Edinburgh is a fantastic place to be in winter, as our marketing expert Lucy Howard discovers on a weekend break in the Scottish capital.
Edinburgh doesn’t fail to wow, right from the start, as you take the scenic route up through the north of the UK from London, and arrive to the beautiful sight of the castle perched dramatically on a rock, overlooking the pretty Princes St Gardens and Georgian streets of historic pubs and inviting shops, cafes and restaurants.
Top Things to do in Edinburgh
Wander the cobbled streets of the Old Town, which wind their way up and down the city. Shop for tartan scarves, whiskey and shortbread on the Royal Mile, visit the cathedral, see masterpieces at the National Gallery, and make the most of the fantastic dining options (vegetarians will love the David Bann restaurant). For a cup of tea and cake in between shopping and sightseeing, stop off at the Elephant House, a cosy café where J.K. Rowling used to write about a then-fledgling character called Harry Potter.
The summer festivals in Edinburgh have become a worldwide phenomenon, and the city also comes alive at Christmas, with festive markets and numerous special events guaranteed to get you in the Christmas spirit, from colourful light installations to big wheels and ice skating. Edinburgh is also famous for its legendary Hogmanay, the New Year festivities which see parades, live bands, street parties and fireworks above the castle.
Where to stay
The hotels are pretty spectacular too, with something to suit everyone, from couples and honeymooners to solo travellers and families. The Balmoral, right next to the main station, Waverley, is historic and legendary, and has been a landmark of the city for over a century (it's the most recognised landmark after the castle, apparently). The clock on the tower is always set three minutes fast (apart from at New Year), so that people aren’t late for their trains! The elegant rooms come with inviting marble bathrooms – ask for a suite overlooking the castle. J. K. Rowling holed up here while writing the final Harry Potter novel, and you can recreate the magic and unleash your own inner novelist with a stay in the J. K. Rowling suite. Before you catch your train back to London, have tea in the beautiful Palm Court, accompanied by a harpist.
The G&V, which sits on the Royal Mile near the cathedral (and just up from the Harry Potter café) prides itself on showcasing local designers and local businesses, with initiatives such as individually designed rooms and interiors that are unique and colourful, a local florist in the lobby and honey at the (delicious) breakfast buffet table which comes from its own bees, as well as a gorgeous bar serving cocktails created from homegrown botanicals. The rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows with panoramic city views. Splash out on the rooftop suite, which is accessed by its very own staircase.
If you’re looking for a luxurious and stylish home away from home, look no further than the Rutland, at the castle end of Princes Street, which as well as rooms has several spacious apartments, each one showcasing a bold and beautiful theme. They all have the wow factor, especially this Pop Art-themed one, where the bedroom wall is adorned with famous faces and their legendary quotes.