We’ve been locked down in Edinburgh now since early October. Being unable to leave one of the world’s most beautiful cities (minus thousands of tourists), is no hardship. We’ve swapped Scottish vacation for Edinburgh staycation and are having a ball. We recently stayed at Edinburgh’s Hotel du Vin and had a ‘Grand Night In’.
The hotel is a good base for exploring Edinburgh. It’s located on the edge of the historic Old Town, with Greyfriars Kirk, Edinburgh Castle, the Grassmarket and Royal Mile a stone’s throw away. Princes Street (the city’s main thoroughfare), Princes Street Gardens and Edinburgh’s elegant New Town are all a short walk away.
Hotel guests can take advantage of discounted parking (£15.90 for 24 hours) right on the doorstep. Perfect if you’d prefer not to use public transport.
Things to do on an Edinburgh staycation
You might wonder what there is to see and do on an Edinburgh staycation during lockdown? The short answer is lots. Many of the city’s visitor attractions, museums and galleries are open. They’re nice and quiet too. We pretty much had Edinburgh Castle all to ourselves a couple of weeks ago.
There’s no shortage of coffee shops and cafes open either, so you won’t struggle to track down elevenses or lunch.
There are even some festive events running. You’ll find plenty of festive cheer and penguins bathed in moonlight (ADORABLE) at Edinburgh Zoo’s Christmas Nights. We attended the press launch last month and had a brilliant time.
But back to our most recent Edinburgh staycation and ‘Grand Night In’ at Hotel du Vin.
How we spent our Edinburgh staycation
We arrived in town at midday and after parking the car, popped into Hotel du Vin to drop off our bags.
Before heading out to lunch, we persuaded the boy to pose for a photo beside a mural in the hotel. The mural features the gruesome twosome Burke and Hare, plus adorable Greyfriars Bobby. It captures Edinburgh’s two sides perfectly. The Edinburgh of intellect, architecture and braw wee dugs, versus the Edinburgh of Burke and Hare, Deacon Brodie and ghostly goings on.
Lunch – Thomas J Walls Coffee
Thomas J Walls Coffee is located just around the corner from Hotel du Vin. Online reviews suggested we’d find a decent cup of coffee and a tasty lunch at the dog friendly coffee shop. We did – the coffee was good and our sandwiches delicious (smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for Mr G and halloumi, avocado and asparagus for me). The boy had a bowl of water and some scraps of sandwich.
A wander in Greyfriars Kirkyard
It was a lovely afternoon, so after lunch we popped into Greyfriars Kirkyard for a wander.
Greyfriars Kirkyard is a fascinating place, steeped in history, both heartwarming and bloody.
There’s the tale of loyal terrier Bobby, who visited the grave of his dead master in the kirkyard for fourteen years.
Religious persecution and ghostly goings on
Then, there’s the hellish tale of a thousand Covenanters who were imprisoned in the kirkyard in 1679. The area where they were held is now known as the Covenanters Prison. Many died there, others were executed for treason. 257 were forced onto a ship bound for the American Colonies – it sank, killing all but 48 aboard.
Near the Covenanters Prison, is the MacKenzie Mausoleum. The occupant, Sir George MacKenzie (Bloody MacKenzie) was Lord Advocate during the reign of Charles II. He relentlessly persecuted the Covenanters, condemning many to die.
In the 1990s, visitors to the Covenanters Prison starting reporting that they’d been attacked by an invisible entity. It became known as the MacKenzie Poltergeist.
Then, you have the resurrectionists. In the kirkyard, are two graves covered by metal grilles (mortsafes). They’re there to prevent the dead from rising. Not as zombies, but as cadavers used to teach medical students. Selling the dead was once a lucrative business. Burke and Hare are often remembered as grave robbers, or resurrectionists but they weren’t. They were murderers, who found killing the easiest way to procure corpses to sell.
A mulled cider meander
After leaving Greyfriars Kirkyard we wandered around the Old Town, enjoying the winter sunshine.
We stopped on Edinburgh’s colourful Victoria Street (the inspiration for Daigon Alley in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books) to buy takeaway mulled cider from the Bow Bar. It was perfection in a wee paper cup and the best I’ve tasted.
Sunshine, mulled cider and beautiful surroundings – who could want for more.
After exploring the ancient closes and courtyards of Edinburgh’s Old Town, it was time to check into Hotel du Vin for a ‘Grand Night In’.
A Grand Night In – Hotel du Vin, Edinburgh
Hotel du Vin is situated around a quiet courtyard, so once inside you’re completely shut off from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Our room – Perrier Jouet
Inside, hands sanitised, temperatures checked and wine glass chandelier admired, we were shown to our room – Perrier Jouet. The rooms at Hotel du Vin are named after wines and vineyards.
It was a good-sized room with a desk, large bed, small sofa and a free-standing bath tub nestled in a turret window. The colour scheme was warm and muted and the lighting subdued. Exposed beams on the ceiling reminded me of some of the quaint hotel rooms we’ve stayed in, in Paris over the years.
