Edinburgh: the perfect weekend destination

Weekends away. Remember those? I’m not sure if we did many, if any, of those planned weekend aways that you see in Hollywood movies or in ITV dramas just before Something Terrible happens, but we certainly went ‘away’ and it was generally at the ‘weekend’, something that we don’t tend to do much of now. I say ‘much of’, I mean ‘hardly ever, practically never’, but when it does very occasionally happen, I always think ‘we should, nay, we need to do more of this’. Especially when it is to somewhere like Edinburgh, which in my humble opinion is one of the most beautiful and best places to visit on the planet….

I may be biased. Ok, I am biased, but Edinburgh rocks. I went to uni in Edinburgh and therefore those wide New Town streets, windy Old Town alleys and craggy views will always hold a special place in my heart. But, memories aside, it is an amazing city for a weekend away. Even more so now that it has upped its cool quota. Edinburgh has always been jaw-droppingly beautiful. The architecture is sublime, there’s a castle IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CITY, and you are surrounded by incredible natural beauty such as Arthur’s Seat and the Firth of Forth. It used to be that Glasgow was hip and Edinburgh was staid, especially so when I was at uni there some twenty years ago (why, yes I was a child prodigy..!!) But, these days it’s different. Edinburgh is different. There are some really great restaurants, some fabulous boutiques and some truly gorgeous hotels. I can’t tell you about the clubs. I haven’t been to a club since 2007, but we did make it to a bar (hurrah)!

But first, let’s talk hotels as we all know that a stay at a truly gorgeous hotel is worth its weight in gold. You also might know that I used to be the Travel Editor for Conde Nast Brides, so I not only love hotels, I’m also quite picky about them. On our visit to Edinburgh, we stayed in two – The Principal on George Street (pictured above), slap bang in the middle of the New Town, close to Harvey Nichols and the newly opened Ivy Cafe and Dishoom, and its sister property, The Principal on Charlotte Square, about ten minutes walk away. Both are beautifully designed, but different in feel, with The Principal on George Street, a little more grown up with a lavish entrance area and a ‘modern classic’ feel. It’s all smoky colours, sumptuous leather armchairs and delicious touches of Scottishness such as the kilt-wearing doormen, tweed throws and big New Town architecture. Rooms in the Georgian townhouse part of the hotel are grand, although the modern Forth wing is equally appealing with views across to the Firth of Forth and bright white bathrooms.

The Principal on Charlotte Square has a slightly more contemporary, sexier feel with a lobby that wouldn’t look out of place in a chi-chi Parisian hotel and a stunning glass-roofed atrium filled with plants that acts as a restaurant by day and a bar later into the night. Bedrooms are gorgeous with large headboards, heavy velvet curtains and nice touches such as an old-fashioned phone on the bedside table, a Crossley turntable with Neneh Cherry vinyls, beautifully upholstered wing back chairs and huge windows overlooking Charlotte Square. There is also a must-visit mezze restaurant where you can eat at a large communal table in the middle or a private booth, before heading back into that gorgeous atrium for a late night cocktail.

Both hotels were great: stylish and luxurious with friendly service and perfect locations – having lived in Edinburgh all those years ago, I think it’s best to be in the middle of the city when visiting. And, the hotels are right in the middle, within walking distance of the castle, the shops of George Street, the Old Town, Calton Hill, the glorious Royal Mile, Princes Street and – if you have the urge, you almost definitely won’t – not too far from the University where you can revisit your old stomping grounds and reminisce about the best university in the world in the best city in the world. Edinburgh is perfect as a weekend destination because it has everything you could possibly want – I know I’ve mentioned it, but it is so beautiful, in parts up there with all the greatest European cities, it is also wonderfully friendly (the Scottish just are) and now having undergone a cool upgrade, it’s good for shopping, restaurants and hotels too.

Come in summer and you’ll be in the heart of the Festival action. Come at Hogmanay and the atmosphere will be amazing. Come at any other time and you’ll have the perfect weekend of eating, drinking and sight-seeing. Here’s where we went whilst we were there (we were also visiting friends so not much was done on the shopping front!)

  1. BABA – great food, great atmosphere and a great price. If you like Middle Eastern dishes this is the place to go!
  2. The Ivy Cafe. Great for a glass of champagne or two
  3. Panda & Sons – a speakeasy style bar at the end of Queen Street. Great for inventive cocktails.
  4. Inverleith Park – for a walk with friends. A big, open space with pitches, petanque and a great view of the castle.
  5. New Town – just walk, walk, walk in Edinburgh. I can’t put into words how beautiful parts of New Town are. The wide crescents, the grand apartments, the views, the cobbled streets. Just walk, get lost and explore. Or head to the Royal Mile, which even out of Festival season is full of performers (it’s also very beautiful too).


We stayed at The Principal Edinburgh, George Street and The Principal Edinburgh, Charlotte Square for review purposes, although all words and thoughts are my own.

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  • Reply
    The slow pace
    February 21, 2018 at 10:32 am

    I can’t agree with you more. Edinburgh is one of the best destinations, at least, in Europe. I might be biased as well because I also went to Edinburgh as an exchange student when I was at Uni, but the truth is that it is a wonderful city. There was a time when I even considered moving to Edinburgh!

  • Reply
    March 6, 2018 at 7:34 am

    Oh and infrastructure projects dualing the A9 how long have we waited for that? The Borders Railway, the upgrades to Dundee Station and Queen St station. The journey time between Edinburgh and Glasgow is going to be cut significantly. Upgrades to M8, M74, new bridge over the Forth

  • Reply
    March 11, 2019 at 8:00 pm

    I am visiting Edinburgh with my daughter who would like to attend the University. Which of the two hotels, Principal George or Principal Charlotte Square, would you recommend if you had to pick one for our trip.

    • Reply
      March 11, 2019 at 10:00 pm

      Hi Tricia,
      It’s so hard to choose! They’re both fabulous, so I don’t think you’d go wrong with either. Charlotte Square is a touch more contemporary and the central restaurant is really beautiful. The George is very slightly more central – closer to the train station, St Andrew’s Square etc – and more classic. But, really there is nothing in it. If you like shopping, then The George is closer to most of them! Have fun! I adore Edinburgh x

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