Travel: Edinburgh


It’s easy to get sucked in by the likes of London, Rome, Paris and so on, but the Scottish capital is one of the truly great European cities to visit — big enough to offer lots to do, but small enough to be walkable. You’re perpetually surrounded by history and fantastic architecture, but at the same time it’s a fine, modern thinking European city. The Balmoral Hotel sums it up — the place first opened in 1902 but the interiors are now modern and luxurious.

The Fringe Festival and famous New Year/Hogmanay have somehow overshadowed the fact that the Scottish capital is an ideal place to visit when these things are not on. Tie it in to a rugby match at Murrayfield Stadium; catch some of the golf nearby at the great Old Course at St Andrews; or just enjoy a week of eating and drinking in pubs and restaurants that are full of history and will charge you reasonable prices. Spend a week here and it’s easy to see why so many locals want independence from the rest of the Union.

Not just the best hotel in the Scottish capital, but one of the city’s great landmarks, The Balmoral Hotel has been open since 1902 and upholds the grand traditions of elegance and service that you rarely find in modern hotels. For example, Edinburgh train station is below the hotel and there’s a private entrance (with a butler to assist you) for those arriving by rail. But inside, the Victorian architecture the hotel offers a Michelin-star restaurant, indoor swimming pool, world-class spa with ESPA treatments, and a bar well-stocked with some of Scotland’s finest. The concierge here is also the best we’ve ever met.

Mary King’s Close, unlike most tourist attractions, is well worth an hour of your day. Re-opened to the public in 1993, the close buried deep beneath Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, is a series of rooms and streets frozen in time since the 17th Century. A trip back to the days of plague victims in an entertainingly gruesome and macabre tour.

The restaurant Number One is Michelin-starred and among the finest places to eat in the country. Notably though, you can have a three course à la carte menu for £68 (about Dhs374), which, after time spent dining out in Dubai, will seem like a bit of a bargain. Borders lamb, dry-aged Orkney beef, Loch Duart salmon and more, all fresh from Scotland’s land and waters.

St. Andrews Old Course (home of the Royal and Ancient golf governing body) is just sixty minutes
away and the six hundred- year-old course one of the true greats of the game. Book well in
advance though. If you prefer to stay in the city, there are around fifteen courses that allow visitors to play, although there are restrictions on some days.

The Bow Bar (80 West Bow St.) is the classic Edinburgh pub. There is no TV or music and only two wines — a red and a white. But what they do have is a selection of over 230 malts, plus eight cask and five keg beers, as well as bottled beers from around the world. They also have fresh pies every day.

Xile Clothing (42 South Bridge) is one of the finest menswear stores we’ve encountered. Their “Casual Luxury” approach means it’s full of clothes you’d actually wear and can actually afford to buy. The staff know their stuff and they stock lots of brands not available over here, including: You Must Create; Saint Jude; A Question Of; Native Youth; PRPS; Marshall Artist and many more.

You can take one-day tours to places like Loch Ness, Stirling Castle; or a glens and whisky tour and a tour round the fishing villages of St Andrews and more. Scotland has some of the most spectacular countryside anywhere and it’s well worth a day seeing some of it.

Get There
Virgin Atlantic flies daily to Heathrow and from there you can get the new Virgin Atlantic Little Red service to Edinburgh. It has five flights per day to the Scottish capital. We suggest you make the most of the layover and get yourself into the Virgin Clubhouse. The food and wine is better than many restaurants we’ve been in (and free), and you can have a massage to soften you up after the flight from Dubai. Then you can relax some more in the Grey Goose Loft Bar.

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