lifestyle

REVIEW: THE NIRA CALEDONIA, EDINBURGH

I’ve been lucky to visit Edinburgh a number of times now as my brother lives there. However, in January after the festivities the boy and I decided to make it our destination of choice for a relaxing mini-break.

We were most certainly not disappointed. Once again, we were bowled over by the charm and hospitable atmosphere of the Scottish capital. The meandering cobbled streets of the old town, the breathtaking views from the top of Edinburgh Castle, boutique shopping in the hub of independent shops along Victoria Street and exploring the historic areas of Grassmarket; we loved every last minute of our Edinburgh adventures and we had an absolute ball!

Travel Time: Approx 50 minutes flight from Cardiff Airport

Time of Year: January

WHERE TO STAY

We were really lucky to call the Nira Caledonia our home away from home during our Edinburgh mini break.

A boutique, luxe hotel with a friendly family feel, it’s also the former home of literary legend John Wilson and was designed by notable Scottish architect William Playfair.

The Nira Caledonia is situated inside two glorious Georgian town houses with  dramatic, sweeping staircases, cosy velvet chairs and sophisticated dark wood décor which ooze laid back comfort and relaxation; exactly what we were looking for.

Located in the well heeled area of Stockbridge, the location was perfect for us tas it was a stones throw away from the shiny lights and shops of Edinburgh’s Princess Street but also tucked away on the peaceful, residential crescent of Gloucester Place. There was even a leafy garden at the end of the street to really immerse yourself in the tranquillity should you wish {it was a wee bit chilly when we were there so we didn’t take full advantage of this granted}.

The hotel has twenty eight wonderful, opulently furnished rooms with gorgeous Georgian features such as ornate cornices on the high ceilings, large sash windows and traditional wood flooring. Simultaneously, the rooms offer all the modern conveniences we could have wished for… iPod docking stations, a coffee machine, flat screen TV the list goes on…

We stayed in what the hotel staff refer to as “the honeymoon suite”. Decorated in charcoal hues with statement light fixtures completed with sumptuous soft furnishings, it felt very indulgent.

The three huge floor to ceiling sash windows allowed the light to pour in to our rooms during the day and it was perfect for noseying on to the street below.

It was ever so lovely to find a bottle of champagne waiting for us courtesy of the hotel manager when we settled in to our room. It really set the tone for the exemplary service we received from all of the staff throughout the rest of our stay.

We clinked our glass of bubbles whilst relaxing in our very own lounge {yep you read that right} we had our very own squishy sofa to relax on and planned our holidays activities out whilst sipping away at some fizz.

Our suite also contained quite possibly, THE comfiest bed I have ever slept in – it was literally perfect to sink into after our days out and about exploring the city. That is, after soaking in our very own Jacuzzi bath of course!!

The breakfast at the Nira Caledonia was hearty to say in the least. It would have made the most accustomed foodies mouth water.  The fabulous buffet that greeted us every morning consisted of the finest, locally sourced produce; a variety of cereals, freshly baked pastries, cold meats and cheeses, home made condiments and smoked salmon with garnishes.

A full Scottish breakfast was also on offer cooked to our exact specifications completed of course with haggis. Needless to say the boy and I didn’t go hungry. Even on our last day when we had to check out at 6.30am the lovely chef prepared us some sandwiches to take with us to the airport.

Our stay at the Nira Caledonia really was blissful and we encountered some of the most friendly and attentive hotel staff there; we would return in a heartbeat.

THINGS TO DO

I would definitely recommend climbing Edinburgh castle. They have audio walking tours which are fab and the view from the top is breathtaking.

Talking of breathtaking views I can also recommend scaling The Scott Monument from previous visits. This marvellous Gothic structure looks like something straight out of a Tim Burton novel and is set right in the middle of the city.  Squeezing your way up the seemingly never ending spiral staircase is no mean feat but is most definitely worth the view at the top!

