Hotel Review: Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh, the Caledonian – Is this really luxury?

This is the fourth in a delayed series about my August/September 2018 trip to Manchester, England and Scotland.  You can read a preview of the trip here.

There are tons of hotels in Edinburgh, and I had initially booked myself into the Hampton Inn Edinburgh West End, before deciding to splurge and book two nights in the Waldorf Astoria property in town, the Caledonian, using points one night and paying cash the second. I had never stayed at a WaldorfAstoria before, and had high expectations, particularly as Hilton Honors Diamond member. Alas, I found the hotel just…fine. I wouldn’t rank it as a luxury experience, and you could have told me it was a Hilton or a Doubletree and I’d have believed you.

The Caledonian at night

The location was actually quite good, right next to Princes Street Gardens, and I was able to walk pretty much everywhere in town during my stay, including over to the Old Town and even over to the University area where I attended several Fringe Festival events. I got off the train from Manchester at the Haymarket station, which was about a 15-minute walk; the walk from the main Edinburgh Waverley station is just a few minutes longer in the opposite direction. (I took an Uber to my rental car pickup leaving the city.)

The Caledonian on the right, Edinburgh Castle ahead

The hotel is a historic building, originally built over a railway station. The station closed in 1965, and the hotel expanded.  On the outside, the hotel is pretty grand looking, and there’s a small reception area that is gleaming marble and fancy-looking. But once you get up to the rooms, it’s another story.

Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh, the Caledonian

Side of the hotel

Check-in was actually a bit of a mess, but I was escorted up to my room on the second floor.  I had booked a Queen Deluxe and was upgraded one category as a Hilton Diamond.  While a lot of the hotel had a view of Princes Street Gardens and Edinburgh Castle, my room had a view of a street with bars on it.  The windows must have been original, so the street noise was substantial—indeed, I was woken up at 6am by the sound of kegs being loaded in and out of bars – not what I expect of a luxury hotel. There was also a lot of noise from the hallway as well, as I heard doors slamming and talking which woke me every time I went down to bed.

Hallways of the Caledonian

The room itself was one large square room, with high ceilings and a lot of empty space.  There was a king-sized bed with a bench at the foot, a small credenza with a TV, a desk and desk chair, and then two side chairs with an end table.  It was a lot drabber and less modern than the rooms on the hotel’s website, so I imagine some may be renovated, but mine wasn’t.

Premier room, I think, Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh

There was a welcome gift of a small box of two “bespoke chocolates.”  Inside the credenza was a standard coffee/tea service, and there was also a Nespresso machine. On day one, the only water bottles were pricey ones on the minibar; on day two, there were plastic bottles with Waldorf Astoria labels on the nightstand, so I’m guessing that was an oversight.

Welcome amenity

The bathroom was probably the highlight of the room – large with grey marble and tiles.  But it was not in the greatest shape; there was a piece missing on one the shower faucet, which, needless to say, is not what you expect of a Waldorf-Astoria. There were also Ferragamo toiletries.

Bathroom, Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh, the Caledonian

As a Diamond member, I had access to the full breakfast, served from 6am to 10:30am.  I had heard great things. To get to the breakfast area, you walk through a beautiful lobby lounge/bar, before entering a restaurant no more luxurious than that at the Doubletree in Manchester.  I was seated, and wasn’t told anything about a la carte options, but brought a thermos of coffee.  It was a fairly long walk to the buffet, which was nice, and included a full English breakfast, plus haggis (which was gross). There were also cold meats and cheeses, fruits, pastries, and juices. The fresh strawberries were the highlight. It was super frantic and not very relaxing. On day two, I went down a little bit earlier, and it was a little calmer.  There was a menu on the table this time, and there were a lot of a la carte cooked to order options – sketchy that it wasn’t there the day before.  I got an omelet which was tasty.

Lobby bar/lounge, the Caledonian

Breakfast at the Caledonian

One downside of such an old building is that the gym was kind of squeezed in.  It was actually two separate rooms, separated by doors and stairs and halls, without any explanation. One room had most of the cardio machines and some weights, and two flights down was more weights and stretching. The equipment itself was fine and in good condition, though, and there was bottled water and cold towels.

Gym at the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh

In all, the Waldorf Astoria Caledonian is a fine, maybe even a nice hotel. But it isn’t a luxury one.  And with 4 other Hilton family properties nearby at lower prices, I can’t recommend splurging.

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