Secret vault room unveiled in Edinburgh's latest hostel

Visitors will have the chance to sleep in one of the world’s most unusual hostel rooms – after developers discovered a secret vault while creating a new stopover for backpackers in Edinburgh.

Monday, 2nd December 2019, 5:00 pm
The vault room features the original door.

Fit out experts and architects uncovered the hidden 3.2 square metre vault during refurbishment of a former fruit market in the Capital. The team at the St Christopher’s Inn chain have transformed it into a feature room – retaining the foot-thick walls and the original six-inch thick, steel safe door, which has been welded open to avoid any trapped travellers.

Sophie Herbert, Marketing Director at parent company Beds and Bars, which operates successful hostels and bars across nine cities in seven European countries, said: “It’s an absolutely amazing find.

“It didn’t show up on any plans so we didn’t know this vault existed until the site team came across it. The entire room is basically a large, walk-in safe.

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The bedroom has wallpaper featuring safety deposit boxes.

“Our best guess is that it was a vault for cash takings from the days when the site was a flourishing fruit and veg market serving the city. Certainly, it would have been almost impregnable.

“As well as reinforced walls that are more than a foot thick, it has a steel door which weighs more than a tonne. Sadly, there was no secret stash of cash or bullion inside. In fact, all we found was an old shoe.

“We believe we have come up with the perfect use for the space, by turning it into a brilliant double room with all mod cons. It is very cool and different and we really expect it to appeal to our young target market. And with doors and walls so thick it is guaranteed to be very well soundproofed!”

The vault room is one of 18 specially designed rooms in the new hostel, which has recently opened on Market Street. Inside, guests will find a double bed, and an en suite bathroom as well as design elements giving a nod to its heritage – including specially-designed wallpaper that looks like rows of safety deposit boxes, and an internal safe that provides a ‘gamification’ experience where guests can crack a code and break into the safe to win some goodies.

The challenge comes as part of a long-term partnership between Beds and Bars and local escape room specialists Escape Reality, to implement permanent game features and puzzles in the room and provide a unique entertainment experience exclusive to those who stay in the vault room.

While the vault is believed to date back to the building’s boom period as a thriving fruit and veg market in the late 1800s, it isn’t the only important find in the B-Listed venue. The two-storey structure, which backs onto Waverley train station, also has 10 historic “phoenix columns”.

The unusual, iron, hexagonal columns were patented by Samuel Reeves of the Phoenix Iron Company in Pennsylvania in 1862 and are renowned for their immense load bearing weight – hinting that the building was designed for heavy industry related to the neighbouring train station.

As part of the sensitive refurbishment of the building, the columns have all been incorporated into the design while historic stone and steelwork has also been restored and will be left exposed. The external façade has also seen the original doors and windows restored and ironmongery has been sourced to carefully match what would have been there originally.

The new hostel is directly opposite the existing St Christopher’s Inn and will bring another 139 affordable beds to the area. Rooms in the new venue will range from the private vault room to dorms shared by up to 12 people. Beds range from £9.90 per night inclusive of free continental breakfast and wifi in low season, to a high of £68 per night for a private double room in high season.

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