Paris is romantic, New York is exciting and London is historic -- but ask any experienced visitor about Edinburgh and the word most often used to describe it is beautiful. The 18th-century Georgian squares of its New Town are joined by the Princes Street Gardens to the Medieval Old Town and framed by the Castle and the hills. A penchant for preservation has resulted in modern luxury hotels being hidden within the historic facades of several of the city's loveliest buildings. Fortunately, for the fitness-conscious traveler, it's easy to enjoy the historic city center and have a swim and a gym as well.
The Caledonian Hilton
In the early days of Britain's railways, long-distance train travel was an extravagant adventure that often included a stay at a railway-owned grand hotel at the larger terminals. The Princes Street Station, at the western end of Princes Street in the city center, was demolished in the 1960s. But its hotel, built in the 1890s, remains and is now a Hilton. The Victorian details of the lobby and public areas remain. Elsewhere, the hotel's thoroughly modern features include a fitness center with a 12.5-meter indoor heated pool, whirlpool bath, sauna and steam room.
The Scotsman Hotel
The ornate Victorian Gothic home of the Scotsman Hotel served as the home of Edinburgh's main daily newspaper, The Scotsman, for almost 100 years. In 2001, it reopened as a luxury hotel, part of the British-owned Eton Collection of boutique hotels. The building, with its turrets and gables on North Bridge, is an Edinburgh landmark, and the hotel interiors, with period paneling and marble staircases, reflect its earlier use as a substantial media enterprise. The printing presses once hummed in the basement, under the street. Now that area has been turned into a large private members health club and spa that includes a 60-station gym and Scotland's first stainless steel pool. Hotel guests have free access to the facilities.
Charlotte Square, the official home of Scotland's First Minister, is one of two Georgian squares at each end of Edinburgh's New Town. Much of this late 18th-century square was designed by British architect Robert Adam. All the buildings on the square combine into a harmonious and historic whole. The Macdonald Roxburghe is a 198-room luxury hotel facing the square with its own red carpet entrance. Guests have free use of the hotel's Vital Health, Beauty and Fitness Club, which includes a 12-meter pool, sauna and steam rooms, as well as a fully equipped gym.
Apex Edinburgh Waterloo Place
This Grade-A listed historic building was the first large scale hotel built in Edinburgh. It opened in 1819 and stopped trading as a hotel in 1898. During that time, Charles Dickens was a frequent guest as was Earl Grey, after whom the tea is named. For more than 110 years, the purpose-built hotel languished as offices and a pub before being acquired by the Apex group, who restored it. It reopened as a luxury, 187-room hotel in 2009. The hotel's pool and spa facilities are for the exclusive use of hotel guests. The modern pool area is flooded with daylight.
- edinburgh castle image by Louise McGilviray from Fotolia.com