Edinburgh has to be one of the most exciting cities in the UK but often visitors don’t see the ‘real’ Edinburgh – sticking only to the famous (and there are a lot!) tourist attractions.
To help you make the most of your visit to Edinburgh we’ve called upon our friends, the concierges from three of the most prestigious hotels in Edinburgh, to share their top tips.
Gavin Stirling, Head Concierge at Crowne Plaza Edinburgh – The Roxburghe
Gavin has held his position at The Roxburghe for 6 years where he is tasked with my ensuring every guest is made to feel special! He has worked at various hotels since 2001 starting his career close to home at The Scotsman Hotel. Voted Concierge of The Year in 2009 and 2014 by Scottish Hotel Awards
Edinburgh’s beauty is second to none and I can’t think of any other city which boasts the kind of view you get when stood on Salisbury Crag’s or Arthur’s Seat. Calton Hill also offers fantastic panoramic views across the city and Firth of Forth but I challenge anyone to come to our capital and not be in awe when looking across the building tops of the Old Town at sunset during autumn.
Edinburgh is saturated with great options for all fashion lovers. High street favourites can be found on Princess Street and design outlets are readily available on Multrees Walk, however if you head to the West End Village you will find a fascinating array of specialist retailers and independent boutiques (Sam Brown and Helen Bateman) are guaranteed to please the ladies looking for heels or bags! ) A short walk across Charlotte Square will lead you to another street which is not necessarily associated with shopping – Thistle Street. Here you can find a further small selection of fine boutiques such as Jane Davidson, Pam Jenkins and Kakao by K.
I am proud to say that Edinburgh is placed firmly on the fine food culinary map within the UK. The cross section of restaurants, brasseries, cafes, pubs and bars is sure to cater for every discerning food lover with quality dining experiences to be found in the every corner of the city. For an insider’s tip I would highly recommend The George Street Bar & Grill which is one of the city’s rising stars having been launched in August 2013. Great atmosphere, slick service and a knowledgeable team make ensure this is not be missed for drinks or food. Open seven days a week (music on Thursday & Sundays), it serves locally sourced produce for brunch, lunch and dinner. You can enjoy cocktail master classes, whiskey flights (£15 for a selection of three malt whiskies), craft beers (Innis and Gunn) and excellent wine. Simply sit back on the terrace while you watch the hustle and bustle of George Street pass you by!
Some people are not aware that Edinburgh was the first city to be designated a UNESCO City of Literature back in 2004. Scotland is historically rich with famous writers and literary greats but Edinburgh itself has influenced many authors such as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Robert Burns, Ian Rankin, Sir Walter Scott and Irvine Welsh. Anybody heard of J K Rowling? You can also visit The Elephant House Café on George IV Bridge where she first penned Harry Potter. There is also The Edinburgh Literary Pub Tour for anyone wishing to combine their love of literature with a few drams along the way too.
The National Galleries of Scotland have played host to some of the world’s most famous artists and you can now visit the Portrait Gallery to enjoy John Byrne’s Sitting Duck’s exhibition.
For something off the beaten track take a wander to Market street’s Fruitmarket Gallery where a solo exhibition from Jim Lambie brings together two decades of sculpture and exhibition.
Stuart Massie, Head Concierge at The Sheraton Hotel and Spa
Stuart has been Head Concierge at the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa for almost 9 years. Stuart manages a talented team whose duties range from extending the warmest Scottish welcome to all guests on arrival at the hotel through to the expert planning of their itineraries. Stuart is a member of the prestigious Golden Keys (Clef d’Or) association which is a byword for guaranteed, quality service. From golf to dining and sightseeing to cultural events, Stuart is highly regarded as having his finger on the pulse and his diverse range of contacts throughout Scotland have ensured a truly memorable experience for many guests.
Shopping: Sheila Fleet Jewellery
Orcadian jewellery has enchanted people for several years now with its marine and nature themes and sometimes runic concepts. There are several vendors but the best one I feel is Sheila Fleet. She has a wonderful shop in St. Stephen Street as well as some cabinets in the Jenner’s Department store. Recognise the designer herself for she is a wonderful raconteur – someone who talks more than me.
Food: City Restaurants
Amongst a city with more restaurants per capita than anywhere else in the UK, it could be difficult to find a good restaurant. However the following restaurants will be safe havens of enjoyment: Castle Terrace, Wedgwood, Blackfriar’s, Ondine, The Honours, Mithas, Timberyard, The Atelier, and Field. As always, when I travel to another city and I am unsure, I speak to a hotel Concierge if I am unsure and to make a booking.
Edinburgh’s best kept secret: Gilmerton Cove
Mysterious tunnels or smuggler’s haven? Gilmerton Cove remains Edinburgh’s best kept secret – a series of hand carved passageways and chambers lie below ground to the south of Gilmerton Crossroads. This is often overlooked and well worth the visit.
Some great bars: Whigham’s, Café Royale, Teuchter’s Landing, Monteith’s Rick’s Bar, Red Squirrel, Kay’s Bar. Also stop at the great Gin Bar at the Sheraton Hotel for a Gin Mare. Spanish gin served in a long glass with ice, rosemary and basil – always a winner!
David Musk, Head Concierge at The Balmoral Hotel
David has been working on the concierge desk at The Balmoral Hotel since January 2006 and he loves every minute of it. Prior to moving to Edinburgh he worked as concierges around the world including; Port Douglas in Australia, at The St. David’s Hotel & Spa in Cardiff in Wales and at The St. Moritz Hotel in Queenstown, New Zealand.
My first top tip would to encourage anyone who plans to visit our city to contact their concierge before they arrive. There is always something going on in Edinburgh and your concierge can not only send you all the relevant information but they can also make all the arrangements in advance, giving you something extra to look forward to before you arrive.
This is one of the most impressive fortresses in Europe and is the most visited tourist attraction in the UK outside of London, so I always recommend advance tickets to avoid the large queues that the castle experiences daily.
The Old Town
A place full of character and history especially the main High Street which is affectionately known as The Royal Mile. Don’t be afraid to walk through some of the narrow alleyways or ‘closes’ that lead off from The Royal Mile. You can discover some beautiful old medieval courtyards that are hidden away.
The New Town
A very different area to the Old Town but is wonderfully elegant and it is easy to see why it is a World Heritage Site. The shopping is fantastic in this area and again you’ll find some real gems if you veer away from the main streets and explore some of the smaller boutique areas such as Thistle Street and William Street in The West End village.
Above Street Level
One piece of advice I always give to visitors no matter what area of the city they are visiting is to “look up”. The architecture in Edinburgh is so unique and so many of the buildings have amazing carvings, statues, gargoyles and cornicing. They are easy to miss unless you take the time to stop and gaze upwards.
Finally no visit to Edinburgh would be complete without experiencing our world famous Afternoon Tea which is served in our Palm Court tea room or dinner in our Michelin Star restaurant Number One. They are both truly luxurious experiences.