The luxury serviced apartments of Old Town Chambers are located just a short distance from Edinburgh Waverley Station. If you look carefully, you can see them as you emerge from the depths of the station to the haunting melody of Flower of Scotland, played by a lone piper to remind you, as if you needed it, that you’ve arrived in Scotland’s capital city.
Edinburgh in August is hectic. It’s festival season. The Edinburgh International Festival, Edinburgh International Book Festival, Edinburgh Military Tattoo and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe are all taking place. If you’re interested in stand-up comedy, cabaret, the latest bestsellers or classical opera, you’ll find it here…along with everyone else in the world keen to explore culture across the genres.
This does mean that accommodation gets booked up quickly and, as it’s in high demand, the prices can be high. There are two ways of approaching this problem. You can find cheaper accommodation further away from the centre but the roads are busy and even buses and taxis are frustrated by the hordes of pedestrians that cross the street en masse at any given moment. The other option is to do the festivals in style: source quality accommodation bang in the centre, so you’ve always got a bolthole to escape the mayhem when necessary.
Old Town Chambers, as you can guess from its name, is located in the maze of tightly packed, tall, medieval buildings of the Old Town, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We decided the quickest way to reach them was up the many steps of Warriston’s Close. This required a bit of effort but those hikes earlier this summer in the mountains of Mallorca had done wonders for our fitness levels. We charged up to the top in no time. There is an easier, if slightly longer route, if you’re laden with larger pieces of luggage.
The 50 apartments that make up Old Town Chambers are in a number of buildings between Warriston’s Close and Advocate’s Close. They are contemporary in style but many retain period features. There are penthouses, townhouses and family apartments but we booked a one-bedroomed Signature apartment which has superb views across Edinburgh to the New Town. As we opened the door to our balcony, we let the city come inside; the sounds of the station piper drifting up to greet us.
Initial impressions? Wow. This apartment is seriously chic. A spacious open-plan kitchen, dining and living room ooze luxury and style. There are warm wooden floors, a vast moss green sofa bed, large TV, a neat dining table and desk. The kitchen is sleek and includes fridge, microwave, hob, oven, dishwasher, washing machine and Nespresso coffee maker.
The bedroom is soothing – a large double bed (can be unzipped to make two singles) with an extremely comfortable mattress, reasonable wardrobe space plus ironing board and safe.
There are two entrances to the bathroom: one off the bedroom and one off the hall in case you have guests sleeping in the living room. I loved the contrasting black and white in here, the excellent waterfall shower and the quality toiletries: Malin + Goetz, my favourite. And who can resist large snow-white towels.
Being serviced apartments, there is always someone available on reception and the rooms are cleaned daily. There is free WiFi throughout. Access to the buildings and each room is via a key code, punched in at the door. It felt very safe. It was also surprisingly quiet. Only with the balcony door open could any sounds be heard.
After we’d unpacked we left the apartment and took a few steps out onto the Royal Mile. It was as if we’d left the silence of the wardrobe and arrived in Narnia. Only this Narnia was loud and crazy, with swathes of people walking in both directions. Mr Tumnus was up a ladder, pasting an advert for his show onto the tall pillars which have thickened with layer upon layer of promotional material. Mr and Mrs Beaver, along with other inhabitants of this weird land, waved flyers at us and implored us to come to their performance. Within a few minutes of edging our way along the street, listening to a capella groups and watching men trying to escape from chains, our pockets were bulging with invitations.
The Edinburgh Fringe was in full sway. It was noisy, mad and chaotic. But it was why we had come to Edinburgh in the first place. We were ready for the city to entertain us but we knew, when we wanted to escape, our door back to peace and tranquillity would be open. In fact, if you look on the left of the first photograph above, you’ll see, just as in Narnia, there is an old black lamp post guiding the way home. Old Town Chambers; our secret hideaway in the heart of the city.
Old Town Chambers: Roxburgh’s Court, 323 High Street, Edinburgh, EH1 1LW
+44 (0)131 510 5499
We booked our stay at Old Town Chambers with Lateral City Apartments. They have other apartments in Edinburgh: Merchiston Residence and The Edinburgh Grand