Introducing The Hand Picked Hotels Guide to staycations in Edinburgh.
Scotland’s capital wows from first glance with swathes of stunning architecture overlooked by a castle perched on an extinct volcano. The Old Town dates back to medieval times while the more regimented streets and crescents of the New Town showcase grand Georgian planning. Historic bars and an excellent arts scene are among its further enticements.
Things to do in Edinburgh
On a craggy perch sits Edinburgh Castle, historically the most besieged place in Britain. Listen out for the canon firing at 1pm. From here the cobbled Royal Mile leads down to Holyrood Palace, once home to Mary Queen of Scots, and the striking modern Scottish Parliament building where you can pass through airport-style scanners to take a free peek inside.
The National Museum of Scotland displays exhibits from ancient Egyptian sarcophagi to Dolly, the world’s first cloned sheep. Children will also love the STEM-focused Dynamic Earth. At Leith, step aboard the Royal Yacht Britannia to tour the Queen’s beautiful state apartments.
There are numerous gimmicky ghost tours on offer but an architecture or literary walking tour will reveal the city’s true marvels. If you are a nature-lover, spend some time in the 350-year-old Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, which is illuminated around Christmas. It is even possible to day trip from the city into the Highlands.
The much-photographed view over Edinburgh’s rooftops is from Calton Hill where you can stroll beside a 19th century folly inspired by the Parthenon. Brave 287 steps for another lofty aspect from the top of the nearby Scott Monument. Volcanic outcrop Arthur’s Seat is a further popular climb and features in key scenes in David Nicholl’s best-selling novel One Day.
Arts and culture
Edinburgh has several excellent art galleries, most notably the Scottish National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery. For more contemporary work from the likes of Matisse and Picasso visit the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art on the city’s western outskirts.
Major operas, ballets and musicals are staged at the Festival Theatre, the glass facade of which conceals an historic auditorium. For something more low-key, The Jazz Bar on nearby Chambers Street is a great place to start or end your evening.
Every August the city is packed for the famous Edinburgh Festival and world’s largest Fringe. The spectacular military Tattoo at the castle is the same month. Book your hotel well ahead.
Shopping in Edinburgh
Princes Street is the main artery for well-known chains, with higher-end boutiques like Jo Malone a block behind on George Street. There is a John Lewis off the eastern end of Princes Street and you can find designer favourites in and around Harvey Nichols on Multrees Walk. For charming independent stores browse the city’s cobbled side roads like Thistle Street, William Street and colourful Victoria Street.
Eating and drinking
For glamorous surrounds with city views, sip cocktails in Harvey Nichols’ fourth floor bar or alongside sweet treats in its Chocolate Lounge. Atmospheric bistro-bar The Devil’s Advocate occupies a former Victorian pump house and bank-turned-bar The Dome is famous for its ostentatious décor. By contrast the Oxford Bar on Young Street is the unpretentious pub featured in Ian Rankin’s Rebus detective novels. The Guildford Arms is one of many beautiful Edinburgh hostelries with original fixtures and fittings.
For whisky galore seek out The Bow Bar, Usquabae and The Scottish Whisky Experience, which boasts the world’s largest collection. You can also tour and taste at Holyrood Distillery.
You will find fashionable eateries on the regenerated Leith waterfront. Broughton Street has pleasant bistros, as do the affluent suburbs of Bruntsfield and Morningside. In the city centre, David Bann is notable for its creative vegetarian dishes and The Lookout on Calton Hill offers fine dining with a wonderful view. For a sightseeing pit stop, drop in to The Elephant House café where JK Rowling famously penned parts of Harry Potter.
Relaxing at our Norton House Hotel & Spa, among the best hotels near Edinburgh, enjoy a modern twist on traditional Scottish fare, like braised lamb shank and salmon fillet, in our smart brasserie. Our light-filled conservatory is the perfect spot for afternoon tea.
Don’t forget to book ahead for Burns Night festivities on January 25.
Staying in Edinburgh
Looking for luxury hotels in Edinburgh? Norton House Hotel & Spa in West Lothian is a 19th century bolthole with 55 acres of grounds and everything you need for an idyllic staycation:
- An AA Four Red Star inspector’s choice country house hotel with 83 bedrooms, including four feature rooms.
- Just five minutes from Edinburgh Airport and 20 minutes from the city centre and within three miles of three railways stations.
- A relaxed 11am check out.
- Dog friendly - dedicated rooms have direct grounds access.
- Electric car charging and complimentary on-site parking.
Contact us to find out more or book a room.