Gleneagles Townhouse has seemingly, and impressively, matched the lofty standards set by its country cousin, Gleneagles hotel, finds Mary Miers, on a visit to the hotel, member's club and all-day restaurant rolled into one.
The mercantile confidence of Edinburgh’s New Town reached its climax in the 1840s with the swagger of this magnificent former bank on St Andrew Square. But how do you convert what resembles a fragment of Imperial Rome into a contemporary townhouse hotel—especially one that has to follow in the footsteps of a fêted sibling? Gleneagles has risen impressively to the challenge. The domed banking hall, with its gilded plasterwork and soaring granite columns, is now The Spence, a palatial brasserie conceived by London restaurateurs Zoe and Layo Paskin. Open to non-residents, it serves seasonal fare beneath busts of eminent Scots, its new mirrored cocktail bar, scalloped banquettes and upholstery in rose and eau de nil adding an Art Deco touch.
Hotel guests can then repair to Lamplighters on the roof terrace, where cocktails—named after the Arts, Trades and Sciences, as personified by six colossal figures breasting the parapet—are served against exhilarating views of the city.
The Note Burning and Telling Rooms belie their names in providing Gleneagles members with quiet spaces in which to read and meet. My Master bedroom was a model of how to incorporate luxurious en-suite facilities and homely touches into a former banker’s office without compromising the architecture.
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The Old and New Towns are easily accessible (with a few steep wynds or closes) on foot — the best way to explore. After a few hours wandering, return to your room to find a cocktail shaker and ice bucket have magically appeared. Here, all is peace, with only the faint, Old-World dinging of the trams audible from the square below.
While you’re there
- The Strong Rooms — former bank vaults with colossal safe doors still in situ—contain a wellness centre complete with Scotland’s only cryotherapy chamber. Try three thrilling minutes of detoxifying thermic shock at minus 85 degrees
- The hotel is noted for its collection of contemporary artworks
- St Andrew Square terminates the east end of George Street, Edinburgh’s grandest thoroughfare, famous for its Assembly rooms, smart shops, commercial HQs and institutions, and a focus for Edinburgh Festival events
- Scotland’s National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery are a short walk away, as are Waverley Station and the famous Café Royal oyster bar/restaurant
- Behind the hotel rises Calton Hill, site of festivities, executions and public leisure since medieval times. An easy stroll will take you up to its fine ensemble of Classical monuments and sweeping views over the Old and New Towns and across the Forth to the hills of Fife