Great Places to Stay
- Glasshouse, Edinburgh
Travel writer Vivien Devlin is based in Edinburgh but that didn't stop her from trying out the capital's latest luxury hotel - where she felt that she was staying as an exclusive guest at a private club. Here are her impressive impressions.
Chic. Unique. Boutique
Three simple words, which perfectly sum up this gorgeous, glittering and glitzy hotel.
The new state-of-the art 5 star Glasshouse Hotel opened in June 2003 and its stunning blue-tinted glass frontage at the top of Leith Walk, a few minutes walk from the east end of Princes Street, has already created a distinctive landmark property.
In contrast, the actual hotel entrance is through the grey stone facade of the 150 year old Lady of Glenorchy Church, ingeniously incorporating an historical building with contemporary architecture. Apart from the street level reception lobby the hotel proper is located on the top two floors of the new Omni leisure complex, featuring multiplex cinema, restaurants, bars, health club and offices which sweeps in a giant curve up Greenside Place.
Creating the Perfect Hotel
The Glasshouse is the latest concept of the Eton Group, which specialises in luxury townhouse and boutique hotels with four other hotels in London and Leeds. The company founder and managing director is Peter Tyrie.
As an experienced hotel entrepreneur, investor and property developer, this is a man with a very astute and clear vision of what he wants to achieve, but moreover an unquenchable passion for creating that elusive thing - the perfect hotel.
The discerning traveller today often prefers a more homely, quiet and private place to stay and its this "small is beautiful" approach to hotel living which Tyrie believes is the way forward.
"There's a growing demand for individualism and flair, as well as high quality and cosseted service. Our aim is to create a home from home where guests are pampered and treated as individuals."
The Glasshouse has just 65 bedrooms and with the absence of a public bar or restaurant, the hotel is not open to non-residents to ensure an intimate homely setting and ultimate privacy.
Quality and luxury are key features throughout the hotel. The interior designer behind its cool, minimalist style is David Stables of the Glasgow-based architect company, Cobban Lironi, Weddell & Thomas. From first impressions as you walk over the smooth brecchia rose marble ceramic flooring and look around the reception hall with its shattered-glass effect screens, bold art work, granite fireplace and a spiral staircase, there is something rather artistic and original going on here.
A View Over the City Skyline
Guests have a choice of layout and size of bedroom from deluxe and executive to a range of suites, some with views to the front over the city skyline or across the magnificent landscaped roof-garden. These rooms on the top floor are designed in a horseshoe semi-circle each with huge floor to ceiling windows with access directly on to your own small patio, bordering the garden - a natural environment in which to hideaway from the bustle of the city below. This private garden with neat lawns, flowering borders and terrace, furnished with shapely Philippe Starck chairs, is the perfect oasis for daytime relaxation and summer evening drinks. From here there are unrestricted views up to the Calton Hill with its collection of 19th century buildings and follies including the Old Observatory and Greek Parthenon.
I stayed in the Glenlivet Suite, one of several garden view deluxe Suites each named after a whisky - with a decanter of the appropriate Scotch awaiting your arrival. All rooms offer a sitting area, coffee table, TV, CD player, modem, mini-bar and work desk - the Glasshouse is the only hotel in Scotland with broadband internet connection in each room. Guests are also given private business cards with direct dial phone number to your room.
A neat design plan is the slatted room divider to separate day and night, living and sleeping areas. The plasma flat screen TV is fixed within this screen, swivelling around from lounge to bedroom as required. Good thinking Batman!.
Colours of fabrics and furnishings revolve around a medley of dark maroon, tobacco brown, taupe and cream. Leather sofas have a beautiful soft texture with equally desirable throws, cushions, white voile drapes and thick flowing curtains. With such a long window, a high tech system has been installed to make life easier. Press the curtain button by the bed and hey presto! - they slide open and close magically in virtual silence. Underfoot, there is honey-coloured wood flooring contrasting with a soft carpet in the bedroom area. Crisp white Frette Egyptian sheets, monogrammed with the letter G for Glasshouse, with piles of giant goose feather pillows guarantees a blissful sleep.
Underlying this casual contemporary lifestyle I detect a subtle 1950s retro look in the furniture, carpet and lighting design. It's all so dazzling and new - where am I? This can't be Edinburgh, but an ultra modern loft apartment in Milan or New York!
The use of glass is, as you would expect, a major design element everywhere. The bathrooms - manufactured in Denmark and which arrived as a complete Pod - feature cool aquamarine glass accessories, black painted glass mirrors and limestone flooring. Complimentary Aveda toiletries as well as the use of bathrobes and slippers provide home from home comforts. A romantic touch is the Bath Menu suggesting champagne and strawberries for the lady, or brandy for the gentleman.
The Glasshouse is artistic in every aspect - bedrooms are furnished with a series of original black and white nude portraits, selected from the collection by Edinburgh photographers Trevor and Faye Yerbury, which have caused minor controversy - more in the tabloid press rather than comments from guests. These are stylish, sensual and in keeping with a bedroom setting. If any take your fancy, so to speak, you can purchase prints at reception. An eclectic selection of bold and colourful artwork is scattered along the corridors and public rooms.
Eating and Drinking at the Glasshouse
The bright and airy Observatory has superb views up to Calton Hill, a fine place to start your day. Breakfast is sensibly served here until 10.30am weekdays and 11am at the weekend. A cold buffet offers the usual fruit juice, fresh fruits, prunes, cereals, yoghurts, croissants and pastries. The menu of hot dishes includes a typical Scottish fry up to kippers, scrambled egg with smoked salmon or indulge in pancakes and maple syrup.
While there is no restaurant for other meals, there is 24 hour room service with a contemporary menu of main meals and snacks -soup, sandwiches, paninis, salads, risotto and chicken curry, as well as puddings and cheese. Instead of a hotel bar, you can relax in the Snug, the residents` lounge that features a rather unusual concept, but very welcome gesture, an honesty bar.
And of course you can simply go downstairs to the Omni centre with its wide choice of places to eat and drink from Walkabout, an Australian bar to La Tasca, a lively Tapas restaurant, and winner of Paella chef of the year.
The Glasshouse also welcomes corporate guests for business conferences and meetings with three boardrooms and two syndicate rooms, all featuring the latest audio visual technology and business facilities.
I felt like I was an exclusive guest at a private club, rather than a hotel, with every facility for the business or leisure visitor. The homely comforts of the bedrooms allow you to indulge all the senses in a restful and romantic manner - a bowl of fresh fruit, fine quality of fabrics and bed linen, a luxury bathroom, glossy magazines, books, art, music and the garden. The Glasshouse is chic, sleek and unique with an ambience of the coolest 21st century style matched by understated sophistication.
For more information or to make a reservation see the Eton Group Web site. The postal address of the Glasshouse is 2 Greenside Place, Edinburgh EH1 3AA.
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