Elmview, Robin and Nici showed us our room and then ushered us into the dining room for some of Nici’s homemade rolls and marmalade with tea. Beautiful. That kind of welcome is priceless, and while other B&Bs follow the same route few do it with such warmth and sincerity.
Perhaps this is the right time to talk about breakfast. It is, after all, given equal importance to the bed part of B&B. Nici has taken this to heart because breakfast at Elmview is an unforgettable part of the experience. A pretty dining room with a single long table looks over a green courtyard. China and ramekins and kettles bedeck the table as you arrive in the morning, and a light first course awaits you on the plate. One morning I had a citrus salad of orange and grapefruit in a cardamom syrup. Other mornings it was pineapple with mint and a white fruit salad with simple syrup. Each delicious starter showcased clean flavors with that extra bit of creative flavoring.
Robin is the “front of house” man and he mixes it up with the guests at the table, explaining the menu and daily special and generally being an affable and humorous guy in the dry, English sense. There are cold breakfast essentials like fruit, cereals, and juices, but I rotated through the cooked breakfasts because I remembered them from 2009. Indeed, they were that memorable. The Scottish Breakfast was rich with large portobello mushrooms on slices of cooked tomato and rashers of bacon arrayed around a heart of scrambled eggs atop a delicious cut of haggis.
The following morning I enjoyed the salmon and eggs. A large scoop of scrambled eggs sat atop a buttered toast square while luscious strips of smoked salmon circled the plate. Delicious. My final morning I went with the special, which was poached eggs atop fresh corn cakes with ribbons of bacon and a sprig of boiled cherry tomatoes. It was another fantastic display by Nici, who obviously understands that we eat with our eyes first. As if these dishes weren’t enough, each morning there was a freshly home-baked good on the table, from brioche to walnut bread to glazed raisin loaf. I’m not exaggerating when I say Nici and Robin serve the best B&B breakfast in Scotland. I know you’re hungry now. Me too.
On the bed front, Elmview provides spacious rooms. The rooms have very high ceilings and wide windows that bring in a lot of light despite the rooms being slightly below street level. All of the accoutrements you expect are there, including a magically refilling decanter of sherry on the desk. It’s a superb touch to cap off what are always strenuous days rambling around Edinburgh. The wifi is quite strong in the rooms and I didn’t have any issues with it during my stay.
The bathrooms are a comfortable, even slightly luxurious, mix of tile, porcelain, and glass. Again, they are quite large for being in the center of Edinburgh.
I’ve just spent a lot of words convincing you of Elmview B&B’s excellence, but there are a couple of things that could make it even better. Elmview doesn’t have a common room where people can gather and relax. I never used to think that mattered much but over my last couple of trips I’ve found common rooms to be hugely enjoyable spaces to do work and chat with other guests. However, the bedrooms are so big that they have extra furniture like comfy couches and chairs for relaxing. That being said, while very comfortable, the bedrooms might be due for a bit of updating in the future. Finally, I love the communal breakfast table – it’s fun chatting with people from all over the world – but not everyone feels this way. Food for thought.
Elmview is my go-to can’t-miss B&B in Edinburgh. Robin and Nici are in that echelon of rare, excellent hosts, their breakfasts cannot be beat, and the comfy rooms and beautiful location make Elmview my first recommendation when I’m asked about where to stay in Edinburgh. Stay with them and you’ll know what I mean.
Update 1/22/14: It appears that the owners of Elmview B&B have retired.
Disclosure: Robin and Nici provided a discounted rate for my stay. As always, all thoughts and opinions expressed here are my own.