WHERE TO STAY
The Dunstane Houses
For a touch of old-school glamour, check in to the Dunstane Houses just outside the city centre. ‘Wee’ doubles are just that, but the pick of the rooms are the suites, featuring roll-top baths and four-poster beds. The Ba’Bar is a cosy place to linger – start the day with duck eggs and haggis followed by sightseeing and an old-fashioned nightcap.
If you’d rather have self-catering facilities, this cool studio apartment is located on the famous Grassmarket in Edinburgh’s Old Town. The property has simple yet modern interiors throughout, with an open kitchen and living area, a bedroom with double bed and a separate shower room with luxury toiletries. Guests can also make use of underfloor heating and will be treated to a welcome hamper on arrival.
Apartment On Cheyne Street
This small but cosy apartment has some of the most stylish interiors on this list. Head to the cobbled streets of Cheyne Street in Stockbridge to stay in this lovely, characterful one-bedroom property. There’s an open-plan kitchen-diner with several cookbooks if you want to whip up a traditional Scottish meal, as well as a spacious double bedroom, a bathroom with a free-standing tub and a study with a further single bed. Ideal for a long weekend, New Town is a short walk away, as are the Botanic Gardens and several local artisan shops.
One of the best adult-only spots in Scotland, The Witchery is a beautiful, gothic-style hotel in Castlehill. Occupying a collection of historic buildings at the gates to Edinburgh Castle, it’s a great destination for couples looking for a romantic getaway. The hotel has dark, opulent interiors – rooms are filled with antique furniture and rich fabrics – with nine suites, ranging from spacious boudoirs with rooftop views to rooms tucked away in a turret with their own private staircase.
Gleneagles Townhouse is a sister property to the famous Gleneagles Hotel. The opening date has been pushed back a few times, so we’re even more excited to visit when it does finally open its doors this spring. With 33 stylish bedrooms, each nodding to the heritage of the building, the townhouse is a great option for a long weekend in Edinburgh. There’s an all-day restaurant, plus two bars, one of which has a rooftop terrace where guests can enjoy panoramic views of the city. The hotel will also be home to a members’ club, with access to exclusive private spaces and an on-site gym.
Intercontinental Edinburgh The George
This central hotel is a great spot from which to explore Edinburgh. The rooms are simple yet stylish, and have everything you need for a comfortable stay, from plush linens and fluffy bathrobes to roll-top baths and a tuck box of treats. If you’re travelling with a friend, the superior twin rooms are particularly stylish, while the King Forth View has a spacious seating area with beautiful views of the New Town. Guests can dine at the relaxed brasserie-style restaurant and unwind at The Printing Press bar with a cocktail or glass of champagne.
If you’re after a classically Scottish venue, The Scotsman might just be it. The hotel has hosted everyone from rock stars to royalty, and has become known for its famous complimentary ‘nip’ of malt whisky in all bedrooms. The building itself, which housed the former Scotsman newspaper HQ, is now home to nine floors of fully refurbished rooms and suites, including a penthouse with a private balcony offering views of the castle and a marble-clad bath with a vista out to the Princes Street Gardens. The hotel’s restaurant, The Grand Café, serves up classic brasserie-style dishes and a well-loved afternoon tea. In the vaulted space beneath the hotel, The Scotsman Picturehouse is a 48-seat luxury cinema complete with cocktail bar.
100 Princes Street
This hotel is still a work in progress, but if you’re planning to visit the city later this year, 100 Princes Street is somewhere to bookmark. Set to open in June 2022, it’s owned by the Red Carnation Hotel Collection (behind Xigera Safari Lodge in Botswana and Ashford Castle in Ireland), so we’re expecting good things. Located in New Town, the hotel will have 28 rooms with Alexander McQueen-inspired interiors, plus a lounge overlooking Edinburgh Castle. We can’t wait to visit when it opens.
The Balmoral, with its majestic clock tower, has been a fixture of the city’s skyline since 1902. Adjoining the train station, it plays to its rich history as an Edinburgh landmark with porters poised to whisk guests from the station hall to the reception desk and doormen in traditional kilts. Inside you’ll find a spa, pool and Michelin-starred restaurant (see below), which, whether you’re staying here or not, is a must-visit for the Scottish tasting menu alone.
