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Forget Europe and take in grand, old historic Edinburgh with its 4,500 listed buildings

By Jay Fagan

Edinburgh’s Mercure Edinburgh City Princes Street Hotel is the ideal mid-scale bolt-hole for families and couples seeking a staycation to explore Scotland’s glorious capital city.

Although not just location, location, location – there are great rooms with locally inspired décor and a stylish ‘Scott’s on Princes Street’ in-house restaurant and bar – there’s no doubt that the location is the main draw here. Rooms at the front of the hotel provide guests with panoramic views of Edinburgh Castle, Old Town and Princes Street Gardens.

Room with a view

Few Edinburgh hotels can boast such a superb central location, with the Scottish National Gallery and the Royal Mile situated nearby. Edinburgh Castle, George Street – the main thoroughfare of the New Town – nearby Rose Street and Grassmarket, a haven of wonderful independent shops of all kinds, are all within walking distance.

Edinburgh is one of Europe’s grandest and most historic cities with a staggering 4,500 listed buildings. It is compact making it ideal for walking around although it has some steep, challenging hills.

There is a medieval Old Town and the elegant Georgian New Town with gardens and neoclassical buildings.

Dominating the city is Edinburgh Castle containing Scotland’s own collection of crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny, historically used in coronations of Scottish rulers. Worth a climb is Arthur’s Seat, an imposing peak – actually an extinct volcano – in Holyrood Park with sweeping views over the city and surrounding countryside and rumoured to have been the location of King Arthur’s Camelot.

There’s so much to do here for all the family. Harry Potter Walking Tour? Check, JK Rowling wrote the first two Harry Potter Books in the city’s coffee shops. Royal Yacht Britannia? Check. And so on and on.

As a kid many years ago I wondered at the Camera Obscura; there’s a boat trip under and around the wonderful Forth Bridge and, of course, there are many ways to learn about, as well as enjoy, a glass or two of wonderful whisky.

Cocktails at the bar, anyone?

The Underground Vaults Tour takes you underneath the streets of the Old Town and the vaults are genuinely weird and scary. So scary, in fact that it’s generally regarded as one of the most unsettling (and probably haunted) places on earth. So, handle with care! Untold miseries since the 1700s are revealed as the candle-lit tour proceeds. If you are of a nervous disposition this is one to avoid.

Further afield a day-out to Loch Ness is a stand-out and who knows if the Monster will make an appearance. Hint, it hasn’t done yet. A visit to Rosslyn Chapel – where the climax of the Da Vinci Code novel and film took place – would be a must for Dan Brown fans. A genuine slice of history and supremely atmospheric. Rosslyn is just 45 minutes from Edinburgh by car or taxi and it would be a must see for me.

Back in the Mercure Edinburgh City Princes Street Hotel, rooms start from just £80 bed & breakfast, but I’d say it’s worth upgrading yourself to a Superior Room on the seventh floor with your own private balcony – the panoramic views are totally worth it.

Take in the fab brasserie

Downstairs Scott’s Bar has a wide range of local beers (some a bit sweet for the average Englishmen) and cocktails as well as, inevitably, a huge range of whiskies. Scott’s on Princes Street restaurant features local dishes, with a twist from chef, as well as regular favourites and is open from breakfast through lunch and afternoon tea to the evening meal, all overlooked by artwork featuring some of the local figures who made Scotland great.

Side Bar The Mercure Edinburgh City – https://www.mercureedinburgh.co.uk – is just 200 yards walk from the main Waverly rail station and a short taxi ride from the airport. There is a wide variety of rooms with one, two or three single beds as well as doubles. It is a 100% non-smoking space. 24 hour room service is available.

Insider Tips – Do try to button hole James Fraser, the General Manager, to get his recommendations for something special to do. James is an Edinburgh hospitality legend and knows everyone and everything in the City.

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