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Issue 14 - Hidden gems close to Edinburgh

Scotland Magazine Issue 14
May 2004


This article is 14 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Hidden gems close to Edinburgh

In association with

17 High Street, South
Queensferry, by Edinburgh
Tel: +44 (0)131 331 1298

You don’t have to stay in the city centre to enjoy Edinburgh. Why not stay a few miles away by the seaside? Orocco Pier is a new, cool and contemporary hotel – best described as a restaurant with rooms – located on the beach at South Queensferry, nestled between the two famous rail and road Forth Bridges.

The building is an old coaching inn dating back to 1664. For 30 years it served as the Queensferry Arms Hotel, the local pub.

Time for a radical change! Three local entrepreneurs, all with successful backgrounds in the restaurant business, have recently undertaken
a bold £1 million investment. While the 17th century façade on the cobbled street remains, the funky interior is 21st century.

‘Dreaming, drinking, dreaming’ is the new motto. The name Orocco is derived from a play on words – Iroko is a type of South African wood used throughout the hotel.

So picture the scene: a long, mirrored bar with chic booth tables leading through to the open plan lounge and dining area. The furnishings are of exceptional quality, leather sofas and stools, comfortable banquette wall seating and a couple of intimate hideaway corners for dinner à deux.

But it’s the view from the windows that is the star attraction. From the lounge and restaurant the panoramic view of the Forth Bridges and over to Fife is breathtaking. At night the restaurant lights dim to highlight the bridges illuminated against the dark sky. LA meets Edinburgh? Which leads us upstairs to the bedrooms.

There are 12 minimalist style rooms, many with a sea view. All have television, DVD player, internet access, en suite bathrooms, Molton Brown toiletries, unusual fibre optic multicoloured lighting and a well stocked mini-bar cabinet.

With perfect in-room entertainment and homely comfort you may wish to stay here but the bar and restaurant will surely beckon during your stay.

The cuisine is contemporary Scottish, using fresh local ingredients including fine Scottish meat, game, seafood and vegetables.

There is an Asian influence with wok stir-fries and Thai mussels alongside traditional steaks and salmon. The menu suits modern tastes and appetites with ‘lite bites’, tapas, salads and breakfast served all day.

South Queensferry is a charming little harbour town. A favourite haunt of Robert Louis Stevenson who frequented the local Hawes Inn featured in his novel, Treasure Island, it’s named after Queen Margaret who frequently visited when travelling by ferry over to Dunfermline in Fife, Scotland’s capital city at the time.

Priestfield Road, Edinburgh
Tel: +44 (0)131 668 3346

This historic 17th century mansion was from the start built as a place in which to entertain Europe’s elite.

The owner of the Edinburgh’s celebrated Witchery restaurant acquired Prestonfield earlier this year. James Thomson, nominated for the Scottish Hotelier of the Year Award this year, is a miribilist .

He worked here as a boy and dreamed of what he could do with the place; now the man is doing it.

The marvellous, white scroll-façaded house, resting in parkland (complete with Highland cattle and trumpeting peacocks) at the foot of the city’s striking ancient volcano peak, Arthur’s Seat, has been distinctively restyled to provide ‘the ultimate retort to minimalism’.

Long forgotten splendours have been re-gilded; walls have been covered in opulent velvets; and, in addition to an extensive existing collection of fine art and antique furnishings, Thomson has added suitably grand, precious and quixotic finds culled from the auction rooms of Europe.

The 28 incredibly luxurious, theatrical and highly original bedrooms and two suites have state-of-the-art technology discreetly located amid their antique splendours.

All are air-conditioned and have high speed internet access using the top-notch wireless system, plus Bose sound systems, DVD players and flat screen televisions. There’s a big library of wonderful films and music.

As the lights dim in the evening from countless scented candles a beguiling fragrance fills the air. The atmosphere becomes gloriously decadent.

The restaurant is called Rhubarb (which was first grown here from imported seeds). There are two gorgeous dining rooms. Colin, the sommelier, had been involved in the creation of the huge wine list.

The menu, by chef Kenny Coltman, presents the best of produce such as Lindisfarne oysters and Black Gold beef in the style of first-class modern Scottish cuisine.

Here are 5 more ideas for you!

7 Rothesay Terrace, New Town, Edinburgh
Tel: +44 (0)131 226 3380
If loads of space and true Edinburgh character is your bag – then pack your bags and book into this elegant alternative! Town House suites are vast. Dine next door at The Bonham

90 Haymarket Terrace, West End, Edinburgh
Tel: +44 (0)131 473 3400
This is one of three Apex hotels in the capital, and the least expensive. Pleasantly contemporary. Nice buffet breakfast. Keep an eye on the entry on the Guide for latest offers!

by Ocean Terminal, Leith, Edinburgh
Tel: +44 (0)131 555 4422
We recommend the revamped bedrooms in the new wing. Practical and neat rooms at a good rate. Hotel is close to Royal Yacht ‘Britannia’. Budget hotel doing things rather nicely.

72 Causewayside, near University, Edinburgh
Tel: +44 (0)131 667 6622
Very hip and trendy and now in new hands. Chic bar with cocktails and plasma screens. Natty restaurant. Rooms are small and minimalist but different and practical. Fun!

19 St Bernard’s Crescent, Stockbridge, Edinburgh
Tel: +44 (0)131 332 6162
A magnificent, showpiece Edinburgh house, often filmed. 1800s antiques and art. A rare find, and a wonderful host in William Balfour. Book the Balfour Room with its four-poster bed.