? The Scotsman
20 North Bridge (0131 556 5565; fax: 652 3652; www.thescotsmanhotel. co.uk). For almost a century, Scotland’s grand old national newspaper was edited (and printed) in this baronial office block.
But several years ago it was converted into a chic, discreet hotel, a comfortable blend of traditional five-star and smart boutique. There’s a steel pool in the space-age gym and even a private cinema; but there are also a few hangovers from the hot-metal days, right down to the newsprint pattern on the crockery. The splendid marble staircase, once strictly out of bounds to all but the most senior journalists, is now open to all comers – even visiting reporters.
The walnut-panelled editor’s office, now a plush bedroom suite, enjoys a wonderful view across the city. Doubles from £200
? Prestonfield Priestfield Road (0131 225 7800; fax: 220 4392; www. prestonfield.com). James Thomson used to work as a waiter in this 17th-century mansion. Last year, he bought it He’s since spent more than £3 million replenishing its Jacobean splendour, even buying back some of the original furniture. Yet, although the period details are authentic, the overall effect is so extravagant that it’s like wandering onto the set of some flamboyant costume drama. The hotel is at the foot of Arthur’s Seat, a quick cab ride from the city centre; peacocks and Highland Cattle loiter on the lawns and fields of the mansion’s 29-acre estate. Why is the restaurant called Rhubarb? Because this
was the first estate in Scotland to grow it The mansion was a lavish salon for the leading lights of the Scottish Enlightenment; more recent guests include Joan Collins. Doubles from £120
? The Witchery By The Castle 2 Castlehill (0131 225 5613; fax: 220 4392; www.thewitchery.com). Thomson’s city-centre prototype, which celebrates its silver jubilee this year, is just as eccentric and colourful as his new out-of-town acquisition, Prestonfield. A 16th-century merchant house, named after the witches burnt on Castlehill, it’s an operatic fantasy, stuffed with bizarre curios and antiques.
The two restaurants are relatively restrained, but only compared to the gloriously camp guest suites. Like silent-movie evocations of an imaginary Scotland, these dreamlike hideaways have been inhabited by Hollywood stars Jack Nicholson, and Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones. Suites £250
? The Glasshouse 2 Greenside Place (0131 525 8200; fax: 525 8205; www.theeton-collection.com). Floor-to-ceiling windows, ginger hues and clear-cut contemporary design lie behind the 19th-century chapel facade of this hotel, featured in this magazine’s Hot List’ in May 2016; on top is the hotel’s USP: a huge roof garden with views of Calton Hill. Doubles from £175
Above and right, eccentric interiors at Witchery By The Castle hotel. Below, a bedroom at The Scotsman orders. This sociable culture is reflected in the lifestyle of the tenements. Neighbours congregate on common stairwells and hang out their washing in communal gardens. Shared experience spills out into the comer bars and onto the busy streets beyond.
Time was, these gregarious elements only really came together in August, but Edinburgh no longer needs London’s permission to throw a party. Between the bus station and Harvey Nichols, Louis Vuitton rubs shoulders with Giorgio Armani. Round the corner is the Hallion, Edinburgh’s answer to London’ Soho House. It’s really my take on a genre that’s happening in London, Hong Kong and New York,’ says founder-owner Glyn Partridge. Hallion is Scots for rascal’ but this is an opulent private members’ club that is supremely cosmopolitan even out of season.
Yet there’s still a special buzz in August, when the whole city becomes a stage than those at the Assembly Rooms, and the ambience a lot less formal, but production standards are just as high. It’s a good place to spot rising stars. I saw Frank Skinner and Steve Coogan here in 1990, sharing a stage in front of a handful of spectators. They both won the Perrier Comedy Award over the next two years.
On a dry night, the Pleasance courtyard is perfect for alfresco drinking. Torchlight flickers on the cobblestones and the cool air hums with tipsy conversation. At midnight, newspaper vendors arrive with early editions of the papers, performers rifle through the reviews, and so another day begins. Looming overhead is Arthur’s Seat, one of the twin peaks that prop up the city like gigantic bookends. A morning jog to the summit is a bracing hangover cure, if you can face it. From the windswept summit you can look across the Firth of Forth, and right out to sea.
So what makes Edinburgh such an ideal host for the festivities? Well, the Gothic architecture is as dramatic as the volcanic landscape, and the liberal licensing laws don’t do any harm. In a city where you can get a drink at almost any time of the day or night, there’s no such thing as last