Virgin Hotels Edinburgh - history and style in a labyrinth of luxury - Scotland on Sunday Travel
Richard Branson’s hotel brand opens its first UK property in Edinburgh’s Old Town
“You are welcome” reads the bright neon sign as you enter the impressive wood-panelled bar and lounge at Virgin Hotels Edinburgh. Located in the city’s landmark India Buildings, the Old Town hotel is a luxurious labyrinth over multiple floors that unfolds from Victoria Street down to the Grassmarket in a celebration of heritage with contemporary touches.
The first UK property from the luxury lifestyle hotel brand of Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson, with another to follow in Glasgow this summer, phase one sees 54 rooms and the restaurant and bar open, with phase two later in the year bringing the room count to 222, as well as further dining and drinking outlets.
Formerly a city registry office, this historic building has seen many a wedding, including that of some of the early visitors, keen to revisit memories of their big day. Architects Four-by-Two have preserved elements of the original, including cupolas that flood light onto tiled floors and original staircases, while the Virgin Group’s trademark red pops up in red doors, mini-fridges and lapel badges of the friendly and helpful staff.
Artworks abound, with many pieces created by local artists alongside works inspired by the Scottish location. There’s fashion photography, portrait galleries celebrating Scottish women from past and present, and a focus on female Scottish artists such as Edinburgh-based Wendy Helliwell whose ‘Virgin Lips’ incorporating a pair of jeans can be seen in the restaurant.
Budget or boutique?
It’s high end, five star.
There are ‘Chambers’ or suites, with Sir Richard’s Flat, where Virgin Group founder stays when he’s in town, available to high-flyers. Sliding doors separate a sleep and relaxation space and the rooms take advantage of the building’s high ceilings and windows, with dressing areas and plenty of storage. Think illuminated mirrored vanity units, extra-large showers and red Smeg mini-fridges with local products (including miniature Buckfast and Lind and Lime Gin), Arran Aromatics toiletries, soft textiles, bespoke beds with a pull out corner seats, HD TV, sensor lighting, free wi-fi and yoga mat.
Wining and Dining
Multiple distinct dining and drinking spaces are on offer, from the stylish Commons Club flagship restaurant and bar with its ‘social club’ vibe, to the sumptuous Scarlet Lounge and Funny Library Coffee Shop, all bookcases, comfy seating and cosy fire for teas, coffees, house-made pastries and sandwiches, leading onto a tiled, light and plant-filled entertainment space.
Coming in phase two in the autumn will be Eve, an all-day dining space, and Greyfriars Hall, a restored 19th-century church, special event venue and rooftop sanctuary with Castle views.
At the Commons Club Edinburgh-born Executive Chef, Steven Wilson’s menu showcases contemporary Scottish cuisine using the local produce. Highlights such as Gigha halibut in Shetland blue mussel and saffron veloute to Isle of mull seaweed tortellini bursting with wild herb ricotta, clay over roasted artichokes, green pea and vegetarian parmesan were almost as much fun to watch being prepared by the chefs in the open kitchen from the communal Chef’s Table. Exposed stone and mood lighting make The Bar a welcoming place to enjoy the hotel’s signature cocktails, the wide selection of whiskies and liquors or take up one of the friendly staff’s recommendations.
Worth Getting Out of Bed For
You’re right in the heart of the Old Town with Victoria Street and the Grassmarket to explore, or visit the hotel’s gym and fitness centre to work off all that indulgence.
The rooms are pet friendly, with complimentary ‘pet-menities’ available, including dog beds and food and water dishes.
When Virgin Hotels says You are Welcome, they mean it.
Prices start at £320. The hotel offers guests the chance to sign up for a brand-wide preferences and loyalty program, ‘The Know’, with room upgrades and an app for prior check in, member rates, special events and a complimentary cocktail hour in Commons Club - all when booking directly with Virgin Hotels.
For room reservations see www.virginhotels.com/edinburgh.
Commons Club Restaurant reservations can be made at www.commonsclub.com/edinburgh
Virgin Hotels Edinburgh, 1 India Buildings, Victoria Street, Edinburgh EH1 2EX, (0131 526 4810, www.virginhotels.com/edinburgh)