Forget tartan carpets, tobacco-stained wainscoting and paintings of shaggy Highland coos. The gloriously refurbished G&V Royal Mile Hotel Edinburgh — the only five-star hotel on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile — is a decidedly Scottish hotel, but not in the style you might expect.
Since taking over from the Missoni Hotel in 2014, the Quorvus Collection’s G&V has embarked on a multimillion-pound renovation, gradually revealing re-envisioned rooms and public spaces that were finally fully completed in November. Calling upon the talents of a cadre of Scottish artists, the hotel has created a cocoon of contemporary chic, located just down the hill from Edinburgh Castle.
The spacious, open lobby features a sleek eye-level slit of a fireplace, a communal marble worktable kitted out with electrical sockets and USB ports, and a coffee shop/florist manned by a young hunk in a kilt. A cubbyhole partition, illuminated by neon and filled with artsy books, framed photographs and sculptures, separates the lobby from the bustling new Epicurean bar.
“There’s 12th-century Edinburgh outside and modern Edinburgh inside,” explains Martin Scott, general manager. “People want modern luxury. They don’t want rickety carpets.”
All 136 rooms offer an iPod connection, high-speed internet access, rain-head shower and Scottish-made toiletries, but the most coveted accommodations are nine suites upon which individual Scottish artists have placed their own distinctive stamp. Fashion designer Judy R. Clark incorporates vintage details like velvet chairs and well-polished antiques in her suites, while her twin sister, painter Christine Clark, has created a clean-lined Rooftop Rest reached by a “secret” stone staircase. The Timorous Beasties Suite, from the Glasgow studio of Alistair McAuley and Paul Simmons, is swathed in ethereal thistle prints, and textile guru Hatti Pattisson’s Garden Paradise offers up riotous florals. Arthur’s Seat features skyline views over the city, a retractable television/movie screen and a mural of the University of Edinburgh’s New College by Jim Hamilton of Graven Images.
An outdoor drinks terrace and the G&V’s main restaurant, Cucina, are located on the second floor. Here, Timorous Beasties have made their mark with reams of mind-blowing wallpaper resembling Jackson Pollock’s paint-splattered version of a Rorschach test, evoking a menagerie of amorphous animals worthy of “The Island of Doctor Moreau.” Is that … a chicken? A butterfly? A beetle? Or a deer with a nosebleed? After a few glasses of strong, fruity red wine — the perfect accompaniment to chef Mattia Camorani’s sophisticated Italian fare — I’ve conjured almost every critter but pink elephants cavorting on Cucina’s walls.
There are wee (although perhaps not so timorous) beasties on the roof as well, populating the beehives that were installed here last September. Guests can even adopt a bee, as I discover upon returning to my room one night, where I find a little jar of G&V honey and a note congratulating me on bee-coming a mama. Admittedly, I’m not quite sure how I adopted a bee; I don’t recall any rigorous interview process or discussions regarding my commitment to its further education. I quickly decide he’ll remain boarded at the rooftop Hogwarts Hive (as I’ve dubbed it, anyway), although I’m still unsure whether I should send Buzz Jr. an annual birthday card or if it falls upon me to enlighten him about the birds and the, er, bees, as it were.
Apiaries are, of course, the hippest new hotel accessory, but the general manager insists that the G&V isn’t simply hopping on the beehive bandwagon. “We’re on a genuine eco-mission,” Scott maintains. In addition to the apiary, the hotel also accommodates a groovy, glowing Evogro hydroponic machine, where herbs and flowers are grown for the bar and restaurant, and a small spa offering treatments using Scottish products like “wild-harvested” plants and minerals and seaweed extracts.
The only real drawback to staying at the G&V? With so many decadent indulgences to enjoy within the hotel walls, it’s almost too tempting to eschew the city attractions that lie just beyond its doors.
IF YOU GO
Nightly rates at G&V Royal Mile Hotel Edinburgh, located on George IV Bridge between the Royal Mile and Victoria Street, start from $260 per night including breakfast. quorvuscollection.com/gandv-hotel-edinburgh
Eat and drink:
Whiski: With more than 300 Scotch malt whiskies and an assortment of Scottish craft brews, you’ll find plenty to whet your whistle at Whiski, alongside hearty Scottish fare like a haggis burger. Bonus: This Royal Mile favorite offers live music every night. 119 High St., whiskibar.co.uk
Angels with Bagpipes: Food critics for the 2017 Michelin Guide were sufficiently impressed with this intimate, atmospheric restaurant and its “modern interpretations of Scottish classics.” Try the haggis with neeps (turnips), tatties (mashed potatoes), pancetta and whiskey sauce or the rabbit loin with black pudding, pancetta, pearl barley, carrot and kale. 343 High St., angelswithbagpipes.co.uk
The Elephant House: It must be something in the water … or rather, the coffee and tea … that has drawn such wildly popular authors as J.K. Rowling, Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall-Smith through this café’s doors. It’s fun to imagine Rowling, who actually wrote some of her early “Harry Potter” novels here, scribbling spells on a soiled napkin. Breakfast, lunch and dinner are served alongside views of Edinburgh Castle. 21 George IV Bridge, elephanthouse.biz
Museum Context: Packed with oddities like a miniature T. rex model, a vintage WWI airplane propeller, early-20th-century military binoculars and even a tiny tin of Clotted Cream Fudge with a recipe for a deep-fried Mars bar, this shop does indeed look like a museum, but everything is for sale. 40 Victoria St., contextinteriors.co.uk
Walker Slater: This is the place for all your tweed needs, from jackets, trousers and waistcoats to caps and hip flasks. Dapper Dans can complete the country gent look with a selection of bowties, cuff links, suspenders and watch chains at the men’s shop (16-20 Victoria Street), while ladies will find a more feminine selection at 46 Victoria St. walkerslater.com.
Fabhatrix: Head here for a creative array of hats for both men and women. Fabhatrix’s team of five milliners fashion toppers in tweed, felt and even straw, as well as fancy feathered fascinators for special occasions. 13 Cowgatehead, fabhatrix.com
Andy Plews, sporting a Blue Badge, a kilt and a sly wit, will regale you with entertaining tales as he accompanies you through the streets and sinuous alleyways of Edinburgh. plewstours.co.uk