Budget hotels and hostels have their place, but sometimes you just want to throw caution to the wind, loosen the purse strings and splurge on unadulterated five-star luxury. If you would like to be treated like royalty – and don’t mind forking out a king’s ransom to do so – read on.
Grand old Edinburgh is no stranger to luxury hotels, but there are a select few that really stand out. These indulgent home from homes are places where you can lay your head in incomparable style, receiving the kind of five-star service expected by the most demanding of A-listers.
From former railway buildings to old churches, mini stately homes and modern abodes, Edinburgh’s first-class hotels come in a wide variety of styles. Whether you opt for sleek and streamlined or full-on opulent glamour, this selection of the city’s most sublime hotels will ensure you are utterly spoiled during your stay.
The clock above The Balmoral Hotel, which towers over the east end of Princes Street, is permanently set three minutes fast to ensure that passengers en route to Waverley Station don’t miss their trains. This Edwardian Gothic edifice (where JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) has been an Edinburgh institution for over a century, but there is nothing remotely old fashioned about it. With a Michelin-star restaurant, ritzy afternoon teas in the glass-domed Palm Court and deeply luxurious rooms, this grand hotel confidently keeps itself relevant.
Minimalism takes a back seat at this wildly extravagant hotel, with plush velvet, leopard-skin carpets, deep hues on the walls and oil paintings creating the ambience of an opulent boudoir. Set in 20 acres of parkland in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat, giving it the feel of a country estate, this tranquil haven is only a five-minute taxi ride from the city centre. It offers guests superlative service the minute they walk through the door. Dine at the award-winning Rhubarb restaurant, and flick through the 800-strong wine list. Book a helicopter (naturally, there’s a landing pad). Organise a game of golf next door, or play croquet on the manicured lawns.
When it comes to accommodation, it’s all about the location, and it doesn’t come much better than the ‘Caley’ (as it’s affectionately dubbed by local people). Dominating the West End of Princes Street, with unparalleled views of Edinburgh Castle, this former Victorian railway station is the grande dame of the Edinburgh hospitality scene. Think ladies in furs, tartan-trousered concierges, lavish afternoon teas, impressive restaurants and a swanky Guerlain Spa (which is the only one in the UK). Check in to one of the Queen Carriage Rooms, a throwback to the hotel’s railway history, and let The Caledonian take the strain.
Formerly the home of Scotland’s national daily newspaper, The Scotsman, this imposing Edwardian building – which straddles North Bridge – offers sweeping vistas of Edinburgh’s skyline. Any hint of ink and hot metal printing presses have long been banished, replaced by a city-centre hotel that combines the charm of a bygone era with the best of 21st-century living. However, there are occasional reminders of the hotel’s former incarnation – check in to a spacious Editor Room or a compact Reporter Room. For the ultimate in luxury, treat yourself to a stay in The Penthouse, where you can sweat it out in the suite’s sauna and enjoy grandstand views of the castle from a private terrace.
The suites at The Witchery by the Castle are ideal for a romantic getaway | Courtesy of The Witchery by the Castle / Booking.com
This outrageously opulent hideaway, nestled in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle in the heart of the Old Town, makes for the ultimate romantic retreat. With dramatic decor and eclectic furnishings, it’s a perfect antidote to ubiquitous corporate blandness. The sumptuous suites are candlelit, and antique four-poster beds are piled high with cushions and throws. Roll-top baths are vast, while oil paintings, jewel-coloured velvets, silks and heavy brocades create a decadent ambience. Come here with a loved one and soak up the Baroque romance.
The Glasshouse is housed inside one of Edinburgh’s more unusual century churches at the top of Leith Walk. Beyond the Gothic exterior, however, sits a very modern boutique hotel, creating a striking contrast between traditional and contemporary. Extensive use of glass allows masses of light to flood into every room, most of which enjoy a private terrace. The absolute highlight of this five-star hotel, however, has to be the 0.8-hectare (two-acre) rooftop garden. In the summer, it has a gin bar where you can kick back, relax and soak up the views of Calton Hill.
Situated in a peaceful, leafy crescent in Edinburgh’s well-heeled West End, The Bonham offers guests a gorgeously indulgent stay in spacious rooms and suites. These three former townhouses have recently been given a revamp, and while the hotel has retained its period features, including wood panelling and huge bay windows, this place is anything but stuffy. Furnishings are upholstered in bright velvets, and the beds are deep and piled high with pillows and cushions. If you don’t want to go out, there’s also an excellent on-site restaurant, No35, serving up imaginative modern British cuisine.
There’s no mistaking your location when you splash out on the Castle Suite at this Edinburgh outpost of the Sheraton, situated on bustling Lothian Road. With muted tartan wallcoverings from floor to ceiling and a perfect view of the castle, you couldn’t be anywhere but Scotland’s capital. The contemporary Scottish interiors include bespoke art on the walls, deeply indulgent bathrooms with Molten Brown toiletries, and even an award-winning thermal spa with a rooftop hydropool – perfect for helping you de-stress while taking in panoramic views of the city.
There’s not a tartan carpet or stag’s head in sight at this cooly contemporary hotel, the only one on the Royal Mile to boast five stars. With its pale-wood floors, muted palette of greys, cool off-whites and pared-back decor, this laid-back venue owes more than a nod to minimalist Scandi design. The Radisson Collection also offers nine suites that have been individually designed by renowned Scottish designers, complete with playful interiors with pops of colour and quirky artwork. Its Old Town location makes this hotel a perfect place to base yourself for the Edinburgh Festival or the bacchanalian Hogmanay celebrations.
Just steps away from the upmarket shops on George Street and within walking distance of most of the city’s attractions, the Kimpton Charlotte Square’s prime location makes it an ideal base. Comprising seven elegant Georgian townhouses, the hotel features eclectically styled rooms decked out with heavy velvet curtains, tartan throws and deep colours. Roll-top baths and bespoke Perfumer’s Garden toiletries invite you to wallow a little bit longer, while the handmade mattresses make hitting the snooze button irresistible. After a day of sightseeing, rejuvenate in the spa, take a dip in the indoor pool or relax with a nightcap in the garden bar.