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Maybe you think that using the word budget and boutique in the same sentence is a contradiction. But that's not so. Around the UK there are city hotels that, by cutting back on unnecessary frills, like impressive lobbies or pools you have no time to use, provide all the comforts that really spell luxury - great service, luxury linens, fluffy towels, nice breakfasts, sensational views.
These eight reasonably priced, city hotels aren't bottom dollar cheap but they also will not break the bank. If you're looking for a mid-winter, after-the-holidays pick-me-up, or a comfy place to perch while indulging in fine dining, theater and luxury shopping, have a look at these budget boutique hotels.
Hotel du Vin St Andrews
Hotel du Vin, the UK’s home-grown hotel chain that somehow manages not to feel like a chain, has done it again in St Andrews, the home of golf in Scotland.
Individual décor, opulent rooms, five-star service, everything about this brand screams luxury - a lot more luxury than the prices would suggest. In it's St Andrews incarnation, in a traditional stone and slate terrace in the Old Town, rooms have a distinctly masculine, clubby vibe with leather upholstered sleigh beds and lots of tweed and tartan. There are caddy rooms, with bunk beds, but even those have the hotel's trademark "drench" showers, Egyptian cotton bedding and touches of leather and tartan.
The decor definitely complements some of the best views in Scotland. Our reviewer enjoyed four separate windows, each with a view of the world-famous golf course, each one looking out to sea. She said, "I could have gazed out at it for hours – watching the tide fill and empty the saltwater swimming pool, assessing the swing of every golfer on the 18th hole – but there was dinner to be had, and that turned out to be even more special."
The Malmaison in Birmingham, one of the largest in this UK hotel group's collection, is also one of its hippest. Enter the minimalist lobby to be greeted by black uniformed staff who are gorgeous, mostly blond (including the men) or darkly exotic.
The sound of laughter and tinkling glasses tumbles down a sweeping, carpeted stairway from the bistro and bar, teasingly just out of sight around a bend.
Call it the perfect setting for a romantic getaway but in the UK people are more frank. This is naughty weekend territory with beds that are like playgrounds - huge, high and firm with plush feather duvets, crisp white bed linens and loads of pillows.
Bathrooms are supplied with loads of thick, huge towels and the company's own brand of sexy toiletries in generous containers you are encouraged to take away with you.
It's not cheap but with lots of weekend deals and many rooms for less than £125, prices are comparatively modest
Hotel Indigo Birmingham
The Hotel Indigo in Birmingham's stylish Westside district, at one end of the luxury shopping area known as The Mailbox, is full of surprises.
The concept is as clever as the striking building it's housed in (the top three floors of The Cube).
In essence, they've stripped away all the non-essential la-de-dahs of your usual luxury hotel - the glossy lobby, the plush carpets, the turned down bedding with the sweetie on the pillow, the DVD player you never have time to watch. In their place, in a colorful yet minimalist environment, they've provided the pampering luxuries you really appreciate in hotels at twice the price.
Expect bathrooms equipped with double, walk-in rain showers with a powerful added hand showers; oversized terry robes; plenty of fluffy towels, including face cloths; makeup or shaving mirror on an adjustable arm and Aveda and White Company toiletries.
Guest room luxuries include plenty of power points (electrical outlets), high intensity reading lights on flexible arms on both sides of the bed - and both working; a "media center" of multi-colored outlets - for a variety of personal electronics, and, of course, free wifi with not tricky codes to master - just plug and play.
And the best luxury of all, guest rooms are on the 23rd and 24th floor, way above everything for miles. The uninterrupted views from the wall to wall windows are spectacular.
The Roseate Villa Bath
Rooms at the Roseate Villa are delightful and delightful places to wake up in.
Daylight (and, if you are lucky, even sunlight) streams in between the slats of creamy white shutters. Birdsong rides the breeze from the Henrietta Gardens, a little park across the street. And, thanks to solid Victorian construction, if other guests are up and about, you'd never know.
