Edinburgh travel guide: A luxury one-day itinerary

Edinburgh travel guide: A luxury one-day itinerary

Sarah Hedley Hymers samples the high life in the Scottish capital 

A preferred gateway for luxury itineraries, visitors to Scotland often begin in Edinburgh before heading on to one of the countries world-famous retreats. The well-healed cut a dash to the likes of Gleneagles in Auchterarder and the Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort & Spa in St Andrews, but, before enjoying their spoils, visitors should seize the opportunity to spend a night or two in the storied Scottish capital.

Regal Edinburgh commands attention. Its dramatic landscapes, from the cobblestones of the Royal Mile to the arresting spires of its Gothic architecture, make it one of the most majestic cities on the planet. Succumb to its many charms with our guide to the perfect day in Edinburgh.


Walk in the footsteps of Royals at Edinburgh Castle ( From 10:15am, the city’s number-one attraction offers one-hour, 90-minute and two-hour self-guided itineraries and tours hosted by castle guides who will regale visitors with tales of unruly kings and queens. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes. There are 70 steps on the Lang Stairs, the most direct route to the summit of Castle Rock, the volcanic plus at the centre of the site. Other highlights on display include the oldest crown jewels in the British Isles, first used in the coronation of Mary Queen of Scots in 1543.

Edinburgh Castle


Scottish chef Tom Kitchin crafts hyper-local produce with French cooking techniques. His flagship restaurant The Kitchin ( on Commercial Quay in Leith is arguably Edinburgh’s best restaurant and one of five in the city to hold a Michelin star. It’s worth noting that The Kitchin is closed on Sunday and Monday in case you want to plan your Edinburgh itinerary around a visit here. A la carte and set lunch menus are available by day, with belt-stretching degustation menus by night. Typical dishes include hand-caught Orkney scallops in herb sauce and Hopetoun Estate roe deer with jus and blackberries.

Tom Kitchin at The Kitchin

For a more casual, child-friendly and no less delicious option, try sister eatery The Scran and Scallie (, an adorably cosy gastropub on Comely Bank Road in Stockbridge, where Tom’s menu includes Islay oysters and the best version of ‘haggis, neeps and tatties’ that you’re likely to find in Scotland.

The Scran and Scallie

After lunch, a weather-proof driving tour is a prudent idea considering Edinburgh’s everchanging climate (visitors to Edinburgh are advised to pack for the eventuality of four seasons in one day, even during summer).

Edinburgh’s driving tours range from the classic Little’s Chauffer Drive (, a formal but friendly security-trained ‘touring chauffeur’ service provided by smartly capped drivers with charming Scottish lilts, to Cab-arette (, a one-women show-and-tour in a black cab.

While Cab-arette driver ‘Lola’ adopts several characters, from a Scottish traffic warden to a French nun (complete with front-seat costume changes), Little’s chauffeurs glide through the layers of Edinburgh’s history sharing softly whispered insights, such as the best way to enjoy haggis (“with a wee nip of whisky drizzled over the top”, in case you’re wondering).


Driving tours can be tailored to your requirements and take in most of the major landmarks (from Scotland’s Parliament and St Giles Cathedral to the cafe where JK Rowling penned Harry Potter). Typically, they conclude on top of Calton Hill, which is crowned with Edinburgh’s answer to Greece’s Parthenon, which earned the city the moniker ‘The Athens of the North’.


As dusk settles over Calton Hill, retreat to Alexandra Dock, the home of Fingal (, a floating five-star hotel. Serving the region’s lighthouses since the 1960s, the now static superyacht is home to luxury cabins and suites and the award-winning Lighthouse Restaurant & Bar, as well as an elegant ballroom for private events. Visitors with an interest in ship mechanics can browse the decommissioned engine room before heading to the restaurant for locally sourced creations such as rabbit terrine with pickled beetroot and pistachio crumble.


Where to Stay

Virgin Hotels Edinburgh
Billionaire travel tycoon Richard Branson chose Edinburgh for his hotel brand’s first location in Europe. In the heart of the Old Town, on photogenic Victoria Street (the inspiration for Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley), Virgin Hotels Edinburgh looks relatively small from the outside. Inside it’s as capacious as Mary Poppins' handbag, spanning higgledy-piggledy split levels across more than one of the steeply curving street’s original Edwardian buildings.

Contrasting with the historic nooks and crannies of the listed property, the walls are filled with pop art. There’s also a library lounge loaded with arty coffee-table tomes. If scaling Edinburgh’s hills isn’t exercise enough, there’s a 24-hour gym. Dining options include the wood-panelled Commons Club and traditional Scottish breakfasts are served in a cosy basement eatery.

The Commons Club

Accented in Virgin’s signature red, there are eight suites; the largest, with its own in-room bar, is called Sir Richard’s Flat and it’s “yours for the taking when he’s not in town”. There are also 222 ‘chambers’ – standard rooms – with walk-in showers, locally sourced toiletries and Smeg mini-fridges stocked with Scotland’s most famous fizzy drink, Irn Bru.

Sir Richard’s Flat

Pets stay for free with no size or breed restrictions. ‘Pet-menities’ include dog beds, food and water dishes, and a Virgin Hotels bandana, modelled by the hotel’s resident pooch who helps the lovely team at the hotel give guests a typically warm Scottish welcome at this Preferred Hotels & Resorts member property.

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