Finding a place to stay in Edinburgh during summer and particularly during the prime Festival month of August is a challenge. Lodgings are plentiful, but pricey. Both hotels and self-catering flats raise their rates sky-high as the Edinburgh International Festival, the Fringe Festival, and the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo turn the town into a teeming beehive of activity. Last August we found a very pleasant and more cost-effective alternative at the Chancellors Court complex, part of the Pollock halls of residence of Edinburgh University.
Chartered in 1582, the University of Edinburgh is one of Scotland’s ancient universities and one of the best known in the UK and the world. It owns properties all over the city of Edinburgh and uses many as halls of residence for its 28,000 students. Pollock Halls is a modern complex of high rise buildings used to house students during term-time but visitors during breaks between terms and the summer months. Within Pollock Halls, Chancellors Court is a cluster of adjoining buildings with 524 modern en suite rooms that are particularly appealing to conference-goers and tourists.
Chancellors Court is 1-2 miles south of the heart of old Edinburgh, but there is a bus stop nearby. It does not take long to figure out how to catch a bus into the Royal Mile area. A daily bus pass costs 3 GBPs (about $4.90) In addition, it is very easy to take a cab from Pollock Halls, where there is a cab stand.
Chancellors Court has a really fine view of Arthur’s Seat and Salisbury Crags. One of the rooms we stayed in there had a perfect view of this Edinburgh landmark, large windows, and a balcony from which to appreciate it even more. Windows on the other side of the building have a view into a courtyard, which is pleasant but not as spectacular. Hiking to Arthur’s Seat is easy from Chancellors Court.
Rooms and amenities
The rooms are furnished with simple but solid modern wooden beds, desks, and bookcases. The beds were basic-not exactly monk-like, but definitely not cushy. Having a full length bookcase in a hotel room was really novel! We installed our travel books on these shelves in a place of honor. Another unusual feature was the bulletin board over the desk, where we tacked important papers during our stay.
Each room has an en suite bathroom. Many bathrooms have showers only (which was fine with us) and all were rather hospital-like-stark white, no homey touches at all-but that did not trouble us. Bathrooms were functional and very clean, with white hotel-type towels provided.
Our room had windows that we opened with some effort, but did eventually open. The curtains were serious and kept out light, which we liked. As is common in Britain, there were no screens in the windows, but it did not seem to be a problem. There was no air conditioning, since air conditioning is rare in Scotland. Sometimes during the day our room was a bit warm, but at night it was cooler.
Also in our room was a kettle for heating water and a nice assortment of tea and coffee-making supplies. This is pretty standard in UK hotels, but we were pleased to find it in this student residence hall.
Full Scottish Breakfast Included
Included in the room rates at Chancellors Court was a buffet breakfast in the Pollock Halls dining facility. It included hot food such as fried eggs, sausage, baked beans (a breakfast staple in the UK), and potatoes. Also available were fruit, bagels, croissants, toast, and cereal for a continental breakfast. Fruit juices, coffee, tea, and milk were also served. Although institutional, it was convenient and kind of fun.
It is also possible to purchase lunch and dinner in the cafeteria, but we were always somewhere else at those times. We did eat in the “pub” once and that was fine-nothing fancy, but pretty good basic food. I think I ate fish and chips.
Booking and Rates
Booking the rooms on line was straightforward through the “Edinburgh First” website. Edinburgh First is the organization that manages these properties for the University and our experience with it was positive. They definitely keep it simple. All rooms seem to be booked on line and prepaid with credit card; all included breakfast; there were no options to pay extra for fancier or better located rooms within Chancellors Court. All rates were per night-there were no weekly rates or multi-night stay discounts.
During the peak August period we paid 99 GBP ($159) per night for a twin room (including full Scottish breakfast for two people) and 79 GBP ($127) for a single room (including full Scottish breakfast for one person). Rates for August 2011 have been published: 101 GBP twin room, and 81 GBP for single room. Rates are lower during July and the term break periods in April and June.
The Pollock Halls Reception Centre is bustling but efficient. Our questions were always answered fully in a helpful manner. There is daily housekeeping service.
An internet connection in your room is available for a fee.
Parking is free but not plentiful.
Each room has a telephone but we could never figure it out and we used mobile phones.
There are no restaurants or pubs close to Chancellors Court other than the official dining hall. You would have to go at least a block or two to find a commercial area.
There are coin-operated laundry machines in the basement of Chancellors Court.
There is a convenience store in the Pollock Halls complex.
There are elevators (lifts) in Chancellors Court.
We were happy to stay at Chancellors Court. It suited our temperaments (since we both work at a university), our budget, and our schedule. (We might have rented a flat if we were going to be there continuously for a week, for example.) Taking buses (or cabs) was essential, but we managed.
There were many groups staying in the Pollock Halls, including bagpipers and drummers from various countries who came in for a festival. Listening to a bagpipe band practicing in the courtyard was wonderful. Walking down to Holyrood Park to see the parade of pipes and drums was also convenient. And the view of Arthur’s Seat from our room was definitely a highlight.
Edinburgh First website