Christmas 2020 in the UK was one of the strangest for everyone. While in lockdown, we were unable to go anywhere. Travel wasn’t on the agenda, so, what a lovely surprise it was to receive a “Virgin Experience Days” gift card from our son. This was a two-night stay in The Bonham Hotel in Edinburgh, for us to book as and when we could. It certainly gave us something to look forward to and put a smile on our faces on Christmas morning.
When certain restrictions were lifted on the 17th May, both here in the UK and Scotland, we checked to see if it was possible to book a few nights in June. This is when our wedding anniversary is, so we thought it would be perfect timing. Luckily, there were no restrictions on us travelling to Scotland from Newcastle, so we decided to go for it. There was a curfew on everything closing at ten thirty pm, in Scotland, but this didn’t bother us at all. So, we only had the train tickets to book, then we could be on our way.
I have visited Edinburgh a few times over the years and have always had a great experience and enjoyed the city and what it has to offer. I hadn’t been for a good while, so I was looking forward to it.
Geographically, it’s not far from us in the North East (approx 130 miles). So, it’s easy to get to and only a couple of hours on the train.
In the past, when I have visited Edinburgh, I have taken in the sights such as Edinburgh Castle, the famous Edinburgh Zoo (which is home to more than 1000 animals), The Royal Mile, and other well-known landmarks. It is also famous for events such as the “Fringe Festival”, “The Royal Military Tattoo, and, of course, their amazing “Hogmanay” (New Years Eve) celebrations, ……the list goes on……. There is always something to do or an event going on in Edinburgh – taxi drivers confirmed this, saying that, normally, they are so busy, all the year-round.
On this trip, we decided to simply “soak up the atmosphere”, relax, and enjoy the hotel while exploring the area where we were staying – maybe, do some retail therapy on Princes Street and George Street, then stop for a coffee to catch our breath!! Basically, just a time to chill and enjoy being in a different place. I love to “people watch”, so listening to all the different accents wafting by was wonderful.
Edinburgh is such a cosmopolitan, vibrant and interesting city. There are lots of different nationalities living there, which made us realise how much we had missed talking to people and having new experiences.
How We Got There
We travelled to Edinburgh from Newcastle by train. I had forgotten how much of a beautiful scenic route this is and we both totally relaxed with our coffees, and enjoyed the ride. The train was direct without any hitches, and before we knew it, we were there.
When we arrived at Waverley Station, we made our way out into the famous Princess Street where we jumped into a taxi to our hotel. We knew the hotel was around a twenty five minute walk but fancied the easiness of getting there in ten minutes. And, it was a mini-heatwave when we were there, so we didn’t relish the walk with our bags, in the intense sunshine!
The Bonham Hotel
Before booking any holiday, I always check the hotel reviews, thoroughly, on “Trip Advisor”. But, as this was a gift from our son, I didn’t want to do that. I decided to be surprised and take the rough with the smooth.
As the taxi pulled into the west end of the city, we were immediately impressed with the area. It resembled Belgravia in London with its grand old buildings and cobblestoned streets. All reservations were allayed when we arrived and saw this elegant hotel. It’s situated in a quiet leafy crescent which looked exclusive.
As we entered the intimate hotel foyer, I couldn’t help but be enchanted by the beautiful architectural features, its calming decor, beautiful ceiling cornice and wooden panelled staircase.
I immediately got a deep sense of the history attached to this mid 19th century building. This made me even more interested to know more about its past.
With a little digging, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I found out that the building itself has Georgian roots and dates back to 1872. It was originally three separate townhouses occupied by wealthy families along with their servants. Then, in 1939, the houses were sold and it became known as the ‘Private Clinic’, specialising in maternity care. And, it stayed that way for around twelve years.
Hundreds of babies were born, here. They were known as the “Bonham Babies”. We were told people still return to see the building where they or members of their families were born.
The University of Edinburgh then bought the building and converted it to a Hall of Residence for overseas students. In 1998, the building was sold, remodelled, and opened as one of the first boutique hotels in Edinburgh. Richard H Driehaus acquired the hotel in 2017 where he led an extensive and meticulous restoration.
The Bonham is home to an extensive art collection comprising over 35 exquisite paintings, ornate chandeliers and light fixtures from the 18th and 19th century and “one-of-a-kind” items from “Tiffany & Co”, such as this original Tiffany lamp (mentioned, above) which stands pride of place in the reception area. I noticed it on our arrival and thought how beautiful it was. It is very old and valuable.
The layout of the building has a lovely quirkiness to it and we found ourselves getting lost a few times – by going through the wrong door. This all added to the charm.
There are 49 rooms, in total, in the hotel. We were booked into a Townhouse Double Room which was elegantly decorated. We had a queen-size bed and lovely views from the sash windows which let in a lot of natural light. There were the usual tea and coffee facilities, plus complimentary bottled water in the mini fridge.
I loved the “Arran Sense of Scotland” products provided in the bathroom. They smelled divine so I may be purchasing some of these. White towelling robes and slippers are also provided. There are plenty of sockets, including USBs on either side of the bed. And, the Wi-Fi worked, perfectly. We loved that check out was midday. This meant we didn’t have to rush breakfast on our last day, which all added to the experience.
Breakfast is served in the restaurant, named “The Bonham No. 35”, from 7 am to 11 am. This was great for us as we never eat breakfast early.
There was a good choice on the menu as well as an assortment of fruits, juices, yoghurts, pastries, and cheeses.
Mr MAB ordered the full Scottish breakfast (suasages, black pudding, haggis, the works), on both mornings – which speaks for itself. I had the vegetarian full breakfast on the first morning. On the second morning, I asked for poached eggs on toast. Breakfast was served with either tea or coffee. I loved the Earl Grey tea.
These are some photographs I took of the restaurant on the day we arrived. I was knocked out by the art on show. Take note of the parquet flooring with a central carpet of monochromatic tiles, so beautiful.
Where we had afternoon Tea and Coffee.