Auld And New
It should really be expected that a night spent in Edinburgh – even in a five-star hotel – would be no ordinary stopover. After all, there’s barely a building in Scotland’s capital without its resident ghost.
The Scotsman has five ghosts, the hotels barman tells me. In any other city this might seem a bit far-fetched – or just plain greedy – but fear not, Edinburgh has no shortage of spectres. The Scotsman Hotel celebrates only its 10th anniversary this year, so how did it manage to collect five phantoms?
Situated at the top of North Bridge between the Royal Mile and Princes Street, The Scotsman is built atop Edinburgh’s Medieval Old Town. It may be a boutique hotel today, but for almost a century before it was the headquarters of The Scotsman, genteel Edinburghs newspaper of choice since 1817.
The 19th century building has been renovated in a way that preserves its Victorian charm; there are still turrets, stained-glass windows and wood panelled walls, as well as high ceilings, open fires and a labyrinthine layout. A fine baroque marble staircase also remains; guests can enjoy the privilege of climbing stairs that were once strictly reserved for the newspaper’s editorial team.
The hotel has 69 individually designed guest rooms, many named after those that ran The Scotsman. There’s a patriotic feel to the interior design, with fabrics reflecting 46 tweeds sourced from estates across Scotland, and more than 800 works of Scottish contemporary art lining the walls.
The top of the building originally consisted of lofts for the carrier pigeons that brought back news from outlying parts of Scotland, while the basement, previously the printing house, has also been revamped and is now a spa. The Scotsman Spa uses marine-based Thalgo products, with ingredients like algae, which is known for its rejuvenating benefits. I opt for a facial and am pleasantly surprised to find that it includes a head, shoulders and foot massage.
Two of the ghosts used to actually work on the paper. Editorial disputes, apparently, the bar man divulges. He hands me a Fiery Scotsman cocktail, a strong Celtic refreshment with no shortage of whisky. I consider asking exactly what editorial disputes he refers too, then I remember a Scottish proverb: wide ears and short tongues are best. It’s printed on the front cover of the spa menu, lest you forget.