If you don’t mind handsome men in kilts greeting you in the lobby, then book a stay at this extraordinary maze of a hotel. We are welcomed by friendly, highly efficient staff, buzzing harmoniously to ensure that a 240-room establishment is smoothly ticking over.
Built in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Principal in George Street (the street is a great location for shopping, and less busy than neighbouring Princes Street) is labyrinthine due to the fact it was once five Georgian townhouses, built for Edinburgh’s elite. Sir Walter Scott and Robert Burns were regular visitors. More recent celebrity visitors include Omar Sharif and Elizabeth Taylor.
Vintage typewriters dotted around the hotel pay homage to the building’s literary history: it was also the birthplace of publishing company Oliphant, Anderson and Ferrier. The Principal has an intimate quality that isn’t to be expected of a large hotel group, and children are welcomed: staff are on hand to give customised experiences, depending your kids’ needs.
The hotel’s generous welcome extends to within the rooms, where you’ll find tuck boxes laden with select Scottish sweet and savoury treats, including deliciously squishy homemade brownies, buttery shortbreads and artisan jams. These can also be found in the Principal’s coffee bar, the popular Burr & Co.
Scottish landscape painters have provided inspiration for the subtle, thoroughly thought out décor. Gorgeous greys, touches of crimson, and dark, elegant tones set the scene. In the Principal Suite, little touches include a Victorian top hat, (impossible not to try on) for a touch of theatre, nostalgic rotary phones, glass cases filled with antique literature and mysterious vials of liquid labelled “drink me” set out on the writing desk.We did, and you should.
The hotel’s magnificent King’s Hall accommodates 300 guests – ideal for a conference or wedding. Ornate pillars prop up a ridiculously high ceiling, the centrepiece of which is a stained glass dome, dripping with dreamy, floaty chandeliers. For smaller meetings, the Forth View Suite looks across Edinburgh to the river and beyond.
The adjoined Printing Press Bar & Kitchen is an experience in its own right, even if you don’t decide to stay overnight. Head Chef Colin Fleming, whose credits include Edinburgh’s Martin Wishart and The Balmoral, opts for fresh, seasonal and local produce, ensuring the menus change regularly. The heritage carrot salad starter packs a pretty punch, and the menu’s other offerings, such as the slow-braised lamb breast are deliciously comforting, which somehow seems incongruous (in a good way) in such a sizeable dining area. We then trickle back to the amber-lit bar for a nightcap, for a welcomed demonstration on the correct way to do whisky. A magical experience.
Published in Le Prestige Scandinavia