Mary Gostelow promotes Edinburgh and its festivals

Girlahead checks-in to Virgin Hotels' newly opened Scottish property

Now’s the time to think Scotland, more specifically this year’s Edinburgh Festival. The program, which runs from 5th to 8th August, 2022, includes such festival debuts as the Australian World Orchestra. Now a decade experienced, this combines Australia’s most highly rated musicians who are living elsewhere around the globe with their counterparts back home. In Edinburgh, maestro Zubin Mehta is in charge, and lead soprano is Berlin-based soprano Siobhan Stagg, born in Melbourne.

The just-opened Virgin Hotels Edinburgh, in what is called ‘Old Town’, is only 11 minutes’ walk from the Usher Hall, where many of the Festival’s prime events happen. It’s a unique hotel, brilliantly converted from India Buildings, a group of connecting 1860s-vintage warehouses, with a church thrown in for good luck.

From outside, Virgin’s dark grey sandstone exteriors may look, to use Scottish words, ‘a wee dour’. Don’t be fooled. Inside has lots to catch the eye – an imposing open central atrium, circular but appearing oval in image, soars up to the tenth floor roof. Of the total 222 bedrooms, 18 are actually in neighbouring Old Greyfriars Church, now deconsecrated (there’s also former-congregation space, there, for weddings and other functions of up to 200). All bedrooms, ecclesiastical or secular, have closets that can be curtained off, and brand specials, signature-colour bright scarlet landline phones and Smeg fridges, also Virgin-red. Rooms have yoga mats but echewing elevators to climb centurie-old stone stairs is out-of-breath exercise – as is walking Old Town’s fascinating narrow streets, which are anything but horizontal. Oh yes, and the hotel has a 24/7 gym.

Feed the mind with somewhat-idiosyncratic carefully chosen books in Virgin’s Funny Library. Satisfy the taste buds with all-day food at Commons Club where an open kitchen allows ringside viewing of culinary maestros preparing, say, Scottish oysters with Virgin Mary dressing and oak-smoked salt, perhaps followed by Isle of Mull seaweed tortellini pasta with wild herb ricotta and clay oven-roasted artichoke. Be bold, and pair your food with Commons Club’s signature gin and tonic, a partnership with nearby Holyrood Distillery.

If you are planning ahead, be aware that opening shortly, on the lowest level of this fascinating Edinburgh hang-out, will be yet another reason to think Virgin. EVE, which promises to be a never-to-be forgotten eatertainment space with all-wall allegorical murals from Dutch specialist Studiogiftig, will have day-long edibles and potables and, come evening, live music that sounds to be far removed from Edinburgh Festival, or even bagpipes.

Commons Club Kitchen, Virgin Hotels Edinburgh

But why not, when you are in Edinburgh, go the whole hog and at least rent a kilt? Virgin Hotels Edinburgh’s own tartan happens to be yellow and, wait for it, red. You may even see it being worn by Virgin’s GM, Scott McCardle, a local boy who lives and breathes exciting Edinburgh.

Mary Gostelow publishes the daily and a unique weekly 15-minute industry Mary Gostelow Girlahead Podcast, both part of Almont Global.

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