Paradise found: 48 hours in Edinburgh
Scotland’s gothic city is the perfect place for a winter weekend escape, and it’s worth treating yourself to a history-soaked hideaway from which to explore
“Edinburgh isn’t so much a city, more a way of life,” wrote one of the city’s most famous literary sons, Ian Rankin. “I doubt I’ll ever tire of exploring Edinburgh, on foot or in print.”
And it is true that what is sometimes referred to as the Athens of the North seems to reveal something new on every visit – its winding, carved stone passages giving up fresh treasures each time. It is also a city made for a short visit, compact as it is in 120 square kilometres that contain its 500,000 residents.
Regular flights from Dublin with Aer Lingus and Ryanair mean there is good competition on the route, so tickets are affordable, with a flight time of around one hour and ten minutes. And while there is a good choice in terms of hotels, the recently opened The Roseate Edinburgh – a boutique hotel that is part of the collection of Roseate Hotels & Resorts in London, Reading and Bath – is elevating the low-key luxury hideaway offering in the city. Spread across two newly refurbished, heritage Victorian townhouses, it blends the story of the Scottish capital city and its history with more contemporary flourishes – and, importantly, luxurious comfort.
Situated in Edinburgh’s West End, it is just five minutes from the Haymarket railway station and less than a 20-minute drive from Edinburgh Airport. Inspired by the neoclassical design of old-town Edinburgh, the buildings, once known as the Dunstane Houses, have stood at the gateway to old-town Edinburgh since the 1860s. Open fires, wood panelling and Scottish touches are throughout, with 35 rooms and suites each styled with an individual look and feel.
The emphasis here is on relaxed luxury – think en-suite shower rooms, handcrafted beds with Egyptian cotton sheets, fluffy bathrobes, Scottish woollen throws and a luxurious range of Noble Isle toiletries. Suites come with four-poster beds and free-standing copper roll-top baths in the room, with sweeping views over Edinburgh’s stunning cityscape, including the verdant Pentland Hills.
In terms of dining options, breakfast, lunch and dinner are served in The Dunstane Restaurant, with an eclectic afternoon tea that includes dainty sandwiches, home-baked cakes and fluffy scones slathered with jam and Scottish cream paired with a fresh brew of your choice.
For the whiskey connoisseurs, there is a wide range of rare and vintage whiskies, native to the Scottish Highlands, with over 80 fine Scottish single malts in addition to a selection of wines and artisanal gins from some of the best distillers in Scotland.
Situated within easy distance of part of the Old Town, on your bucket dining list has to be The Gardener’s Cottage, tucked away in London Road Gardens in a building dating from 1836 (it was once the actual cottage of the gardener) and serving local and seasonal produce grown in their kitchen garden. Run by the same team is The Lookout, another exceptional restaurant this time situated beside the city’s observatory and boasting the best views you can find across the cityscape.
For a more casual experience, St Bernard’s Bar in the heart of the Stockbridge neighbourhood oozes character and charm as well as delivering exceptional cocktails, with Bon Vivant on Thistle Street perfect for more low-key eating. And if you can make it, it is worth a visit to Rick Stein’s favourite pub in the world, The Canny Man’s pub in Morningside, first founded in 1871 and passed down through generations of the Kerr family.
If you can break away from your very comfortable boutique beds, you’ll find an embarrassment of cultural riches in the city, with the Writers’ Museum and the National Museum just two visits you should try and squeeze into a short trip. The National Gallery of Modern Art and the National Portrait Gallery, too, are both worth your time. But the best thing to do in the city is to walk it, as Rankin said – you won’t tire of exploring its streets, its magical architecture and its sense of openness, for as Edinburgh-born artist Richard Demarco remarked: “The Scots think of it as their capital; they’re too possessive, Edinburgh belongs to the world.”
Insider tip: for Sunday browsing and grazing, check out Stockbridge Food Market, a farmer’s market right by the water of Leith, packed with independent traders selling bread, cheese and delicious meats – with plenty of good people-watching too.
Prices at the Roseate start at £200 per night; roseatehotels.com/edinburgh/theroseate/