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Issue 34 - Home from Home

Scotland Magazine Issue 34
August 2007

 

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Home from Home

Fancy experiencing Edinburgh in a different way when you next visit? Then why not set up temporary home there? Dominic Roskrow reports

What sets Edinburgh apart from so many other cities isn’t just its castle, its history, or its age – it’s the way you can envelope yourself in it and let it wash over you. It has none of the remoteness of other big cities such as London, Paris or Rome; and you can base yourself in its very heart and reach out to most of it by foot. Its most famous hotels lie scattered along its principle shopping road. Few other cities embrace the tourist so absolutely.

But hotels are still hotels, and no matter how special they are, you can’t avoid the shared living experience. Which is why the growing number of self catering apartments springing up around Scotland’s capital, might prove to be a better option.

And the pick of the bunch is Pilrig, just a 15 minute walk through parkland and typical Georgian town houses or five minutes by bus from Princes Street to the port of Leith.

The apartment is part of Pilrig House, a property dating back to 1638 and immersed in its own history of tragedy and success, wealth and bankruptcy. Situated on the edge of parkland and trees, it is not without fame, either. Robert Louis Stevenson played here as a child, and referred to it later in his life, in both Kidnapped and Catriona (see page 63 for more on Stevenson).

The advantage of having your own comfy and homey apartment is that you feel like you’re living in the city rather than in a hotel in the city. The disadvantage is that you can be isolated and you don’t have the support of a concierge or front desk to help you out.

You’re deprived of a hotel’s true indulgences – the ability to retain your privacy while tapping into an information source at will. All credit to Pilrig’s owners Philip and Debbie Martin, then, for perfecting the skill of being on hand to guide and help and to offer a warm and personalised service while staying discreetly in the background or, should you so wish, out of the way altogether.

The apartment itself has a double room and a single room but is just about large enough for two children and in our case, a baby as well. It’s not a big place but very snug, and you suspect that it would be as welcoming winter as it is in summer. And it’s excellently furnished with a mix of modern and old and is well equipped, making your time in the apartment a match for the time you’ll spend out of it.

It’s equipped with DVDs and videos including some for children and some about local history, and there are plenty of books and games should you decide to while away the evening ‘at home.’

The walk into the city, across the picturesque park, is an untaxing one, but the main road is easily reached and buses run every five minutes. We found that within a day we felt part of the city’s strong residential infrastructure.

To be able to accommodate a family of five with such space and in such comfort so close to a major city centre was a luxury that we would want to repeat again soon. The cost of staying depends on time of year and the length of stay, but short breaks can be accommodated. It’s an excellent way to experience Edinburgh fully – and a great way to feel that Edinburgh is home.