Words: Tim Heap
It’s inevitable that in the days immediately following the Attitude Awards, there’s a scramble for booking a bit of annual leave in order to recuperate after a busy month of getting the issue together and ensuring the event goes without too much of a hitch.
This year was no exception, and after shaking off one hell of a hangover, my newly-turned-30 boyfriend and I jumped on a train north for a short break in Edinburgh.
The Scottish capital, full of medieval, cobbled charm on one side and wide Georgian grandeur on the other, with the Princes Street Gardens in the middle, has plenty to entertain visitors, even outside of the manic month of August, when the world’s best performers arrive for the Edinburgh Festival and Festival Fringe.
Our home for the weekend was top boutique hotel Nira Caledonia, occupying two Georgian townhouses on a quiet street in the city’s New Town area – a 10-minute walk to Princes Street and 15 minutes to the “Pink Triangle”, the heart of Edinburgh’s gay scene.
In almost Tardis-esque fashion, the hotel comprises 28 spacious bedrooms having been reconfigured and refurbished to the tune of £1.4m following a fire that devastated half of it in 2017.
Our first-floor, open-plan suite is bigger than my flat in Brighton, with high ceilings and two huge sash windows fill it with light. The bed is, frankly, enormous – so much so that it’s easy to lose track of my boyfriend in it at night when the lights are out.
The room is elegantly decorated, with dark-wood furniture and warm tones on the walls and through the soft furnishings. The compact bathroom impresses with L’Occitane toiletries and a bathtub with jets.
When we first arrive, general manager Chris Lynch talks about the hotel’s ethos of sustainability and sourcing local produce for the hotel’s restaurant, Blackwood’s Bar and Grill.
Where possible, meat, fish, vegetables and even water are sourced from within Scotland, with table menus listing the main suppliers.
Nira Caledonia is also making other small changes to reduce waste, such as switching to the Eden Project’s compostable coffee pods for Nespresso machines found in guestrooms.
On our first evening, we dine in Blackwood’s, enjoying a three-course meal of fare including Scottish mussels in a white wine sauce, lamp rump in a rosemary and whisky jus, and apple tarte tatin with fresh cream.
For real meat-lovers, the Josper grill ensures perfect steaks, from the signature sharing chateaubriand to hanger, ribeye and fillet. Service is attentive without being overbearing – something that extends to all aspects of the stay.
Breakfast is also served in Blackwood’s, with a decent buffet selection accompanied by an à la carte menu that serves freshly cooked staples, plus a full Scottish breakfast that includes a portion of haggis.
Having visited Edinburgh before and stayed in the hustle and bustle of the Royal Mile, the Nira Caledonia’s laidback luxury was a welcome surprise and just what the doctor ordered after awards mania. Perhaps a tradition has been born…