Our en suite was large and stylish, with his and her’s sinks and a walk in shower. There was a plentiful supply of L’Occitane toiletries. I usually prefer to find Scottish toiletries in Scottish hotel rooms, but L’Occitane is an old favourite of mine and the brand suited the French theme of the hotel perfectly.
Pets at Hotel du Vin
For a modest £10 per stay fee, four-legged friends are welcome to join their humans at Hotel du Vin. Unlike many other pet friendly hotels we’ve stayed at, there were no doggy extras provided like bowls, treats a bed or poo bags. The boy didn’t seem to mind though, as we always travel with those things anyway and the hotel staff made a huge fuss of him, making him feel very welcome.
A relaxing start to a ‘Grand Night In’
Mr G was keen to snap a sunset, I on the other hand was keen to acquaint myself the free-standing bathtub and some L’Occitane bubbles.
So, as Mr G headed out to chase a sunset, I slipped into a fragrantly scented bubble bath for some me time. Aaaaaaaand relax.
When Mr G returned, we popped the cork on a bottle of Hotel du Vin champagne we’d found waiting in the room for us. It was a really nice bottle of fizz – crisp, dry and chilled to perfection. We had it with some sweet treats, room service had delivered for us to enjoy.
Once again, I was reminded of Paris. Drinking champagne and eating macarons in a hotel room. La vie est belle.
Dinner at Bistro du Vin
After spending a couple of hours relaxing in the room, we donned our glad rags, left the boy snoozing and headed downstairs to Bistro du Vin for dinner.
Having been to the hotel for afternoon tea and drinks before, we were looking forward to dinner.
Bistro du Vin looks like a traditional French bistro. Having recently had to cancel a trip to Paris because of Covid, it was nice to feel like Paris had come to Edinburgh instead.
Once seated, we studied the menu. There was only ever going to be one starter to me. My favourite – French onion soup. The stock was rich and flavoursome and the cheese gooey and delicious. Tres, tres bon.
Mr G had smoked salmon on rye bread. It got a big thumbs up from him.
For my main I had chicken Kiev with a side portion of frites. It came served with mixed leaves. I’d have preferred buttered asparagus or another vegetable accompaniment. The chicken was lovely and garlicky, but a tad dry. It was nice, but didn’t blow me away. The frites were perfect.
Mr G opted for ribeye steak with béarnaise sauce and frites. He wiped his plate clean, declaring it the best steak he’d ever had. He waxed lyrical about it for hours afterwards.
For dessert I had Creme brûlée – a nod to my favourite movie, Amelie. In the movie, Amelie loves to break the crust on creme brûlée with a spoon. Who doesn’t? Movie reenactment over, I tucked in. Mmmmmmm – it was velvety smooth, with a wonderful crisp topping.
Mr G had apple and blackberry crumble with custard. He could eat his body weight in custard, so it didn’t take him long to devour his dessert.
All in all, it was an enjoyable meal.
Fresh air and festive lights
After dinner, we collected the boy from our room and headed out for an evening walk.
The hotel was perfectly located for us to see the Old Town all lit up for Christmas.
Edinburgh is beautiful by night, but at Christmas it looks extra special.
Back at the hotel, we quickly fell asleep. Our Edinburgh staycation had tired us out.
Breakfast at Bistro du Vin
The bed was so comfy, that we almost missed our breakfast reservation the next morning. An invigorating rain shower soon had us wide awake and raring to go.
We were the first to arrive for breakfast, so obviously weren’t the only ones who found the beds comfy.
There was a good choice of dishes on the breakfast menu, both hot and cold. Mr G ordered his favourite eggs royale and I opted for natural yoghurt and granola, plus a selection of Continental meats and cheese. We shared a pot of coffee and a basket of pastries.
It was a fab breakfast and a nice, chilled start to the day.
After breakfast, it was time to say goodbye to Hotel du Vin. We’d thoroughly enjoyed our stay and ‘Grand Night In’.
Our Edinburgh staycation was drawing to an end, but we had time for another wander in the historic heart of the city, before heading home to our Edinburgh abode.
An atmospheric walk in the Old Town
Outside, the weather couldn’t have been more different to the sunny Saturday we’d enjoyed the day before. The city was enveloped in a cold, damp haar and looked wonderfully atmospheric. Edinburgh had transformed into the dark and mysterious city inhabited by Burke and Hare and Deacon Brodie – we were delighted.
When a sea haar descends on Auld Reekie, it’s easy to see why the city has inspired so many Gothic and ghostly stories over the years.
After a couple of hours of walking, we’d earned a winter warmer. We headed to Mimi’s Bakehouse at the foot of Fleshmarket Close for coffee and cake.
And there under the twinkle of fairy lights, our fabulous Edinburgh staycation drew to a close.
Hotel du Vin’s ‘Grand Night In’ package costs from £129 for two. The price includes an allowance of £25pp towards dinner.
We stayed at Hotel du Vin on a complimentary basis, however all opinions are my own.
Until next time …