Living it up in Edinburgh

by Ella.Buchan

The Scottish capital of Edinburgh makes a great base for a good old-fashioned pub crawl

Apart from the cleaner atmosphere in bars and the clusters of people along the streets, the smoking ban has had another welcome effect – the return of the good old pub crawl. Hardcore smokers use the journeys between drinking holes as opportunities to light up, rather than stare at the pavement or through the window at their abandoned companions. And Edinburgh, with its mix of ‘old man’ pubs and trendy bars, is the home of the pub crawl.
Start with the pubs around the castle walls and head inland. Choose from cocktail joints, student hangouts and whisky joints with more malts than you can doff your flat cap at. Try Nicol Edwards on Niddry Street – a traditional bar with cavernous rooms including banqueting hall and cinema. Another good bet is The Barony on Broughton Street, with a wide range of ales and whiskies. But you can’t wander far without coming across a drinking hole, so there is no need to plan.
The perfect base
When it comes to clubbing, the hottest ticket in town is at boutique hotel Tigerlily. Its subterranean nightclub, Lulu, draws hordes of scantily clad lads and lasses willing to shiver it out while queuing around the block to get in.
For guaranteed entry – and a night luxuriating in fluffy-wuffy white robes and Egyptian cotton sheets – book a room there. If you book the ‘Love Package’ you’ll get Veuve Clicquot champagne and handcrafted Belgian chocs on arrival, so you can line your stomach the glamorous way before hitting the town. That’s what my boyfriend and I did on our weekend trip, providing us with the perfect base to explore the Edinburgh nightlife. It costs from £350 for two nights in a luxury double, and also includes breakfast in bed and optional late checkout.
After dark the hotel room keys become 'VIP passes’, so you can march straight into Lulu, drawing more than a few envious glances and pleas from revellers hoping to sneak past the strict door staff. Down below, plush sofas, soft pink lighting and not-so-soft pink cocktails create a sexy atmosphere. And the two heated outdoor areas certainly help to explain the draw of this place – smokers are packed in like fags in an unopened 20-pack of B&H. After spending enough to pay for another night in the hotel on cocktails – they are around £8 a pop – and chatting with ultra-friendly locals, we called it a night and jumped into the elevator up to our room. If only every nightclub had a lift that took you straight to bed. Much better than paying for a cab or catching three night buses home.
Exploring the city
As part of our package we were served a gorgeous full Scottish breakfast in bed, complete with haggis. I did not think my fuzzy head or toxic stomach could take it, but I wolfed it all down to soak up the alcohol. Then, ready for the day, we set about exploring the city itself.
The castle presides over everything and looks like it has taken a wrong turn from the set of Lord of the Rings. In fact, gazing up at its walls, it is hard to imagine even the toughest orc scaling them.
It is also worth visiting a far more modern – and controversial – building. The new Scottish Parliament building, opposite Holyrood Palace, looks at first like the product of a giant satellite dish crashing into an art deco building. But it is actually quite attractive, with its curved wood and metal structure and manicured public gardens. You can have a free tour of the inside or, on a sunny day, just chill out by the various water features outside.
If you are a whisky fan, head for the Scotch Whisky Experience near the castle. For an entry fee, you can learn all about your favourite tipple, go on the Whisky Barrel Ride and attend a tasting.
After a tiring day visiting interesting monuments, it was back to the hotel for a slap-up meal. If possible, the food is even more indulgent than the rooms. A melt-in-the-mouth starter of seared scallops with Thai cabbage salad followed by seafood linguine in a lemon cream sauce was so gorgeous I ate it really slowly to make it last. With a private alcove to ourselves, it was hard to drag ourselves away after the plates had been cleared. In fact it was hard to drag ourselves away from the hotel, and Edinburgh, altogether.

Getting there

GNER travels to Edinburgh Waverley from London Kings Cross.