You’ll Want to Stay at These Historic Hotels in Edinburgh

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Who wants to wake up in prison while retaining the ability to check out then head off sightseeing in Scotland’s capital? Well you can in Auld Reekie!

This guide reveals the most striking historic hotels in Edinburgh which have housed politicians, celebs, and sex workers.

Each of the following hotels have a story to share, some dating back to the 16th century where witches were burnt at the stake.

So let’s take a look at the best old hotels in Edinburgh who have modernised their amenities, thankfully!

Edinburgh’s Historic Hotels

The Witchery by the Castle 

The Witchery by the Castle (352 Castlehill) is named after the women and men burned at the stake in the 16th and 17th century at Castlehill, where the hotel is located.

Built in 1595 for a merchant called Thomas Lowthian, you can still see his initials and motto ‘O Lord in thee is all my traist’ carved into the hotel’s doorway.

The hotel and its two restaurants are spread over a collection of historic buildings called Boswell’s Court, which is named after a former resident, James Boswell.

Historic building housing The Witchery hotel and restaurant

The owner, James Thomson opened The Witchery’s doors in 1979 with the aim of continuing to celebrate the city’s history by decorating both restaurants and hotel with memorable artefacts.

For example, 17th century oak from rescued from a fire at St Giles Cathedral which was used for panelling.

There are nine rooms which are all lavishly decorated and provide a mix of ‘romance, opulence and magic’. 

Check availability here.

The Witchery also features in our guide to most romantic hotels and restaurants in Edinburgh.

Dark, red luxurious room called The Turret Suite Witchery Edinburgh Hotel

InterContinental Hotels – Edinburgh The George

The George Hotel (19 – 21 George St) is housed over five Georgian townhouses that were built in the 18th century as part of architect James Craig’s Edinburgh New Town plan. 

Initially the building was used by Caledonian Insurance Company in 1840, then in 1860 the first hotel opened at this location.

It officially became The George Hotel in 1880. 

During WWII, the bottom floor was occupied by the Navy, Army and Air Force Institute. 

Today’s version of The George takes inspiration for its rooms and suites colour palette from 19th century Scottish landscape paintings.

The King’s Hall, which was once a banking hall, is a popular wedding venue in Edinburgh and the public bar/kitchen is called The Printing Press. 

Check availability here.

The Scotsman

The Scotsman (20 North Bridge) is located on North Bridge, which connects the New Town to the Old Town

One way to get to this historic hotel is by The Scotsman Steps, which were built between 1899 and 1902 by architects Dunn and Findlay then modernised by the British artist and Turner prize winner Martin Creed in 2011. 

Each of the 104 steps is made from a different kind of marble from around the world! 

Arched entry to The Scotsman Steps Edinburgh

Built in 1905 as The Scotsman Newspaper’s headquarters, the hotel officially opened the doors to its Baroque building in 2001.

Contemporary rooms, suites and a penthouse are decorated in tasteful, neutral tones and there is a bar, The Hide, and restaurant, Grand Cafe, on-site. 

Check availability here.

The Scotsman Picturehouse is a unique cinema and bar which shows new and vintage films in a luxurious yet comfortable setting.

The Balmoral 

The Balmoral is a 5-star historic hotel in Edinburgh.

Located at 1 Princes Street, this prestigious accommodation was built in 1902, originally as the North British Hotel.

The building was designed by W. Hamilton Beattie and A.R. Scott for the North British Railway Company. 

It changed names in 1988. 

Its clock tower is a prominent part of the Edinburgh landscape, best viewed from the top of Carlton Hill.

The time on the clock is three minutes fast, helping commuters make their train at Waverley Station since the 1900s! 

The Balmoral consists of double bedrooms, suites, and Forte suites, some of which have Edinburgh Castle views.

The Balmoral rooms feature handmade beds fit for royalty as they are made by Glencraft, the Balmoral Castle supplier.

Room 552 is known as they JK Rowling Suite as this is where the Harry Potter author penned the last novel in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. 

The door is purple with an owl knocker! 

Check availability here.

The hotel has a spa, swimming pool, a French/Scottish restaurant, Palm Court which is where afternoon teas are served, and a whisky bar featuring over 500 types of scotch! 

Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian West End

The Waldorf Astoria (Princes St) was built in 1903 and is located at the old Caledonian Station aka Caley Station Princes Street Edinburgh which opened in 1870. 

The Waldorf, which was initially called the Princes Street Station Hotel, was designed by local architects Peddie and Washington Browne.

Today, you can see the Caley Station arch to the side of the hotel in the West End

The Waldorf Astoria offers double rooms and suites, some with castle views. 

There is an award-winning restaurant called Grazing by Mark Greenaway, and Peacock Alley where you can order afternoon tea.

Guests and day visitors have access to the on-site Guerlain Spa and indoor swimming pool. 

The Waldorf Astoria is one of the best hotels to stay in for festive decorations in Edinburgh.

Check availability here.

Waldorf Astoria Christmas Lights Edinburgh

Prestonfield House

Prestonfield House (Prestonfield Road) is situated in a striking 17th-century baroque mansion just outside of the city centre.

This 5-star hotel keeps great company; 20 acres of the grounds, peacocks and Highland cows.

Originally built for the Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh in 1687, it was designed by the principal architect for The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Sir William Bruce!

The estate became a hotel in the 1960s. 

Celebrities such as Winston Churchill, Sean Connery, Elton John and Catherine Zeta Jones have spent time at this Edinburgh historic hotel.

Each of the 23 private suites are uniquely decorated, all rooms are in keeping with the theme of opulence. 

The 5-star Rhubarb Restaurant is a popular afternoon tea spot and starred in the UK TV show, Married At First Sight. 

Prestonfield is privately owned by the Witchery by the Castle’s creator, James Thomson. 

Check availability here.

The Inn on the Mile

The Inn on the Mile (82 High St) is located on the Old Town’s famous Royal Mile.

This Edinburgh boutique hotel’s building was constructed in 1923 and was used as the British Linen Bank.

Before its expansion, the British Linen Bank was the Edinburgh Linen Bank, the brainchild of Andrew Fletcher (Lord Milton).

As you enter the hotel via the bar, you’ll walk through the grand Doric portico!

The hotel has nine modern bedrooms and a pub downstairs which does a mean Espresso Martini!

Check availability here.

Malmaison Edinburgh (Leith)

There are two Malmaison hotels in Edinburgh, one in the City Centre and the other in the hip neighbourhood of Leith (1 Tower Pl).

Today, Leith is known for his cafes and pubs built around The Shore and dotted along Constitution Street.

However, it was once a busy port and the Malmaison building, which was built in 1883, was a seaman’s mission giving beds to 9 officers, 56 seamen, and 50 shipwrecked seamen.

You can see the word ‘sailor’ carved into the stone above the hotel’s front door.

Its no secret that the seaman who arrived in Leith by boat were keen to sample the local entertainment and at some stage the Malmaison building was a brothel.

When the Malmaison opened its doors in 1994 it was a risk because Leith hadn’t enjoyed the renovation and gentrification it does today.

The hotel has over 100 rooms and suites, a restaurant and a bar and features in our guide, where to stay in Leith.

Check availability here.

Malmaison Hotel Door Leith

The Dunstane Houses

The Dunstane Houses (4 W Coates) are located over two West Coates Victorian townhouses near the city’s West End.

Since 1852, it has provided a roof over the heads of distillers (the Ross’s family), bankers (the Royal Bank of Scotland), musicians (Archibald Shearer), merchants, doctors, and newspapermen.

The building was originally designed by Edinburgh architect Alexander Black and kicked off its hospitality career in 1969.

Today, Dunstane Houses has 35 bedrooms spread between two buildings, a bar, and a restaurant.

Check availability here.

CoDe Pod 

You don’t have to be part of the elite to afford to stay in a historic hotel in Edinburgh.

CoDe Pod – THE CoURT (1A Parliament Sq) is located in a former courthouse, built in 1693, and jail next door to St Giles’ Cathedral in the Old Town.

The modern hostel, which offers Japanese pod-style communal sleeping arrangements, has retained some of the courthouse features in this Victorian A-listed building.

There is also an underground bar.

Check availability here.

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