A Calton Hill apartment in one of the highest and most central tenements in Edinburgh has interiors to match its spectacular views, finds Kirsty McLuckie.
There is something quintessentially Edinburgh about the double upper apartment at 24/3 Calton Hill.
Not only does it share its address with one of the most recognisable landmarks in the city, which it also overlooks, but it has an air of Old Town romance, like a novel by Robert Louis Stevenson, tucked as it is in one of the highest tenements of the city.
Mark Gibson and Shamsu Yusof moved here in 2011, having almost made the decision to purchase before even setting foot inside. Mark explains: “We were returning from Malaysia, where we’d been for 20 years and we could have moved anywhere in Britain, so we spent a few weeks travelling around.
“We knew this flat was going to become available as it was owned by a friend of a friend so we arrived by train, walked out under the staggering Regent Bridge and straight up Calton Hill and thought: ‘This is a no brainer’ – Edinburgh is so far and away the most beautiful city in the UK. We hadn’t made appointments to view any other flats and once we saw this we didn’t bother.”
Once inside the flat, which he describes as an oddity, a one-off and beautifully eccentric, they both reacted differently. “I got very excited about it, whereas Shamsu found a sofa, curled up and went to sleep, because it felt so much like home.”
It needed work. Mark says: “We thought that was ideal as we could see what needed to be done to bring it back to life, in a way that respected its history.”
He cheerfully admits that the flat has had a hell of a life. “It was built about 1770 and for a lot of its time its been a slum and battered about, but it does mean that no-one has had the money to do a proper renovation, so things hadn’t been ripped out.”
A new bathroom and kitchen was needed and then rehanging shutters and restoring the original features were the first priorities. The first few months were spent living with only one room with floorboards and no bathroom or washing machine.
Once that work was completed, Shamsu decorated throughout. “It was a heavy few months, but with a house that you love, there are always ways of making it more special so I don’t think we have ever finished improving it.”
Their careers have taken in importing Western jewellery to Malaysia, teaching English with the British Council, costume design in the theatre and films, writing and since coming to Edinburgh opening Folly Antiques on Leith Walk.
All of this is reflected in the decor of the flat, which feels inside like the home of a comfortable Georgian family, albeit with added modern touches.
Guests tend to be agog, not least when they look out of the windows. Mark says: “Edinburgh is awash with wonderful views but I still find ours breathtaking because in one direction we are looking over the whole of the Old Town to the Pentland Hills and in the other direction the north of the city, the Firth of Forth, the Fife coast and hills.
It is a huge view and particularly magical at twilight. I have a window seat in my bedroom and I always sit there for ten minutes, watching the sea turn silver and the sky turn gold.”
The stairs between the two floors are turnpike which, along with the views, gives the place the feel of a castle. Mark says: “You come up those stairs, into these snug rooms and we are so high up that you look down and think you could be in a castle keep, looking down into the treetops and the gardens.”
It is a garden that has persuaded them to move away from this beloved house. He says: “We have found a house which, again, is remarkable but in desperate need of love, but it has a walled garden and it is something I’ve always wanted.”
While the duplex would make a good investment for a holiday let, Shamsu and Mark ideally would like to sell to someone who realises how special it is. It would also make a good family home, perhaps not in the overcrowded way of its early days, but the upstairs bedroom in particularly has always enchanted young visitors, with its views of the sea and sloping ceilings.
Mark’s favourite spot is the dining room: “It is a wonderful place to be candlelit when we have people to dinner. The light gets gentler over the evening, persuading people to linger.
“It is just a very romantic home.”
24/3 Calton Hill is priced at offers over £525,000, contact Lindsays on 0131 229 4040.