Review: We see if Virgin Hotels Edinburgh has the wow factor - Scotland on Sunday Travel
I’m going undercover as a tourist in my own city for one night only
It’s very appealing to abandon my freezing cold flat, and stay in the new Virgin Hotels Edinburgh, where the heating bill is on Richard Branson.
There’s a feeling of occasion, when you enter the former India Buildings from Victoria Street, and follow the red carpet up. At reception, there are random artworks, and album sleeves from Virgin Records artists including Sex Pistols and Mike Oldfield. When they opened this place, they said they wanted it to have the wow factor, and it certainly does. There’s lots to look at - and smell, as the resident-only areas, like the chic lounge, Oculus, have their own smokey scent. Dogs are also welcome.
Budget or boutique?
Chambers start from £186, and Suites from £247, rising to £716 per night for Sir Richard’s Flat. Boutique, then.
The bright red Virgin branding in the hotel is great, but I wouldn’t want it to extend to the boudoir. Thankfully, they’ve gone for neutral tones in the bedrooms – apart from maybe, in the Atlas Mountains inspired Kasbah Tamadot Suite - with the occasional vibrant print and their signature monochrome image of Highland dancers, which is in all 225 rooms.
We stayed in a Grand Chamber Queen Suite, which looks out onto the currently scaffolding-clad section of Victoria Street. In common with the other rooms in this hotel, they’ve navigated listed building restrictions and protected the beautiful cornices by building a wooden structure within the high ceilinged space. That gives it the feeling of a theatre set, which I love, darling. This area contains the walk-in Kohler showerroom (no bath though) and separate WC, as well as plenty of wardrobe space and a sink.
The suite is very ergonomic. As well as all the storage, there’s a curved sofa and footstool, so you can watch telly without contorting yourself into a weird angle, window seats and a table and chairs for two.
The queen sized bed has marble side tables that you can easily reach while you’re prostrate. There’s a full-sized mirror, the air-con works perfectly and the blinds and curtains shut out all light. I sleep way better than I usually do in a hotel. There are also smart controls on the telly, to adjust the temperature, lighting, and check out, look at menus or order room service.
No snagging required.
Wining and dining
Breakfast is served in the new Eve all-day dining venue, down on Cowgate level. There's a menu here, rather than a buffet, and I tried the sourdough with avocado, tomato, mushrooms and bacon, as well as a turmeric-inflected smoothie. At night, they serve spritzy cocktails, have a DJ, and a menu that features mac ‘n’ cheese and chicken burgers.
If you’re in a hurry, the atrium area beside the Funny Library (a library and seating area with amusing books) offers coffee and pastries to grab.
For lunch or dinner, there’s also the Commons Club Restaurant, which is divided into a light and bright open kitchen space and more of a wine cellar style room. They serve a signature Caeser salad, with langoustines, or dishes featuring quail, oysters or seaweed tortellini.
Upstairs, you’ll find the Commons Club Bar, where you can try amazing, though expensive, cocktails, including Breakfast in the Highlands (£18). We sat up at the bar and enjoyed the chat and theatrics from the bar staff.
Worth getting out of bed for
You’re in prime position for all of Edinburgh’s Old Town delights. The Royal Mile is on the doorstep, and apparently some of the rooms have a view of the castle. You’re also next door to seafood restaurant, Ondine, and cheesemonger IJ Mellis and restaurant The Grain Store are right opposite.
Check out is noon, so no rush to vacate.
There’s a red Smeg fridge full of Champagne as well as goodies from local brands including Rapscallion, Brewgooder, Cushiedoos and Irn-Bru. They also offer an in-room whisky experience that you can choose to participate in. As far as free nibbles go, you’ll find Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers, plus coffee from nearby Santu, and teabags of every variety.
Bathroom toiletries are by Arran Sense of Scotland.
If you sign up for their loyalty programme, The Know, you can take part in a cocktail hour, or other perks. There’s also Lucy, their personal assistant app, for a contactless stay.
This is THE place to stay.
Chambers start from £186, and Suites from £247, rising to £716 per night for Sir Richard’s Flat.
Virgin Hotels Edinburgh, 1 India Buildings (0131 526 4810, www.virginhotels.com)