A magnificent former bank makes an appropriately grand setting for Edinburgh’s most glamorous new hotel.
Words Natasha Radmehr
It might still be summer, but I am fast approaching Christmas-levels of excitement as my train draws into Edinburgh Waverley.
In just a few minutes, I’ll be stepping inside Gleneagles Townhouse, a five-star hotel in the heart of the capital that has been half a decade in the making.
Gleneagles is, of course, synonymous with luxury, and this is the prestigious brand’s first opening outside of its Gleneagles Perthshire resort. If I had a tail, it would be wagging – but I don’t, so I settle for grinning maniacally at strangers in the street as I sprint to St Andrew Square.
Those familiar with Edinburgh likely have paused at one time or another to admire the A-listed building in which the Townhouse resides.
A former bank, it dates from the 1700s and was further developed in the mid-1800s by architects Bryce & Burn.
Like many banks of its time, its elaborate façade was designed to symbolise the extravagant wealth that lay within.
Six elegant Corinthian columns soar skywards above the entrance, each one supporting a statue designed by Scottish sculptor Andrew Handyside Ritchie. They make a formidable first impression.
Inside, the 33-bedroom hotel is just as lavish, with its stunning period features – marble fireplaces, ornate architraves, oak panelling – on magnificent display.
AIME Studios, the creative arm of the Ennismore hotels group, designed the interior and branding, which is sympathetic to the building’s grand architecture but with the kind of stylish, modern flourishes to be expected from the team behind the artsy aesthetic of the Hoxton.
Many of the artworks throughout the hotel, for example, are contemporary, site-specific commissions by female artists such as France-Lise McGurn and Nell Lyhne, which lend a cool edge to grandeur that at times can border on the overwhelming.
My sister and I circle the reception hall in quiet wonder before we’ve even checked in, taking in the historic floor tiles, double-height ceiling and stained-glass window.
There’s plenty more to drink up when we arrive in our room, both literally and metaphorically.
We sip on welcome cocktails (a whisky-and-ginger Penicillin, in honour of one of Scotland’s most famous scientific discoveries) while lounging on our canopy bed beneath an antique chandelier.
I check out the loo – bottle-green metro tiles, Brunschwig & Fils wallpaper – when I hear a squeal of joy. “They have a hairdryer and straighteners,” shouts my sister, “and they’re both GHD!”
A good thing too, because we’re about to dine in a restaurant worth doing your hair for.
The Spence, located on the ground floor, is the buzzy and cosmopolitan jewel in the Townhouse’s dazzling crown.
A vast and opulent space, it’s lined with granite columns and illuminated by an ornate glass dome. Taking centre stage is a bar wrapped in burled timber with a Verde Tinos marble counter and globe lights inspired by the tellers’ desk in the original bank.
Light pours in through the arched windows, catching the gilded cameos on the frieze that runs around the room.
Quite frankly, they could serve me a bowl of chicken nuggets and I’d still be delighted.
Head chef Jonny Wright’s menu is fittingly sophisticated, however, and we spend nearly four decadent hours munching our way through it.
Oysters; cornbread with chicken butter; Loch Etive sea trout; wild Sika deer haunch; grilled Gigha halibut.
When we think we can’t eat any more, a cheese trolley (also containing petits-fours and doughnuts) rolls around and before we know it we’re gorging again like Henry VIII.
Unwilling for the night to end, we retire upstairs to Lamplighters, the rooftop bar for members and residents only, for a couple of cocktails and views of the city skyline before bed.
It reminds us we’re in Edinburgh and not, as we’ve convinced ourselves, on a mini-break in Paris.
Gleneagles Townhouse is not cheap. But for a special occasion, it provides plenty of memorable moments worth saving up for.
Prices start from £495 per night.
Visit the Gleneagles Townhouse website
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