No one knows a city better than a hotel concierge. We’ve asked Gareth Chess, the receptionist/concierge for The Royal Terrace Hotel, to give us his top picks for an authentic Scottish night out in Edinburgh.
Where do you send visitors when they want to have a drink close to the hotel?
There’s a range of pubs in Edinburgh, and it would all depend on what [kind of vibe] they are looking for. But I would probably send them to the Theatre Royal. It’s an old traditional pub that was built in the early 20th century.
The Theatre Royal pub located at 25-27 Greenside Place, just a few steps away from the Edinburgh Playhouse, is a favorite hangout of after-work crowds and theatergoers. So if you are in town during the Edinburgh Festival in August, take advantage of the bar’s outdoor seating and stop here for a drink before your next show. In the winter, admire the pub’s French décor as you cozy up next to the fireplaces.
Where do you send visitors for romantic dates?
“I would probably send them to the Witchery, which is by Edinburgh Castle – it’s a secluded, intimate restaurant.”
The Witchery is considered by many to be one of Edinburgh’s best restaurant-hotels, but keep in mind it’s not ideal for couples on a budget.
It is located in a 16th century building at the top of the Royal Mile. Look for the gilded metal sign and prepare yourself for a lavish dining experience. The Scottish seafood platter, roast pumpkin and saddle of venison are just some of the menu’s tastiest items and the restaurant boasts a comprehensive wine list. For lower price options, ask for the light lunch or theater supper menu.
Guest rooms feature Gothic designs and antique furniture, and the low, spooky lighting creates a romantic ambiance – you’ll feel as if you are truly staying in a castle. So if you’re in a particularly indulgent mood, stay a night – just be sure to book the room a few months in advance.
What about for a girl or boy’s night out?
“For a girl’s night out, I would probably send them up to George Street – there’s a lot of buzz, lots of people around and a lot of bars to visit. For a hen party (bachelorette party), maybe the Dome on George Street since it can hold a lot of people.
The Dome is a one-stop party center and a guaranteed given for a wicked night out. Built in 1847 as the headquarters of the Commercial Bank of Scotland, the Dome was renovated in the mid-’90s and is now home to a bar, grill and nightclub. Its décor adds a touch of class to any social gathering: While Greco-Roman columns adorn its exterior, the Dome’s interior features mosaic floors, stained-glass windows and a magnificent cupola above the signature 1930’s cocktail bar – simply put, this is Edinburgh elegance at its best. Here you can also enjoy some well-cooked, traditional Scottish food like peppered Haggis. Or try something a little more chic like curried prawns on a red-pepper salad. The Dome’s Garden Café offers outdoor seating perfect for summer feasting.
“For men, I typically send them to George Street or up to the Grassmarket in the Old Town. The Grassmarket is very old fashioned with nice old pubs.”
The Grassmarket, situated southeast of Edinburgh Castle, is one of the Old Town’s best known and beloved cobblestone locales. From 1477 to 1911, the area was home to a bustling market. It was also the main site for public executions; not surprisingly, many area pubs based their names on people and events from the Grassmarket’s dark past.
For instance, the distinctive Maggie Dickson’s pub was named after a fish seller from Musselburgh, who was accused of being a witch. She was hung in 1728 in the market square. Perhaps Maggie was really a witch after all because a few hours later she climbed out of her coffin. Lucky for Maggie, Scottish law dictated she could not be hung again since she was already “legally dead”!
Other historical pubs include the White Hart Inn, which dates back to 1740. It has been a favorite of quite a few famous Scots like the national poet Robert Burns and the infamous grave robbers turned serial killers Burke and Hare (we told you Edinburgh has a sordid history!). There are also many restaurants to solicit, most of which offer delicious cuisine at reasonable prices. If you’re in the mood for French but don’t have time for a sit-down meal, stop by the French Connection crêperie – a vending van right in the center of the Grassmarket. The banana and Nutella crêpes will never disappoint.
Keep your eyes out for a follow up post on everything the Grassmarket has to offer.
What if your guests want a local vibe?
“Again I would send them to George Street or the Grassmarket since there are always locals walking around. The best pub in the Grassmarket is the Last Drop – it’s where the city’s last hanging took place – a key thing to Edinburgh’s history.
The Last Drop tavern is usually packed to the brim with students, locals and tourists alike. Perhaps they are all trying to catch a peek of the ghost that is rumored to haunt the pub’s cellar. Legend also has it that the pub was called the Last Drop because this was where the poor souls who were about to be hung would have their last drink. Put up with the dim lighting and sit down for some neeps and tatties or classic fish and chips.
But what’s the most authentically local thing you can do in Edinburgh? After a boozy night out, stop at a chippy (takeaway shop) for a 3 a.m. snack. Gareth’s top pick is the Deep Sea fish and chips shop on Antigua Street, right around the corner from the Royal Terrace Hotel. Deep Sea, like most other chippies, also serves pizzas and jacket potatoes. Trust us, if it’s a cold night, a warm and greasy (but sooo delicious) portion of fries will make your clumsy walk home all the more bearable.
About Gareth Chess and the The Royal Terrace Hotel:
Located in the New Town at 14 Royal Terrace – one of Scotland’s poshest and priciest residential and commercial streets – the Royal Terrace Hotel offers four-star luxury. Don’t be fooled by the deceptively ordinary exterior (the hotel is nestled within a row of Georgian townhouses), inside you’ll find a heated swimming pool and sauna, a comely dining room and an extremely friendly and helpful staff. We are big fans of Gareth, who studied tourism at Stevenson College in Edinburgh. A native of the city, you can be sure he’ll give you the scoop on all the best things to see and do. So don’t be afraid to ask – most concierges have a wealth of knowledge they are just dying to share. Don’t let their talents go to waste!