WHERE TO EAT & DRINK
Eleanore is the new restaurant and wine bar from Roberta Hall McCarron and Shaun McCarron, located where their acclaimed Little Chartroom used to be. The new spot aims for a relaxed dining experience, with high-top tables and a constantly changing menu. The restaurant serves small plates from the open kitchen, highlighting the best of Scottish produce. Dishes include cured halibut with orange kosho, followed by cod with haricot beans, cockles, samphire and sea persillade. Interiors are inspired by the Scottish coastline, incorporating soft whites and hints of dark blues, with earthy tones reflected in the ceramics.
Noto is the newest spot from acclaimed Scottish chef Stuart Ralston, who competed on Great British Menu last year. He’s the chef-owner of Aizle – a popular restaurant on New Town’s pretty Charlotte Square serving an ever-changing six-course tasting menu. His latest site focuses on small sharing plates. Inspired by Ralston’s time living and working in New York, the restaurant is named after his eclectic roommate there, Bob Noto, and serves Scottish ingredients prepared and cooked with Asian flair – to great effect.
Tom and Michaela Kitchin opened Michelin-starred The Kitchin on Leith waterfront in 2006. The kitchen serves modern British food influenced by French cooking techniques and showcases Tom’s passion for the high-quality ingredients available from Scotland's fantastic natural larder. We like the sound of poached Loch Fyne oysters, squid ink tagliatelle, spelt, spring vegetables and Oscietra caviar, followed by terrine of Highland venison, venison tartare and liver parfait, celeriac, bramble and orange.
The Gardener’s Cottage
This well-loved restaurant is situated inside a charming historic building on the edge of Edinburgh World Heritage Site, Calton Hill. The Gardener’s Cottage (a nod to its past as the residence of a former royal gardener) focuses on seasonal, Scottish cooking and social dining, offering à la carte lunches and a six-course set dinner menu served on two long communal dining tables. A quick note: the kitchen is only open Thursday-Sunday.
The Table was the first interactive, fine-dining experience in central Edinburgh. The centrepiece of the restaurant is a stone counter that comfortably sits ten people in front of an open-plan kitchen. Here, guests join the chefs for an evening of fun food via a multi-course tasting menu that showcases the very best of Scottish produce. The Table focuses on European cooking with some influence from further afield – think ‘Golden Wonder Cheese and Onion' (Isle of Mull cheddar raviolo with onion broth).
Baba is a warm, rustic-chic stop offering Mediterranean plates alongside charcoal grill dishes and cocktails. Of all the dishes, we like the look of the feasting plates, which are designed to be shared between two to four people and come with house harissa, zhug, grilled veg and herbs. Either opt for one of the cosy booths or take a seat at the long bar to sample a glass of Lebanese wine.
As well as being a top hotel, The Witchery is one of the most atmospheric settings for dinner in the city. Guests can relax with a bottle of champagne before enjoying dinner in either the 16th-century candlelit dining room or the elegant Secret Garden room with a hand-painted ceiling and secluded terrace. Both menus celebrate the best of Scottish produce, with dishes like steak tartare with burnt onion mayo; a seafood platter of lobster, langoustine, oysters, clams, mussels and crab; and bitter chocolate tart with blood orange sorbet.
Southside Scran is Tom Kitchin’s most recent Edinburgh opening. Here, the menu reflects Kitchin’s passion for seasonal produce and his love of France and its cuisine. The rotisserie grill in the room presents diners with a daily selection of meat, fish and vegetables, while the bistro setting encourages guests to share dishes and salads with the entire table for a family-style approach to dining.
The Lookout by Gardener's Cottage is an exciting partnership between Edinburgh restaurant The Gardener’s Cottage and Collective, the organisation that transformed the City Observatory site on Calton Hill into a new home for contemporary art. Work up an appetite with a bracing walk to the top of Calton Hill and then head to The Lookout. Built on a cantilever, the restaurant is partially suspended over the mount’s northwest slope, meaning its floor-to-ceiling windows offer views across Edinburgh, the Firth of Forth and beyond.
Ondine is a seafood lover’s paradise. Fresh oysters are served up daily – and generously – at the Oyster Bar, together with a whole host of impressive seafood dishes. Think Shetland mussels cooked in an Asian broth of ginger and coriander, and classic fish soup enhanced with North African saffron and orange.
Nobles Café, Bar & Restaurant
Down in newly reinvigorated Leith, Nobles is a restored Victorian café that brings modernity to its classical surroundings – think original stained-glass windows, dark wood-panelling and a vague nautical theme. Food focuses on traditional Scottish ingredients, while local craft ales and cocktails make this boozer a great late-night destination.
The Devil’s Advocate
Inside a historic Victorian pump house (expect plenty of bare brick, beams and wood), The Devil’s Advocate serves up hearty, Scottish-inspired dishes alongside an impressive cocktail and whisky menu. Whatever you do, be sure to try Bodega No11 – guaranteed to convert any non-whisky drinker.
