One thing the Americans do well is the Residence-style hotel, and I am continually on the search for a European offering that can match the comfortable elegance of my favourite residence in Aspen. I think I may finally have found it – in Edinburgh – home of luxury travel in Scotland.
The Chester Residence on Edinburgh’s Rothesay Place is a truly remarkable conversion of a traditional townhouse – or four townhouses, as it happens. Taking up much of this block of Georgian -built frontage, the listed buildings have been transformed into luxury self-contained apartments without losing any of that original charm. Inside, jaw-dropping room sizes, designer furnishings and thoughtful touches certainly elevate this five star hotel to the higher ranks of luxury accommodation, and in a city that prides itself on its outstanding hospitality, residents at the Chester can be sure of an indulgent stay.
We arrived on a particularly wet evening in October, having fought the stalling traffic on the M8 and coped with the confusing one-way layout in place for the Edinburgh tram works. The Chester is remarkably easy to find, and although it lies almost at the heart of Edinburgh, a mere stone’s throw from the Castle and the shopping along Princes Street, reaching it by car is far from difficult.
The reception is in the first of its buildings, at number 9, and it’s hard not to be impressed when you’re met by a smiling Scotsman in a kilt, carrying an umbrella to rescue you from the depressing drizzle. As we were led next door, front-of-house Christina explained that reaching the separate residences meant leaving each building by the front door, a necessary requirement since planning regulations wouldn’t allow the listed buildings to be knocked through. While it may not be the best arrangement for staff, as a resident of the hotel it is the perfect set up – you have the freedom of an apartment without the need to pass through public areas whenever you step foot outside – giving you total privacy as you come and go.
Apartment 8/3, also known as the Grand, certainly lives up to its name. The spacious living room, with its impossibly high ceilings, is beautifully decorated in warm woods and chocolate browns. iPod docking stations, satellite television, hidden surround sound and a living flame fire the Georgian’s would have been envious of, are just a few of the touches that adorn the room. My husband settled on the expansive leather sofa to flick through the movie channels, while I headed to the kitchen to become acquainted with my new best friend – the Nespresso machine.
Although residents have a fully equipped kitchen at their disposal, the Chester Residence does offer in-apartment dining if booked in advance. Caramelized shallot and goat’s cheese tartlet, and beef wellingtons or 28 day matured steaks are on the varied and tempting menu. But if dinner out is more up your street, then it literally only have to walk a block or two away to find a range of delicious restaurants with cuisines from around the world.
As a travel writer I suffer from an unfortunate affliction. I don’t sleep well in strange places. It can cause problems on press trips, with sleepless nights one after the other as I bed hop around the country. No such problems at the Chester, and I can boast one of the best sleeps I’ve had in months. The Chester sits on a relatively quiet road, and with the bedroom located at the back of the house, there isn’t any noise to disturb guests. This is a utopian home-away-from-home, and a hotel that certainly comes highly recommended.
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This Borthwick Castle hotel is the epitome of ancient luxury, the very walls, crumbling from Oliver Cromwell’s attempted invasion, filled with a rich history and tales of fleeing Queens and ghosts.
I stayed in this fantastical luxury hotel in the picturesque Scottish Borders a few months ago, revelling in first real stay in a genuine castle. I was there to seek out the ghost for an article I was writing, but I couldn’t help but lose focus on my task while I was surrounded by such a location.
The history of Borthwick dates back over 600 years, and encompasses legendary visits by Mary Queen of Scots. The interior is much as I imagine the castle would have looked in those days, with thick stone walls, gaping fireplaces filled with roaring flames, and tapestries hung from the galleries. The Minstrels Gallery is even still there, and the charming housekeeper played up a quaint tune or two on her flute at the culmination of our meal.
The bedroom I stayed in, which incidentally is meant to be the haunted one, was the aptly named Red Room. The ghost of a young girl is said to haunt these walls, and her image is meant to be clearly seen on the stone mantlepiece. I could certainly see an outline that could have resembled a figure, but I guess I’m not cynical enough to believe in its reality.
The four-poster bed was more than comfortable and perfect if you’re booking in for a romantic stay, but what really got me was the size of the bathroom. It was tiny, with a shower curtain that clearly didn’t stretch all the way across, and the door to the toilet was nothing more than a curtain hung across the gap. Somehow, though, all this is acceptable when you realise that the incredibly thick stone walls would have been impossible to fit a door to anyway.
Access to these rooms is via a steep, circular stone stairway, and if you continued up, you’d come to the room that Mary Queen of Scots stayed in all those years ago.
The view over the surrounding countryside is incredible, and despite it lying only a short distance from Edinburgh, you can see very little built up area from the small windows. Weddings are frequently held here, and it’s no wonder really, given its impossible perfect location and fairytale setting.
Borthwick Castle is a fabulous hotel that has certainly earned the title of luxurious. It comes highly recommended by the candidtraveller team.