We arrived into the exclusive central cobbled streets of Edinburgh to experience full Scottish bounty at Nira Caledonia – a stunning Georgian luxury boutique hotel with a sophisticated touch of home-from-home charm and character.
Spread across two townhouses and offering just 28 rooms, Nira Caledonia sits within the city’s World UNESCO Heritage Site and offers its guests a contemporary, welcoming respite to both stay and dine at when exploring the Scottish capital. Interestingly, the period residence was once home to John Wilson who took on the pseudonym of Christopher North – a renowned 19th Century essayist, bon viveur and hedonist. Nira Caledonia takes inspiration from this previous dweller to inject its values of the ‘pursuit of pleasure’ to all those who frequent the property.
We were lucky enough to be put up in the spacious and romantic room 1005 – the Fettes Jacuzzi suite towards the top floor of the building, richly dressed with traditional dark wood furniture and flooring to complement the high ceilings and huge sash windows overlooking the street. Grandiose furnishings are softened with a pale dove grey rug, crisp white bedding and a scattering of beautiful cushions sourced from Designer’s Guild. All rooms here come with all the mod-con facilities you would expect to make it a safe-haven that is still in keeping with the historical architecture and backdrop of the building.
The next morning, we tucked into a hearty Scottish breakfast plate to include a well-seasoned sausage, prime cuts of bacon, flavoursome haggis, black pudding, potato scone breads and baked beans and mushrooms, which has been perfected by the team over eight times to ensure all guests enjoy their first and possibly most important meal of the day. Fresh juices, fruit, cereals, pastries and breads and other hot dishes also feature on the breakfast menu.
To follow on with our foodie trail, we took a trip to the local farmer’s market chaperoned by David Scott, the head chef of Nira Caledonia’s restaurant – Blackwood’s Bar & Grill – who helped us to pick out some ingredients to buy for the kitchen to conjure up a special dinner menu later that evening. Each stall at the market offers the finest and fresh local produce that Scotland has to offer, from venison fillets and buffalo steaks to wild rabbit and other game to traditional Scottish hand-made tablets (not the latest tech gadget but fudge-like melt-in-the-mouth sugary sweet confectionary) and a chocolatier offering more unusual flavours of haggis chocolates peppered with spices.
With plenty to immerse in over the weekend and all the while, conveniently close-by to Nira Caledonia, we decided to explore the city by foot and walked from the farmer’s market up to Edinburgh Castle to see and hear the firing of the cannon at 1pm. We soaked up the spectacular panoramic view of the city down below before heading back down into the heart of the shopping district to visit a few boutiques.
Later that evening, we took to the streets of the city by night to experience a walking ghost tour where we were introduced to just a few of the thousands of hidden historical vaults that lie behind the façade of today’s buildings and walls.
After a short but highly welcomed respite back in our rooms at Nira Caledonia, we were personally invited to dinner at the hotel’s dimly lit and romantically intimate Blackwood’s Bar and Grill to enjoy the aforementioned specially created menu using local Scottish ingredients. We began our dining experience with an amuse bouche of deliciously peppery, soft haggis balls followed by a starter of pan-fried sea bass and a main of juicy venison cutlets grilled in the Josper oven and served with carrots and potatoes. We finished our sumptuous feast with a warm, silky chocolate praline fondant served with a creamy scoop of pistachio ice-cream.
Feeling completely indulged on all accounts, we were almost ready to head home but not before visiting The Gardener’s Cottage, a unique rustic social dining experience serving up seasonal and sustainable dishes on long communal wooden tables and benches. Located in Royal Terrace Gardens at the foot of Carlton Hill, it’s another great foodie experience not to be missed when in Edinburgh. Utterly wholesome and comforting, the menu is refreshingly different.