If, like me, you love a sartorial splurge then you are most definitely in for a treat! Head to Victoria Street to indulge in creative boutiques. Join the throngs of crowds on Princess Street which has a selection of shops to rival Oxford Street and finally, have a stroll along George Street to peruse the likes of Anthroplogie and Mint Velvet.

Something that always fascinated me about Edinburgh is the architectural divide between the elegant Georgian buildings of the new town and the medieval charm of the old town. It wasn’t until my brother moved there that I discovered there used to be many thriving businesses and dwelling below setter level just off the royal mile back in the 17th century. I usually shy away from “city tours” but found exploring these vaults fascinating.

WHAT TO EAT

First of all, I simply must mention the tasty treats we experienced when we visited the intimate Blackwood’s Bar & Grill at The Nira Caledonia for a refined evening meal.

The Bar & Grill itself is sophisticated with a firm focus on quality, locally sourced produce. While we settled in to our sleek surroundings we were promptly handed menus and told that the focus of the menu was on locally sourced quality produce that was cooked brilliantly.

Just as our eyes were flickering over the menu in eager anticipation an amuse bouche of smoked trout pate and artisan bread whet our appetite and gave us a real taste of what was to come.

On a recommendation from the hotel’s receptionist, I opted for the chef’s signature Shetland smoked mussels in a cream sauce with garlic, tarragon and whisky to start. I still seriously fantasise over this dish; they were the tastiest mussels ever to grace my palate.

Mr H chose the wild boar ravioli and was equally impressed with his dish declaring it to be tasty and full of flavour. It was at this stage, while sending our compliments to the chef, we learnt that, impressively, all the fish and meat on the menu are in fact smoked on site by the resident chef.

Onto the main event, we decided to share our respective dishes and our entrées.  The steaks that were being served around me looked juicy and delicious so I opted for Fillet steak. In contrast, the boy decided to try his luck with the wild Scottish sea bass.

Both of the mains were simply divine and very generous in portion.  We ordered cauliflower cheese and roasted veg to accompany them and immediately realised what a challenge we had set ourselves.

Having a rather strong sweet tooth, I had to leave the mammoth task of finishing our mains up to Gareth and boy was I glad I left room for “pudding”.

The white chocolate and Baileys cheesecake I indulged in can only be described in one word – heavenly!! I also “shared” Gareth’s sticky toffee pudding and the chef also insisted we tried the zingy lemon tart they had on offer . Both, were equally as wonderful.  Essentially dessert made my taste buds sing!!

Feeling rather sated we sunk in to the comfy seating in the bar area and proceeded to indulge in a few whiskies before calling it a night.

 As cake connoisseurs we decided to treat ourselves on our final day to an afternoon tea at The Balmoral. What we hadn’t quite bargained for was that this would be a five course, indulgent affair.

The daintiest sandwiches, the tastiest cakes, a decadent dessert trolley that they bring to your table… it certainly was a lovely way of rounding off a wonderful mini break.

GETTING AROUND

There are plenty of taxi’s, trams and buses to get from the airport in to town. When it came to exploring the city itself we mainly explored on foot.

WHAT TO PACK

If you’re paying Edinburgh a visit in the winter then lots and lots of layers, coats, boots scarves and gloves – it gets a wee bit chilly!

Yes, definitely there is still so much to explore – Arthurs Seat, the infamous fringe festival oh and of course my brother lives there and our hotel of choice would of course be The Nira Caledonia.

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Helen

I’m Helen {or Helz to my friends and family} and I am the founder of award winning wedding blog The Wedding Bazaar. After spending my 20’s as a “Legal Eagle” I feel much more "at home" now surrounded by wedding pretty, writing about {and obsessing over} plus size fashion and lusting over interior decor for my fantasy home.

With an “enthusiasm” for Nars lipsticks, diamond rings and far flung destinations you could say I have champagne tastes with a lemonade budget.

I am a messy perfectionist who lives in the welsh metropolis that is Cardiff with my hubby and an ever increasing shoe collection. I can’t wait to share my latest finds and musings with you lovely readers of B.LOVED

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