Travel: Dunstane Houses, Edinburgh

Scotland on Sunday, Do Not Disturb

Dunstane Houses, Edinburgh
Dunstane Houses, Edinburgh

f we are being really honest, no-one is a huge fan of a re-brand (Snickers/Opal Fruits anyone?) but sometimes a re-naming just works, especially when the product has had a refresh. And never has this been more relevant than at the Dunstane Houses in Edinburgh. Formally the Dunstane House Hotel, the new name includes the sister property, Hampton House and marks a six month, mutli-million pound renovation which was completed on the Dunstane House earlier this year.

In the leafy west end of Edinburgh, and only a hop, skip and jump from Haymarket Station, Dunstane Houses are among the venerable piles you’ve probably eyed up whilst walking to a rugby match at Murrayfield. They were designed by Edinburgh architect William Playfair and date back to 1852. Now the former Dunstane House Hotel has just benefited from a multi-million renovation, and Hampton House, on the opposite side of the road, will complete the new Dunstane Houses brand at the end of this year with a further eight bedrooms and a lounge.

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Budget or boutique?

Dunstane Houses, Edinburgh

Having only 16 bedrooms, which include two suites, this is the epitome of a boutique hotel, and the price, from £200 per night, reflects this. But the beauty of the property, its amenities and location will make it worth it for those looking for a luxurious staycation or holiday in the capital.

Room service

The interiors of the new-look Dunstane House have been sympathetically updated by interior designer Hannah Lohan, whose previous projects include Terry Venables’ boutique Spanish hotel, La Escondida. Honouring the Orkney roots of owners Shirley and Derek Mowat, whilst highlighting the building’s history, the neutral interiors (think Farrow & Ball Elephant’s Breath) complement original features that include stucco work, majestic fireplaces and ornate cornicing. Bespoke sofas in deep blue velvet with Orkney tweed cushions and throws create a sense of comfortable decadence in

the public spaces and bedrooms.

Dunstane Houses, Edinburgh

Throughout the hotel, artworks curated by local artist Nicky Brooks of the Red Door Gallery depict scenes of Edinburgh and Orkney, with a special Orkney collection curated by Edinburgh College of Art students in the lounge.

Our room, the Dunstane Suite, on the first floor overlooking the gardens, was a luxurious mix of traditional and modern with dark wooden furniture, a burnt orange button-back sofa and a four-poster bed.

There was also a wow-factor copper bath in the bay window and a Persian rug.

The en-suite was a study in marble with traditional sanitary ware and contemporary walk-in rain shower.

Wining and dining

Guests of the hotel can tuck into breakfast, afternoon tea, lunch and dinner in the lounge, which has had a menu update as part of the new look.

With a focus on Scottish produce, signature dishes include Cullen skink, crispy Ayrshire clash farm pork belly, tender seared Orkney scallops and the Dunstane’s own whisky-slaked Cranachan.

Keen to sample the dinner options (and after a G&T or two) we chose starters or “Wee Bites” of crispy Campbells haggis bonbons with Glenkinchie single malt whisky and Arran mustard mayo, and Orkney Kirkjuvagr gin and orange smoked salmon served with capers, shallots and toasted sourdough bread. They tasted as good as they sound and were swiftly followed by the Dunstane burger and a special fish curry of the day and, by way of dessert, an Ecosse Colda (a tasty mix of cream-washed whisky, pineapple syrup, coconut rum and soda) from the adjoining Ba’ Bar. Named after the street football game traditionally played in Orkney, its interior is reminiscent of a sophisticated members’ club.

Worth getting out of bed for

If you can drag yourself from the comfortable bed or the statement bath, the hotel concierge is on hand to fast-track guests into Edinburgh’s best restaurants, shows and museums, which are all a short walk away.

Guided tours in one of owner Derek Mowat’s vintage cars will made be available on request.

Guestbook comments

The neoclassical design of Georgian Edinburgh meets pared-down luxury, creating the welcoming feel of a country house hotel; close to the action but away from the bustle.

Little extras

Homemade shortbread in a Kilner jar by the tea and coffee facilities in the room, was a delicious touch.

Rosalind Erskine

Double rooms with breakfast are available from £200 and suites cost from £400 per night, including breakfast. Dunstane Houses, 4 West Coates, Edinburgh EH12 5JQ (0131-337 6169,