I don’t know what you think of hostels. Those places, all different, not always perfect, are surely a good way to meet amazing people. The life in dorms. The surprises in the showers. The life in community, with good – and less good – sides. Personnaly, I liked it during our trip around the world and it was a good choice, again during my journey to the United Kingdom. When I was planning my visit of Edinburgh, I found the website of The Baxter Hostel. In the name, already, something sounds appealing. Then I contacted Mike, the manager, and he invited me to discover this hostel, slighlty different than what you would usally find on the road.
“Vintage – industral style”, Mike says. You can feel it as soon as you reached the hostel’s door. A clever mix of raw wood, metal, ancient style tiles, gives authenticity to this place hidden in a georgian building. Opened in last August, The Baxter can host more or less 40 guests, in dorms of 6 to 12 people. You will find it in a small and silent street near to Princes Street, a hundred meters away from Waverley Station.
Treasures in the walls
Mike conceived and built this place by himself, letting his imagination run and getting inspired by the story of this ancient house. When he destroyed some walls, he had the surprise to discover some old pictures, maybe from a gentlemen’s club that may have been settled here, and this old whiskey flask and its cork still on. Those treasures have been waiting here for decades. Now, they are fully part of the decoration of the hostel. “And in the cellar, I just discovered a safe ! I couldn’t open it…”, Mike reveals. The mystery is still on !
For the decoration, Mike decided to keep this vintage style. I love the ancient-style tiles, that you can still see in some buildings in France. The pieces of furniture are made of wood and iron, very solid, very nice. Everything has been thought through in details, we can feel that a lot of things are hand-made and you will recognize the hostel’s logo on several pieces of furniture. With all that, the result is truly unique.
A place for each guest
What I really liked about The Baxter is that this place has been designed to be a hostel. No need to be in a pretty place if it isn’t easy to use or comfy. In the dorms, each bed is independent, that means that the one sleeping in the top will not shake the whole bunk beds when he’s having a troublesome night, and each bed has its own reading lamp, plug, and empty space to store things. Compared to the dozens of bunk beds I slept in, those ones are really comfy, with a real mattress and a good pillow. After a good day of walk through the city, it’s a real pleasure to lie down there for a nap or a full night of sleep. In the bathroom, you will find four shower sets. But no need to speak about that since Mike decided to renew them shortly. Everything is perfectly clean and in good shape, decorated as the rest of the hostel, with industrial green colors, iron, shiny tiles.
A common space where everyone chats
Finding a clean and calm hostel was already a good point. But if you want your hostel to be a really good one, then you need a place to meet other guests, to exchange with them, to discover new stuff. This is really important to Mike and his staff, and for the guest as well. At The Baxter, you will find a big and cosy living room where everyone likes to hang out. For me, it worked perfectly : I met an Australian traveler in my dorm the first night, and then I met Laura in the bathroom, between a hair dryer and a toothbrush. We got along very well and we decided to spend the whole week together ! In the living room, I met a bunch of cool people : two french brothers looking for a flat, a chili an guy crazy about trails, some American students visiting Europe.
“It’s interesting to see that we have some guests that choose The Baxter not because hostels are cheaper but because they know they will find something different. When you spend a lot of time in hotels, you get bored, at some point you want a place where you can meet people”. To achieve that, a good common space is needed. Mike imagined a large “family kitchen”, with a nice oven and all. A huge and baroque mirror is used as a board and, all around, several cute little tables are there to allow the guest to eat, work, have a cup of tea, chat… The perfect idea : this large couch, next to the window, where you can lie down and rest, while watching what’s going on on Princes Street. I loved it ! And when someone feels like playing some music, the mattress is removed and this space becomes a real stage ! How clever !
Another good surprise comes in the morning : the members of the staff will happily offer to cook some scrambled eggs and toasts for you. Home, or even better ?
After two perfect nights at the Baxter, Laura and I went up north to visit Dundee, St Andrews and Inverness. The last day, something fun happened : we were about to take the train from Inverness to Edinburgh, at the end of the day. We were tired, everything was already dark. But we were really excited to go back to The Baxter, where we knew we would get some rest in the living room, have a drink, share some food with all the other travelers. Find back the ones we met at the beginning of the week, meet the new ones. We had this feeling of heading back home, after a good long day. Having this feeling when you are abroad, even more when you travel for a long time, is a blessing. I mean, there is a lot of places using catchwords like “a home away from home”, but come on, this is never true. But this week, in Edinburgh, at the Baxter, it really felt like it, for once. Thanks to Mike and his team, challenge completed !