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Raise a glass to luxury in the capital

By Claire Doughty

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Hotel du Vin, Edinburgh.
Hotel du Vin, Edinburgh.

PRICE: Double rooms at Hotel du Vin Edinburgh cost £155 per room, per night on a bed & breakfast basis, for two sharing. LOCATION: Very central for accessing the Old Town and the Royal Mile which of course starts with Edinburgh Castle and ends with Holyrood Palace. Also a stone’s throw from the Grassmarket, Greyfriars Kirk, and the National Museum of Scotland. The Mercat ‘Ghosts and Ghouls’ Evening Tour costs £11 per adult, and can be booked by HdV Edinburgh. For bookings, contact HdV Edinburgh on: 0131 247 4900; reservations.edinburgh@hotelduvin.com; www.hotelduvin.com

YOU would never guess the Hotel du Vin in Edinburgh was originally constructed to house the city’s poor and later was used as a lunatic ayslum – because this place oozes luxury and style.

Constructed between 1739 and 1743, the building originally housed 500 adults and 180 children.

Now the building on Bistro Place in the city’s Old Town is split into 47 bedrooms, all full of character and all named after a wine – something else which the hotel staff know a lot about – especially as they have a wine cellar and sommelier on hand who can teach you about the wines on offer and help you pick the perfect tipple from a choice of around 350 bottles.

The bedrooms are top end with sink-into comfy beds, deep roll top baths and monsoon showers.

This hotel is modern to say the least, and it offers everything you would want for a perfect getaway – including things you wouldn’t necessarily know you wanted before you saw them.

For example, it’s toiletries, which are often served in little paper sachets are to die for; you get real milk, instead of UHT mini cartons, and there is also real coffee with a caffetierre. There is also an ipod docking station, dvd player and surround sound and of course the obligatory fluffy bathrobes. Like I say – not things you would necessarily put on a request list for a hotel room, but definitely things that add to the stay – everything has been thought of, and for me it’s the little touches that count.

Despite the fact that this hotel is crammed with style and elegance it doesn’t feel stuffy. The staff are friendly and approachable and are always on hand to help, but in Hotel du Vin, you feel relaxed and welcome.

As well as the beautiful rooms, there is also the wine cellar, bar and two rooms set aside for private dining, and a whisky snug where guests scan choose from one of the 250 whiskies on offer.

For smokers there is a very swish "Cigar Bothy" with a fire and under floor heating.

The restaurant in Hotel du Vin is split on two levels, and again the decor is classy, but not stuffy – you can turn up in jeans but equally wouldn’t feel out of place dressed to impress.

However, it is the restaurant that let the place down as for me and my companion it was a bit of a meal of two halves.

I opted for French onion soup for my starter and steak and chips for my main – the soup was sensational, however the steak was tough and chewy and the chips were way too salty.

However, my friend opted for tomato soup to start and confit of duck for her main, and after stealing a little of both I realised I had made the wrong choice. Both her options were delicious.

I was also a little disappointed at breakfast. I opted for the fry up, and whilst my poached egg was cooked to perfection, the rest of the meal just didn’t cut it. Again however, my friend chose well and had the smoked salmon and scrambled egg, again a winning choice.

However, one bonus at breakfast was the chef’s table which has everything from croissants, pain aux raisins, fruit salad, granola, cheese and ham.

Another thing which I feel let’s the place down is the parking – there is none. On the hotel’s website they direct you to the NCP Quartermile car park which is within walking distance but even with sat nav it is rather tricky to find. We had to stop and ask some traffic wardens and even then, as it’s hidden behind and under the old infirmary it was tricky.

You then have the added problem of finding your way out of the car park and to the hotel – I know Edinburgh pretty well, but for people visiting for the first time, or for those who are only used to the tourist trail I imagine it wouldn’t be that easy. We parked for 24 hours and with the hotel’s 20 per cent discount it cost around £12.

That said, despite the blip with parking and me being less than impressed with my meal – I would still recommend the Hotel du Vin. It has something for everyone and it was even nice to see that there were families staying there too. A great all rounder and a great location for touring our nation’s capital.

What lies beneath...

A MUST-do in Edinburgh and a quick and easy way to learn of the city’s long history is to go on one of the many history walks and ghost tours which take place in the Old Town.

We opted for the full two-hour ghosts and ghouls tour run by Mercat tours and it’s definitely worth the £11 cost.Our guide Nichola was a hoot. Dressed in a black cloak, she guided 40 of us round Parliament Square, on to St Giles’ Cathedral and into the dark closes telling tales of criminals, executions, torture and giving a brief history of what Edinburgh would have been like during the plague.The tour finished in the Vaults situated underneath the city’s South Bridge where our guide told her more ghostly stories of who once occupied the dark chambers.Nichola encouraged us to take pictures in the vaults and to look out for "orbs" which, she claimed, is energy left behind by those long gone. We were delighted to find that we had captured one on camera.We took the extended tour which meant it ended in a candlelit room in the Vaults where we enjoyed a complimentary drink and where Nichola shared even more ghostly tales, including that of the infamous Burke and Hare.Two hours may sound like a long time to be on your feet, but despite it being January and cold when we did this tour, the time flew by.

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