Anna Smith travels to Edinburgh for a long-awaited stay at The Dunstane Houses.
We have been looking forward to our trip to The Dunstane Houses for YEARS. Our trip of April 2020 was foiled by the pandemic, and we finally arrive in April 2022. It’s early, and we fall off the Caledonian Sleeper from London into the five-star Victorian town house hotel at 8am, expecting to just drop our bags and wander the streets till check in. One coffee later, it transpires our room is already available, and my husband declares it “the best thing that’s happened to me all month” – especially when he sees Room 9, otherwise known as The Dunstane Suite.
Huge by city hotel standards with an enviably high ceiling, it features a very comfortable King bed which is the immediate star attraction. But there’s another feather in the cap of this room: a roll top copper bath with a view over Edinburgh’s cityscape and Pentland hills. There’s also a shower in the sizeable separate bathroom, well stocked with Noble Isle Whisky and Water products. There’s a velvet sofa at the bottom of the bed, a desk that proves very comfortable to work from AND peacock print wallpaper, which pleases me.
The style is relaxed, old school, slightly tweedy with a modern eclectic edge, also reflected in the staff’s stylish garb. They aim to be “refined, relaxed, a little romantic and a lot luxurious” and I think they’ve achieved that – there’s nothing stuffy or forbidding about this place, but it’s still got all the luxury and style you could wish for.
Part of the relaxed feel is achieved by the fact that reception is subtly situated in a small room off the bar. This means we can walk straight upstairs into our room as if we own the place (if only). The friendly, efficient staff are right there when you need them, and discreet if you don’t.
After a power nap, we explore the local area: Haymarket station is an easy walk away, and it’s not much further to central Princes Street and the shops that await. But a far more scenic walk is tucked around the back, along the Water of Leith. It’s a sunny day, and we have a delightful stroll along the walkway through pretty Dean Village and up to the King’s Wark pub for lunch. It takes over an hour, so you feel like you’ve earned it. If you happen to have a dog, apparently this is THE place to be – we see lots of lovely pooches enjoying a waterside walk, and plenty of birdlife, from herons to mallards. Look out for the Antony Gormley sculptures of a naked man standing in the water – a sign that the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art may be around the corner. It feels rather idyllic to wander into the gallery from the waterside, where more sculpture and paintings await.
All Dunstane Houses meals are served in the pleasant bar and lounge/dining room. Breakfast is a choice of continental or cooked – my husband declares the kipper delicious and I am impressed by the Eggs Benedict (perfectly runny; not too rich). There’s also a Full Scottish that will set you up for the day.
Before dinner, we enjoy cocktails – a refreshing Fit For A King (Kingsbarns Whisky, Soda, Pineapple Syrup) and a distinctive Auld Alliance Martini (Laphroig, Chambord, Pineapple) which has a satisfyingly smoky kick. I opt for a Fillet or Orkney salmon in filo while he declares his Braised ox cheek superb. If you’re going for a starter, try the warm smoked Gressingham duck – terrific. We finish with a couple of single malts recommended by our knowledgeable server, before heading up to watch the huge smart TV in bed (don’t forget to bring your Netflix password).
Before we leave, we check out the second house across the road, another gorgeous property with a choice of room sizes and attractive public areas for guests to chill out in, including a conservatory, a garden and an honesty bar. Owner Shirley moved to Edinburgh from Orkney with her husband Derek and their heritage is reflected in everything from the furnishings to the pictures on the wall to the name of the bar (the Ba’ Bar).
We depart with reluctance but a renewed zest for life, for Edinburgh, and for sleeping in incredibly comfortable beds.
Tell Me More About The Dunstane Houses in Edinburgh
The Dunstane Houses 4 West Coates & 5 Hampton Terrace, Haymarket, Edinburgh EH12 5JQ.
Prices start from £184 per room per night for the “Wee cosy wee double room” including bed and breakfast and all taxes.