The Dunstane Houses is a small, luxury hotel that stands on the fringes of Edinburgh in the quiet and charming neighbourhood of Haymarket. The hotel, comprising a selection of grand Jacobean villas, is, today, a sophisticated and elegant destination that offers beautiful and luxurious rooms, delicious food, and wonderfully warm Scottish hospitality.
Haymarket is a family-friendly suburb of the city just a short drive, easy tram ride or long walk from the heart of the city and all of Edinburgh’s fabulous sights, shops, eateries and bars. If you’re looking for somewhere a little outside of the city’s hustle and bustle, then this is the perfect spot. Easy to access and with lots of coffee shops and restaurants to choose from on the doorstep, as well as lovely walks nearby, there’s no need to venture into town if you’d prefer a break away from the buzz.
The hotel is proud to offer guests the spirit of Orkney, in the heart of Edinburgh. And it certainly does both; celebrating everything the wonderful city of Edinburgh has to offer tourists while also acting as an advert for northern Scotland and encouraging visitors to explore more of the country’s wild corners and raw wildernesses.
The current owners, Shirley and Derrick, are, perhaps unsurprisingly, from Orkney and bought The Dunstane Houses as a dilapidated and tired hotel in 1998, setting out on a long renovation project to introduce it to Edinburgh’s luxury hotel market. They enhanced the building’s neo-classical style, beautiful architecture and fine Victorian features, while adding modern touches and raising the hotel’s rating from two stars to five!
They set about to create a small, boutique but high-end hotel that could offer somewhere special to stay, while maintaining the personal, friendly welcome of a small hotel. And they’ve certainly achieved that. Without the corporate, soulless heart of the large chain hotels, but retaining the quality that comes with well-established names, The Dunstane Houses offers guests a relaxing and luxurious getaway, where you feel as if you’re returning home each day.
Today, the family-run hotel maintains the grand elegance of the historic home which has been tastefully and cleverly modernised with both style and grace. Everything at The Dunstane Houses is clearly meticulously thought-out, refined, and designed and delivered with precision.
This is a well-oiled machine that may well take a team of frantic staff and incredibly dedicated owners; but to visitors who are lucky enough to stay, all seems to fall into place serenely and with ease.
Dunstane House boasts 17 beautiful and individually-designed bedrooms and suites while next door, at Hampton House, there are 18 rooms for guests to enjoy. The interior design was incredibly important to Shirley, who wanted to incorporate the original style of the building with traditional Edinburgh and Orkney features, while also bringing the hotel into the modern age with contemporary flair.
We were staying in the Ronaldsay Suite (all of the rooms are named after Orkney islands); an exquisitely appointed suite on the ground-floor, at the front of the building. All of the rooms ooze elegance and refinement, and offer luxury comfort in stylish surroundings without pomp or fuss.
The history of the building is clearly celebrated with an oak herringbone floor running throughout and antique furniture complemented by plush tweed fabrics. High ceilings and detailed cornicing add to the grandeur while a stunning freestanding bath with gleaming copper taps offers an opulent and relaxing treat, framed by vast bay window and views out onto the street below (although being on the ground-floor with a terrace outside meant there was a lack of privacy when it came to soaking in the tub!)
We had a large and well-appointed monochrome bathroom with tiled floor, walk-in shower and beautiful marble vanity. But the highlight of the deluxe room is the gigantic, over-sized bed, draped soft linens and accented with blue details (reflecting the natural, soothing tones of the sea and skies of the northern coastline) at the centre of the room. As owner, Shirley, explained: “Our priority was ensuring that all of our guests could enjoy a wonderful night’s sleep.”
The Dunstane Houses also remembers the importance of the little details, too. Beautiful Scottish imagery and artworks adorn the walls, a constant reminder of the beautiful country you are visiting. Homemade shortbread and Orkney marshmallows offer a sweet treat to enjoy with your early-morning coffee. And you can shower with Noble Isle toiletries with aromas of Scots Pine and whisky.
Food and drink
The Dunstane Houses prides itself on offering good, wholesome food and drink sourced from across Scotland, celebrating all of the wonderful local ingredients and dishes that the country has to offer.
As well as providing breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner to guests, the hotel is also open to locals who rave about the warm atmosphere and delicious plates of food. The team also host events such as whisky and gin tastings and have created their very own tipple – Dun Gin – which is distilled just a few miles down the road.
We headed into the upscale fire-lit Ba’Bar for cocktails and a casual dinner in the lounge as the sun set outside. Guests can choose to eat in the formal restaurant or in the bar, with access to both the Ba menu (appetising but informal, including game pies, burgers and fish and chips) and the two-course or three-course restaurant menu.
The Ba’Bar – named after the ‘ba’, a leather ball used in a traditional medieval Orkney football game that is played annually, usually over Christmas or New Year – really showcases Shirley’s love for interior design, with deep blue-coloured walls, bright furniture, and clever lighting.
The menu here can compete with the surroundings, too. There’s a good range of options, no matter your dietary requirements and preferences, so much so that I struggled to make my decisions! (Eventually) I chose the tempura broccoli with chilli mayo to start, and was greeted with a punch – the spicy sauce certainly had a kick while the tempura was light and crispy.
For mains I chose the roasted vegetable wellington with charred cabbage and garlic mash. I chose it because of the mash and I certainly wasn’t disappointed. It was creamy and packed full of flavour, complementing the crispy pastry, soft and tasty vegetables, and sweet tomato sauce. There was only one option, as far as I was concerned, when it came to dessert; chocolate brownie with berries and vanilla ice cream. Hot, gooey, rich and delicious.
In a nutshell
Shirley and Derrick’s vision is what makes this wonderfully cosy but quintessentially Scottish hotel such a special place to stay. You feel as if you’re staying in a family home, with the five-star service you’d come to expect from a high-end boutique hotel.
The team here has got the perfect balance, a city hotel in the heart of Edinburgh with inspirations from the wilds of the Orkney Islands; a relaxed but sophisticated atmosphere, homely but luxurious.
Amy was hosted by The Dunstane Houses, a member of Pride of Britain Hotels, a very fine collection of hotels dotted around the British Isles. The carefully-curated collection includes privately-owned properties, each one unique and characterful. Contact Pride of Britain Hotels on 0800 089 3929 or visit prideofbritainhotels.com.
An overnight stay at The Dunstane Houses costs from £214 per room (based on two sharing), including breakfast.
Address: The Dunstane Houses, 4 W Coates, Edinburgh EH12 5JQ
Phone: 0131 337 6169