Pared-back elegance shines out of the latest arrival to Edinburgh’s Old Town
Photography Marc Millar
Words Catherine Coyle
Built in an inauspicious gap between two historic buildings, the latest addition to the Edinburgh skyline could have been lost to visitors, had it not been for the exceptional design that balances the heritage of its location with the kind of modern edge that you’d expect in one of the most cosmopolitan cities in the world.
Market Street Hotel opened late last year after a six-year build, but has already bedded in, quietly commanding its spot in the shadow of the North Bridge as if it has always been part of the cityscape.
It’s owned by the Netherlands’ Carlton Group, and its exemplary architecture in a UNESCO World Heritage Site has seen it become the first Scottish member of the influential Design Hotels global collective.
Edinburgh’s JM Architects worked with interior designers at Amsterdam-based FG Stijl to sensitively combine the important historical aspects of the site with the need for contemporary accommodation for 21st-century guests. The results are mightily impressive.
Market Street, now the southern edge of Waverley Station, was at one time the shoreline of the Nor’ Loch, the expansive body of water at the foot of the castle in what today is Princes Street Gardens.
There are gentle references to its previous form, like the exposed ‘broken earth’ effect found in the entrance courtyard walls that direct your eye skywards; there, on the seventh floor, Nor’ Loft, the hotel’s champagne bar, pays homage to its location beneath an undulating roof (reminiscent of Zaha Hadid’s Riverside Museum in Glasgow).
Nor’ Loft feels like a New York City penthouse – chic and exclusive and enjoying secret rooftop views. Up here, sipping cocktails, feels more like being in a movie than being in Edinburgh. But it’s a deliberate design that makes this bar seem private and completely welcoming, all at once.
There are distinctly Scottish overtones both inside and out. Traditional whinstone, white brick and sandstone clad the exterior, deliberately giving the impression of a modern fortress. These materials are found in the bedrooms and communal spaces too, along with white oak shutters (used in place of curtains) to ensure uninterrupted slumber.
There are hints of tartan as well, the cloth made just around the corner by the Tartan Weaving Mill on Castlehill, but the archetypal Scottish weave is also discreetly suggested in the deconstructed plaid pattern of Nor’ Loft’s wooden floors. A relaxed breakfast of avocado and eggs, or small bites to accompany a glass of fizz, are cooked up by the chef at an open-air Bulthaup kitchen from Cameron Interiors; this helps guests feel at home and, together with the easy-going staff, adds to the hotel’s laidback vibe.
All 98 bedrooms are considered, with sliding oak doors to save on space, luxurious Votary toiletries and sleek finishes such as sinks sculpted from Scottish granite. Windows are floor to ceiling to allow guests the best of the iconic skyline. And don’t be alarmed if you notice a cork on your bed… it’s an invitation to the rooftop for a glass of champagne where the views are as intoxicating as the bubbles.