Edinburgh is a beautiful city crammed with awe-inspiring art, architecture and heritage. Victoria Purcell heads to the city that once branded itself the ‘Athens of the North’ to find out more…
Edinburgh is the Athens of the North, or at least that’s how the city fancied itself as it gained a reputation as a centre of ideas in philosophy, economics and medicine in the 1700s. And it wasn’t too bold a claim.
With more than 4,500 listed buildings, the beautiful Scottish capital is renowned for its architecture, making it a great city-break option for those who love to gaze upon the work of some of our greatest architects.
The Royal Mile, a cobbled street lined with Reformation buildings, stone walls and turrets, leads the way through the Old Town to the magnificent medieval fortress that is Edinburgh Castle, while the New Town boasts pristine Georgian terraces.
On one of these, you’ll find 24 Royal Terrace, a boutique hotel designed by architect William Playfair in the 1820s, which reopened in the summer after a million-pound overhaul. The original features of the building have been retained and the striking interior design partners antique furnishings with soft furnishings in rich, graphic-print Villa Nova fabrics that invoke a sense of Georgian grandeur for a more contemporary crowd.
A black-and-white chequered floor leads you through the door to a smart, red-carpeted staircase. The ascent to your room will take some time, however, because the walls host the hotelier’s £500,000 private art collection, including works by Sir Terry Frost and Scottish artists like John Bellany and Henry Kondracki.
The room overlooks the tiered garden, from which you can access Calton Hill, part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site
Our Feature Deluxe suite had opulent Osborne & Little wallpaper in shades of silver and lilac, jewel-coloured fabrics and a roll-top bath that had crept out of the bathroom to make a statement. The room overlooks the tiered garden, from which you can access Calton Hill. Part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site, the hill boasts magnificent views over the city.
From there it’s a short walk into the centre, where you can choose to wander the Old or New Towns, separated by the lush, green Princes Street Gardens. Edinburgh is pretty compact, so you can get around most of it on foot. If the hotel’s art collection piques your interest, head for the Royal Scottish Academy in the centre of town. Other must-visits include the National Galleries of Scotland – the National (Old Town), Portrait (New Town) and Modern (West End).
All this exploration requires fuel. The Witchery and Castle Terrace, both near Edinburgh Castle, regularly feature on lists of the city’s best restaurants, and The Kitchin, by Tom and Michaela Kitchin, has plenty of accolades to warrant the taxi ride to Leith waterfront.
To sample the national cuisine, head for Broughton Street, where you can find haggis, neeps and tatties at the charming Café Nom De Plume. Look up Nell Nelson’s Edinburgh Food Safari for a walking tour that includes plenty of local delicacies.
Head for Broughton Street, where you can find haggis, neeps and tatties at the charming Café Nom De Plume
Back at the hotel, enjoy a nightcap at rt’s bar, which has a fine range of whiskies (the Royal Terrace nickname was once Whisky Row because so many spirit merchants lived there) and cocktails.
Then retire to your room, where the Samsung Smart TV lets you stream your current box-set obsession from your own Netflix account. Who needs to visit Europe when a thoroughly Modern Athens is so very close?
Rooms at 24 Royal Terrace range from £90 per night for an Executive Single to £200 for a Junior Suite. The Executive Apartment is £225 per night. To book call 0131 297 2424 or see 24royalterrace.co.uk