Virgin Hotels Edinburgh – history and style in a maze of luxury – Scotland on Sunday Travel

Original features create a large bar area on the lobby level. Picture: Contribution

“You’re welcome” reads the bright neon sign as you enter the impressive wood-panelled bar and lounge at Virgin Hotels Edinburgh. Set in the city’s iconic Indian buildings, the Old Town Hotel is a luxurious multi-storey maze that winds from Victoria Street to the Grassmarket in a celebration of heritage with contemporary touches.

The first UK property from Virgin Group founder Sir Richard Branson’s luxury lifestyle hotel brand, with another to follow in Glasgow this summer, the first phase sees 54 rooms and the restaurant and bar open, phase two later in the year bringing the number of rooms to 222, along with other food and beverage outlets.

The city’s former registry office, this historic building has seen many weddings, including that of some of the first visitors, eager to revisit the memories of their big day. Four-by-Two architects retained elements of the original, including domes that flood the original tiled floors and staircases with light, while the Virgin Group’s red branding appears in red doors, mini – fridges and badges of friendly and helpful staff.

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Artwork abounds, with many pieces created by local artists alongside works inspired by the Scottish location. There are fashion photography, portrait galleries celebrating Scottish women past and present, and a focus on Scottish female artists such as Edinburgh-based Wendy Helliwell, whose ‘Virgin Lips’ incorporating a pair of jeans can be seen in the restaurant.

It’s upscale, five star.

One of Virgin Hotels Edinburgh’s ‘rooms’, with views of the Old Town. Picture: Contribution

There are ‘rooms’ or suites, along with Sir Richard’s Flat, where the Virgin Group founder stays when in town, available to high profile travellers. Sliding doors separate sleeping and lounging space and the bedrooms take advantage of the building’s high ceilings and windows, with walk-in closets and plenty of storage. Think mirror-lit vanities, extra-large showers and red Smeg mini-fridges with local produce (including Buckfast and Lind and Lime Gin miniatures), Arran Aromatics toiletries, soft textiles, custom beds with sliding corner seats, HD television, sensor lighting, free wi-fi and yoga mats.

Several distinct dining and drinking areas are on offer, from the elegant Commons Club flagship restaurant and bar with its ‘social club’ vibe, to the lavish Scarlet Lounge and Funny Library Coffee Shop, all libraries, comfortable seating and a cozy fire for teas, coffees, homemade pastries and sandwiches, overlooking a tiled, bright and vegetated entertaining space.

In the fall, the second phase will include Eve, an all-day dining space, and Greyfriars Hall, a restored 19th-century church, special events venue and rooftop sanctuary with castle views.

The Funny Library Coffee Shop, Virgin Hotels, Edinburgh. Picture: Contribution

Edinburgh-born executive chef Steven Wilson’s menu at The Commons Club features contemporary Scottish cuisine using locally sourced produce. Dishes such as Gigha halibut in Shetland blue mussel and Isle of Mull seaweed tortellini saffron velouté bursting with wild herb ricotta, clay over roasted artichokes, green peas and vegetarian Parmesan were almost as fun to watch being prepared by the chefs in the communal Chef’s Table open kitchen. Exposed stonework and mood lighting make the bar an inviting place to sample the hotel’s signature cocktails, wide selection of whiskeys and liqueurs, or follow one of the friendly staff’s recommendations.

It’s worth getting out of bed for

You’re right in the heart of the old town with Victoria Street and the Grassmarket to explore, or visit the hotel’s gym and fitness center to work up a sweat.

Artwork, including neon signs, is a feature of Virgin Hotels Edinburgh. Photo: J Christie

Rooms are pet-friendly, with free “pet items” available, including dog beds and food and water dishes.

When Virgin Hotels says you’re welcome, they mean it.

Prices from £320. The hotel offers guests the opportunity to enroll in a brand-wide preference and loyalty program, “The Know”, with room upgrades and an app for pre-check-in, room rates for members, special events and a free cocktail at the Commons Club – all when booking directly with Virgin Hotels.

For room reservations, see www.virginhotels.com/edinburgh.

Commons Club restaurant reservations can be made at www.commonsclub.com/edinburgh

In the Commons Club restaurant, the communal chef’s table offers a view of the open kitchen. Photo: J Christie

Virgin Hotels Edinburgh, 1 India Buildings, Victoria Street, Edinburgh EH1 2EX, (0131 526 4810, www.virginhotels.com/edinburgh)

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