This fine-dining restaurant at The Balmoral is proper ‘special occasion’ territory. The glamorous dining room is resplendent with dove grey wool banquettes, contemporary art, lacquered red walls and Adam Ellis’s stunning Scottish oak triptych. Meanwhile, the menus are fashioned using seasonal ingredients to create dishes inspired by Scotland and flavoured by the team’s international travels. We like the sound of smoked potato, egg yolk, onion broth, pickled leek and aged Comté.
Café St Honoré
Don’t be deceived by the typically Parisian exterior – Café St Honoré serves up modern Scottish food using fresh, local ingredients. The concise (and award-winning) menu changes daily; you may start off with a warm salad of scallops, monkfish and pine nuts, followed by Scotch shepherd’s pie and rounded off with an organic chocolate brownie.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
One of the most historic landmarks in Scotland, you can spot the castle from most of the neighbourhoods in the city, but the best way to learn about its history is to climb the hill towards Entrance Gateway from where you can explore the buildings on site, including St Margaret's Chapel which dates back to the 12th century. Tickets sell out weeks in advance so be sure to buy yours online ahead of time.
Princes Street Gardens
A must for horticultural lovers, Princes Street Gardens lies at the centre of Edinburgh's World Heritage Site, stretching across both New and Old Town. It was awarded a Green Flag ten years ago thanks to its colourful display of over 30,000 flowers and plants, and the many memorial sites that commemorate some of the city’s most famous alumni.
If you’re up to the challenge, climb Arthur’s Seat. This peak on the edge of the city was carved out by ice sheets forming on top of the eroded stump of an extinct volcano thousands of years ago. Today, it takes around 45 minutes from Holyrood to reach the top of the hill, where you’ll enjoy stunning panoramic city views.
Palace Of Holyroodhouse
Holyroodhouse is the royal family’s official home in Scotland and is best known as Mary Queen of Scot’s palace during the 16th century. Visitors can take a tour around the estate, including Mary’s bedchamber and the Great Gallery, with its 89 portraits of Scottish kings.
The Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Edinburgh is home to the second oldest Botanic Garden in the UK. It was founded in Holyrood in the 17th century, before moving to its current location in 1823. Today, visitors can walk through 70 acres of landscapes gardens, full of beautiful botanical plants and rare flowers. Make a beeline for the famous rock garden, then visit the John Hope Gateway visitor centre to learn about its history.
The Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art
If you visit one gallery in Edinburgh, make it The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Here, you can see an extensive collection of contemporary art, from grand portraits to world-class sculptures. The gallery holds regular exhibitions featuring both well-known and up-and-coming artists, so be sure to check what’s on ahead of your visit.
Step inside the studio of Sir Eduardo Paolozzi, a prominent sculptor who grew up in Leith. The studio is divided into areas for different activities: desks for reading and working with paper, shelves of reference books, a large central table for modelling and working with plaster casts and a bunk for resting. A rare glimpse at the working processes and space of a celebrated, creative mind.
The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art
Home to a fantastic sculpture park and Pig Rock Bothy – a rustic-looking structure which plays host to a changing programme of performances, discussions, residencies and events – The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art is an impressive go-to for art enthusiasts and dabblers alike.
Stockbridge Farmers Market
Stockbridge Farmers Market is the perfect place for a leisurely stroll on a laid-back Sunday, for produce, craft and tasty meals. Food vendors range from the exotic (aromatic curries) to as-Scottish-as-it-gets (wild venison and black pudding pie). Afterwards, do a spot of shopping in Stockbridge or a walk along the river to picturesque Dean Village.
A few miles outside of Edinburgh’s city centre lies Portobello Beach, a seaside suburb with two miles of sand. A great spot to visit year-round, you can brave the chilly waters or simply take a walk along the beach, followed by a pitstop at one of the bars or cafés along the promenade.
Mercat runs free guided walking tours of the city. A great way to see some of the most historic sites in a couple of hours, you’ll learn about Edinburgh’s rich and dramatic history, and discover how the city has changed and expanded over the last few decades. If you’re not easily spooked, be sure to book one of their ghost tours.
HOW TO GET THERE
The train journey from Edinburgh to London is a beautiful one, passing through the east coast via Northumberland. If you want to make the trip even more exciting, book a Caledonian sleeper train. All rooms come with a washbasin, complimentary toiletries and free wi-fi; some have en-suites with showers.
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