Inside city’s worst-rated hotel with mystery white stains and ‘rock hard’ pillows



The worst rated hotel in Edinburgh was full of surprises when one reviewer visited – and not the good kind.

The Britannia, formerly known as the Dragonara, was once a hot ticket destination Edinburgh when it was in its heyday during the 1990s.

In recent years, the sheen has rather come off the now tired looking accommodation, Edinburgh Live reports.

In truth, the majority of reviews of the hotel are decent, with one person commenting on the “excellent rooms, clean, nice amenities and great location.”

Many others have been less kind however, with one one-star reviewer complaining of a cracked window which allowed a cold breeze to gust into their room.

Another said they had a silverfish infestation, a burn mark on the carpet and very noisy neighbours to contend with.

It was armed with such warnings that Edinburgh Live’s reporter Sian Traynor headed to the Britannia at the end of November to see whether it lived down to the hype.

Here is her review…

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The bed and pillow were “hard as rocks”
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Image:

edinburghlive.co.uk)

Location-wise, the hotel could not be in a better place, sitting at the bottom of Palmerston Place, just a few steps away from the National Galleries and Dean Village.

But once you walk down to the hotel reception you can easily forget that your next to such an historic and iconic location, with the block stone building not giving off much pizazz.

Despite this, I was fully intending on not letting initial appearances deceive me, I’ve stayed in far worse looking hotels and I had arrived on a cold and dark night at the end of November.

Now, before we go any further, I should mention the price I paid upfront for the room.

When I booked online, the price for a Monday night was a reasonable £55, not dirt cheap but also rather affordable.

However, on weekends and certain dates in the month the hotel prices soar up to around £140, a price I would be expecting a very decent room for.

When I arrived at reception, a rather sullen member of staff started to get my room keys ready, which gave me a chance to have a first glimpse around.

One appraising factor was the Covid precautions the hotel seemed to be taking. There was plentiful hand santiser, screens at reception and a number of different signs reminding you to keep your mask on.

The reception looks on over to the bar area, which was very quiet, and although pretty tired looking, appeared to be relatively clean and tidy.

After getting my room keys I headed round to the lifts, which didn’t quite give me the reassurance I was looking for.

Covered in all white chipboard, the four lifts each had their own individual carvings, however these I assumed were not put there by artists or designers, rather hotel guests who had scratched their names, football chants and some questionable symbols into the walls.

Stepping out onto my floor, it was eerily quiet, but I preferred that to an endless barrage of noise. One thing I can tell you is that the walls are most definitely thin, as I was able to hear a few conversations as I sought out my room.

How the inside of the Britannia looks
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Image:

edinburghlive.co.uk)

Finally, I found the number I had been looking for, I took a deep breath and headed in.

On a first glance, the room appeared to be alright. There was a strange mismatch of furniture but there was two single beds pushed together, unstained sheets and fresh towels laid out.

Initially I was pleasantly surprised, as I appeared to have been upgraded from the ‘windowless double room’ I had accidentally selected when I booked on the website.

It was on closer inspection that I realised why the hotel may have gained a bit of a reputation.

The first thing I noticed after taking a few steps in was the unusual and very obvious white stains that adorned the tired blue carpet next to the bed.

Trying to not give too much thought into what those might be, I put my bag down and for my own peace of mind, wiped down the surfaces in the bedroom with antibacterial wipes that I had brought.

Although, the desk and small chest of drawers did appear have been wiped down previously, you can never be too careful.

It was then that I went into the bathroom, and was greeted with a number of small, dark and wiry hairs sitting in the sink, and despite knowing they most likely did not come from someone’s head, I tried again to not give too much thought as to their origin.

The bathroom also compromised of two plastic cups sitting upside down on the counter next to the sink, which after the hair debacle I quickly decided I would not be drinking out of.

The bath and shower appeared poorly maintained
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Image:

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The toilet was in fact clean, but the flooring was tired, grotty and darkened in some places, with the bath/shower also looking poorly maintained, and was accompanied by a yellowing rubber bath mat.

The skirting was warped and a bit rotted in places and all in all the room really didn’t look like it had been given a good scrub in a while.

As you can expect, I didn’t spend much more time in the bathroom, and avoided taking a long soak in the tub.

Instead I opted for an early night, but not before noticing the very weak looking adjoining door into a room I hadn’t booked, and scalding my hand on the tiny radiator which despite emitting almost no heat, would burn you if you touched it.

The bed and pillow (one per bed) were unfortunately hard as rocks, but upon inspection the sheets were clean, so I climbed in with the intention of checking under them in the morning.

The room came with a little TV that worked well so I watched a little, noticing mid way through MasterChef that there was only one plug socket that was no where near the bed and was located on the other side of the room.

Surprisingly I slept not too terribly, although I do think I benefitted from staying on a Monday evening, as I had heard from multiple sources that the hotel can be a bit rowdy at the weekends.

I did have a bit of a stiff neck from the pillow, but the solid hours of sleep I did get definitely helped my mood as I stripped the sheets to see what was lurking underneath.

To my disappointment, there was no mattress protector or topper, leaving just a thin sheet between me and everyone else who had ever spent the night in that bed.

Although in saying that, the mattress was in a far less stained and warped condition than I was expecting, so we’ll take that as a win. I then quickly packed up my things and headed down to breakfast.

The breakfast buffet was not bad
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Image:

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Given the rest of my experience, I was very much dreading what would be served up, however I was not disgusted by the spread on offer.

After paying for my breakfast with a much more cheery and helpful member of staff at the bar, I headed through to the dining room, which really could have done with some background music as you could have heard a pin drop.

I had hoped for a coffee machine, but sadly I was met with the instant sachets you also get in the room along with a hot water machine. Nevertheless I made do, before picking up a plate and wandering round the buffet.

Despite avoiding the slightly unappetising bacon and fried eggs, I was able to fill a plate with some nice looking sausage, tattie scones, beans, tomato and mushrooms.

I also grabbed some toast and in all honesty, the meal wasn’t bad at all. The mushrooms were a bit cold and it was no five-star dining but for £7 it did the job.

Then just like that I was off, keys handed in and in all honesty, I was glad to be out.

So all in all, it’s probably fair to say the Britannia lives up to its reputation, and we would definitely encourage bringing some cleaning wipes if you’re planning on staying the night.

For £55 a night it’s manageable, but if you’ve coughed up £140 we can guarantee you’re going to be disappointed.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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