Escape: Castle Nest

Tucked away in the ancient heart of the capital is an opulent and inviting wee home with all you need for a magical getaway…

Words Miriam Methuen-Jones
Photography Neil Macmillan

It might be too late for your acceptance to Hogwarts to drop through the letterbox, but no one is ever too old for a little bit of magic. And that’s exactly what you’ll find at this self-catering hideaway on the Upper Bow in the historic heart of Edinburgh. It’s easy to picture Harry Potter himself all grown up and living here in this bewitching  apartment. A blend of fairytale and sorcery certainly informed the thinking behind the interior design, says Darren Armstrong of Strong Property, the developer charged with transforming the 19th-century flat.  

“The initial brief was to design a luxurious Scottish hideaway that made the most of its location at the foot of Edinburgh Castle,” explains Armstrong. “I remember the day our builders were ripping the plaster off the walls, hoping to reach the original stone beneath. We hit the jackpot – it’s clear we’d found the entrance to Platform 9¾ and our theme,” he smiles. “Now, thanks to a carefully placed sign, you can see what I saw that day mid-renovation.”

The renovation uncovered beautiful original stone which inspired the whole enchanted theme – the Platform 9 3⁄4 sign now marks the transitional spot.

That sign isn’t the only clue you’re in a Potter wonderland. There are nods to the wizarding world all over the beautifully accessorised apartment: jellybeans in every flavour, black cats guarding your coats and a portrait of Harry looking down from the display case. 

The one-bedroom property is a mere 24 square metres but careful use of space allows for a relaxing stay. Armstrong has got the most out of every nook. The mustard-yellow sofa is slim but comfortable, and there’s space at the window for extra seating. Mirrored panels have been placed on most of the walls, making the rooms feel brighter and bigger.

The smartest use of space is in the kitchen, which adjoins the living room. It’s teeny but it packs a punch with its bespoke colour-matched deep blue cabinetry. There’s an oven, a two-ring hob and a half-size sink (wide enough to rinse out a glass or two), a dishwasher for bigger loads, storage space for cutlery and tableware, and there’s even a washing machine. You probably wouldn’t want to cook a week’s worth of dinners in here, though it’s entirely feasible. There’s certainly enough room to make a pot of porridge and a fancy coffee to fuel your exploration of the city. In any case, there’s a wealth of cafes and restaurants on the doorstep.

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Left: The living room’s dark blue walls allow the yellow velvet curtains and matching sofa to glow, with added ambience thanks to antique-style mirrors. Right: Bespoke units in the wee kitchen allow all the essentials (and then some) to be squeezed in: it even has a dishwasher and a washing machine

The bedroom has been thoughtfully designed too. The tall window is fitted with heavy velvet blackout curtains that frame the views of the castle but also shield you from the bustle of the city. Rather than squeeze in a bulky wardrobe, Armstrong made use of a recess, fitting it out with clothing rails and storage shelves. He has tried to preserve as much of the floor space as possible, replacing the door to the room with a pocket door that opens by sliding back into the wall.

The bed is decadently high, with a particularly luxurious mattress to ensure a restful sleep. The deep green walls and antiqued mirror panelling add to the cosy feel. Less street noise than you might imagine filters in. The pipers around the corner on the Royal Mile add a welcome touch of atmosphere during the day, but they’ve packed up by the time evening arrives. 

The bedroom is painted in Little Greene’s Invisible Green, with antique-style mirror panelling from Trinity Glazing. The pink velvet curtains were handmade by Audrey Quinn at Designer Drapes in Musselburgh.

In any case, one of the main benefits of this pad is its location. Literally just a few steps from the castle, it’s a great jumping-off point for exploring the Old Town. As luck would have it, The Pop Up Geeks, a cocktail venue I’d been meaning to visit for ages, was running a ‘Perilous Potions’ theme at the time of our visit. (The venue changes its decor and menu every few months – past themes include Star Wars, Stranger Things and Game of Thrones.) We were able to mix our own witchy brews then watch them bubble or change colour – very on-theme! 

To keep the spooky mood going and to get to know the darker side of the city, take one of the many walking tours of Edinburgh that focus on its myths, murders and monsters. You might even manage to catch the beginning of a tour just by peeking out of the Castle Nest’s window.

But even though there’s a world of entertainment on the doorstep, I wouldn’t be surprised if you decide all you want to do when you arrive is curl up with a dram and a good book. Armstrong puts it best: “I feel we have designed something that brings out the childlike imagination in everyone. If the guests who stay here are happy, that means we’ve done a good job.

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