There are 21 individually styled bedrooms on a quiet street just ten minute walk from the center of Bath and all its wonderful shops. And the seasonally changing, award winning breakfasts, included in the room rate are really spectacular.
They even provide free parking. In Bath! Heaven.
42 The Calls Leeds
Beginning with its name - 42 The Calls, which is, in fact, also its address - everything about this Leeds hotel has an idiosyncratic charm. Located in a converted 18th-century corn mill, it sits right on the River Aire. Some rooms on the river side have fishy artwork and real, working fishing rods - in case guests care to drop a line out the window. At night, the view of Leed's old world river front sparkles with character.
Irregularly shaped rooms are fitted into the old mill's eccentric shape; corridors twist round corners or go up and down steps so unexpectedly that it's easy to get lost. The morning after I stayed, I had some difficulty finding my way out.
Public areas and guest rooms have been designed around the building's original features. Wherever you look there are exposed brick walls, oak beams, industrial girders and original mill mechanisms that were used to haul grain up from the quayside. My only complaint was the lack of lighting but I've since heard reports that some of the rooms are getting a bit tired.
Before you move on, take the time to enjoy their original - if a bit pricey - breakfasts.
Malmaison Oxford Castle
Until as recently as 1995, each of the three the vaulted chambers that made up my fresh, whitewashed room at the Malmaison Oxford Castle were separate cells of Her Majesty's Prison, Oxford. Fans of the classic British television series, Inspector Morse, may recognize the galleried landings and open iron staircases the hotel corridor pictured here as Oxford prison's "A Wing" as portrayed n the program.
Today, the splendid décor manages to be modern, plush and Medieval (in spirit at any rate) at the same time. And it evokes an even earlier period when this thousand-year-old building was a Norman castle.
It's all about luxury. Frette linens spread across dark wooden beds dressed with plump feather pillows and deep russet, black and wine velvet coverings. Votive candles flicker in the guest rooms and the dramatically lit public areas. Deeply upholstered, high-backed chairs, tartan carpets and the crests and banners of the Oxford colleges add to the baronial ambiance.
It's cozy, masculine and glamorous with a fine bar and great breakfasts in the vaults - that were once solitary confinement for really, really bad boys. They say the place has ghosts too.
Hotel du Vin Bristol
At Bristol's Hotel du Vin the showers are so spacious you can invite six friends to join you in it for a cocktail party, you understand. They call it a "monsoon" shower, in other words, a version of the currently fashionable rain showers on steroids. It has as much floor space as some people's kitchens.
Maybe not everyone gets as excited as I do about gorgeous hotel bathrooms, but designers for the hotel group that owns Hotels du Vin surely must because delightful bathrooms and toiletries are among their trademark features. Another trademark is the company's practice of converting interesting and important city center buildings. Their Bristol hotel is in a Grade II listed, 18th-century sugar refinery.
Original floorboards, heavy oak beams and exposed brick walls ensure that the hotel's historic origins shine through. But, the period details are minimal, skilfully incorporated into rooms that are thoroughly modern and surprisingly luxurious for the price.
As the hotel's name suggests, a good wine list and wine tasting events are part of the offering.
The website for citizenM Hotels pitches the group to "mobile citizens of the world," promising "no strings attached fun." The online pictures show public areas with quirky, contemporary furniture and artwork; rooms with gigantic beds and wall to wall windows, adjustable mood lighting and power shower/toilet wetrooms that look like the orgasmatron in "Sleeper."
I imagined the guests as slim, young 21st-century trendies, the girls with boy cut hair and black trousers, the boys with ironically retro wardrobes and exaggerated quiffs. The kind of people who travel with little more than their smartphone, maybe a tablet, a change of underwear and a toothbrush.
In fact, at this pared down but upmarket hotel, a mobile citizen of the world can be anyone, from retiree vacationers to business people to students and, yes, to hip young trendies.
The rooms techie features include an iPad that runs the heat and lighting and opens and shuts the blinds on the wall-wide window. While the small size is not for everyone, the beds are superb and you can amuse yourself playing with the lighting effects for hours.