Hotel Review: Radisson Collection Hotel, Royal Mile Edinburgh in Scotland
As I spiral (far too rapidly for my liking) towards my 30th birthday, I’m frantically attempting to tick things off of my bucket list. And it dawned on me that, despite considering myself well-travelled, I’ve never made the 430 mile journey from my home in south England to Scotland.
So, when Radisson Collection Hotel in Edinburgh invited my husband and I to stay we jumped at the chance to cross the border into Braveheart territory and visit the homeland of shortbread, whisky and – most importantly – Trainspotting*.
The latter is the main reason I know anything at all about the beautiful cobbled streets of Edinburgh – although I would like to make it clear that the real-life Edinburgh and Radisson Collection couldn’t be further from the squalid underworld of drug addiction depicted in the film.
I’m happy to admit my knowledge of the city was slim – apart from knowing it hosts some big arts festival every summer. Oh, and it has a castle. But – armed with my city guide, some wonderful recommendations from a friend who is from the medieval city, and, of course, Google – we were off.
After a short flight and reasonably-priced tram ride we found ourselves in the heart of the bustling city, before climbing the cobbled streets and steep inclines to The Royal Mile – the main street which runs between the city’s two Royal residences, Edinburgh Castle to Holyrood Palace – and home to the five-star hotel we’d be residing in for the next two nights.
I know they say first impressions are important but (luckily) I believe more in judging a book by its contents, not its cover. The exterior of the Radisson Collection Royal Mile leaves little to be desired – it resembles a plain office block rather than a chic, five-star hotel. But it’s inside where the real modern, magic lies. As soon as you step beyond the large glass doors you’re struck by the contemporary and chic design which now reflects the hotel’s decor throughout.
Our room – with floor-to-ceiling windows onto the historic Royal Mile below – was beautifully designed with hand-drawn murals of the city on the walls and a monochrome colour scheme. The generous – and comfortable – bed dominated the room but there was plenty of space to relax at the end of the day and beautify ahead of the evening.
Clever tricks made use of every corner of the room, including a sliding door and full-length mirror separating the bedroom and bathroom making the superior room feel even more spacious.
Unfortunately, despite the recent renovation and high-spec mod-cons in the room, we were plagued with tech problems. The TV system, running via an obscure app, meant the guide was confusing and the navigation was clunky. While my husband’s wake-up coffee took much longer than hoped as the machine spluttered and staggered to life.
The Radisson Collection – or RC, for short – is perfectly positioned to explore Edinburgh on foot, with ease – by day and night. Located on the corner of the city’s famous Royal Mile and George IV Bridge, it’s where old meets new.
The contemporary RC is a prime example of modern design and clean lines while, just outside, the rugged streets and aged buildings give a glimpse back in time. Centuries of fascinating history lie on the hotel’s doorstep and we were off to explore.
The hotel couldn’t be more central and is within walking distance of all the major landmarks. A great spot for sightseeing without much effort! George IV Bridge is home to The Elephant House (where JK Rowling wrote much of Harry Potter!) as well as a selection of great cafes, restaurants and pubs.
Just past the literary landmark stands an historical one – Greyfriars Bobby and Greyfriars Graveyard. (Travel tip one, borrowed from a local, don’t touch or hug the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, I’m told local vagrants like to wee on him and then laugh at tourists getting too close to him!)
Within minutes in the other direction are numerous tourist spots such as Edinburgh Castle, The Real Mary King’s Close and St Giles’ Cathedral. And the hotel is perfectly located for exploring the city’s best restaurants and bars too.
Lunch at The Outsider – just doors away – was a delicious treat. I’m told you can also celebrity-spot in here with stars such as Kings of Leon dining in the minimalist, trendy eatery. (Travel tip two, save space for dessert at Mary’s Milk Bar, just a five-minute walk down into Grassmarket – you won’t be disappointed!)
And The Witchery By The Castle is the perfect spot for a special occasion. The haunting, atmospheric dining room and secret garden provide a romantic setting for a memorable meal. While it’s a bit pricey, the food, drink and atmosphere are worth the pricetag.
For the slightly more adventurous, a turn down the steep alleyway of Advocate’s Close (just off The Royal Mile) takes you to The Devil’s Advocate – a bar and kitchen – in a beautiful, historic Victorian pump house. We sampled the lunch menu which was wonderfully tasty – and I’d also recommend browsing the encyclopaedia of whiskies that the bar also offers – over 300 varieties in fact!
While a stone’s throw away in the old town, tucked beneath the buildings is the Under The Stairs Bar, a great spot for a quiet afternoon drink or evening cocktail session.
For those who don’t want to venture outside the stylish hotel, there’s also a great option closer to home too. We spent one evening dining at the hotel’s vibrant Cucina restaurant – an ultra modern, explosion of colour boasting an Italian menu with an intriguing Scottish twist.
We enjoyed refreshing aperitifs and warm bread with vinaigrette before starting our feast with caprese salad and bresaola (aged salted beef). So far, so good. For mains I opted for the vegan herb risotto while my husband tried the pork belly. His meat was juicy and sweet and, while my risotto was a little bland, it was warm and filling.
Dessert (my favourite) didn’t disappoint. I had the tasty, sweet duo of chocolate while my other half wanted to sample a local delicacy: Irn Bru jelly! Well, when in Rome…
The restaurant slowly filled with dining friends and families enjoying special occasions, the atmosphere was lively, the staff were friendly and hospitable, and service was perfectly paced with a relaxing but prompt pace.
We wandered downstairs to the hotel’s in-house cocktail bar, Epicurean, for a sweet treat after dinner. While the menu is limited, the surroundings are comfortable and chic. We took our drinks through to the lobby where we relaxed in front of a modern fire and discussed our busy day. The perfect ending before taking ourselves off to bed.
The following morning it was back to Cucina for breakfast. The buffet was nicely presented with all options looking appetising; from homemade granola to fruit, Scottish smoked salmon to pastries. There was great choice and variety, with another jam-packed menu to order freshly-prepared, cooked hot food too.
Feeling energised we set out on our biggest adventure of the weekend – tackling the world-famous climb up Arthur’s Seat, offering sweeping views across the city, harbour and estuary to Fife and beyond.
Huffing and puffing atop the 251m-high peak we took in the views before starting the descent down to Holyrood Park. (Travel tip three, locals said we should climb the easier Calton Hill instead of Arthur’s Seat – which we also did – but I’d recommend making the effort to scale Arthur’s Seat if you have time. You get a great sense of achievement and it’s nice to tick everything off the list during your stay!)
Unfortunately the rain swept in on our third and final day in the city. However, we spent the morning underground exploring the fascinating underworld of the old city before settling for an afternoon trip to Vue Cinema, in the city centre, and ending our visit with a delicious dinner at Tom Kitchin’s gastro-pub The Scran and Scallie – well worth the 30-minute walk dragging suitcases for the experience.
Before we knew it, our whirlwind weekend in Auld Reekie (or Old Smoky) was over, and it was time to return to our not-so chic and stylish home.
In homage to Trainspotting’s Renton, I say: ‘Choose Edinburgh’. And I’d certainly ‘Choose Radisson Collection’ again.
Nightly rates at Radisson Collection Royal Mile Hotel Edinburgh start from £209 per night including breakfast.
Address: 1 George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1AD
Phone: 0131 220 6666
*Although I later discovered the majority of the film was actually shot in nearby Glasgow – what!?!?