Kaiser Karl couldn’t have made his presence in Edinburgh any more obvious if he’d sent toyboy Baptiste Giabiconi down Princes Street in a float wearing nothing but a logoed double-C sporran. We had arrived in the city on the eve of the brand’s latest Metiers d’Art collection launch, Paris-Edimbourg, at Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Mary Queen of Scots. The city was crawling with fashionistas click-clacking down the frozen streets of Edinburgh and toting their Chanel bags. No we weren’t in town for the show. We had come merely to eat and drink our way through the city and for some r’n'r. And perhaps to do a bit of tartan and tweed shopping.
The brand’s choice of location wasn’t altogether surprising. It does have a long heritage in Scotland. It was in Scotland that Coco Chanel discovered the tweed that would result in the creation of that most versatile and iconic of jackets. In the 1920s Coco would spend time at her lover, ‘Bendor’ the Duke of Westminster’s Highland property, donning his quintessentially British country attire for outings. In the 30s she would use the Duke’s factory to produce the tweed for her jackets. For decades since, the brand has used Scottish tweed and cashmere for its jackets and signature cardigans. Last year the company acquired the Barrie Knitwear company, a Scottish cashmere mill that has produced Chanel’s cardigans for a quarter of a century.
While getting our bearings of the city and searching for a spot to sample whisky, we headed down a cobbled road to a shop teeming with black-clad Chanel-ites chattering in French, Italian and whatever, over this tweed and that. It seems we’d hit upon ‘the’ place to buy tweed in Edinburgh. Walker Slater are tweed specialists with a loyal local and international clientele. Inside the shop was an array of ridiculously comfortable and functional lightweight tailored tweed suits with soft structuring in a variety of tones and patterns that perfectly incorporate the natural colours of the Scottish landscape. You can dispel any notion of all tweed being fusty and too rustic. Stylish contemporary and classic cuts were on display in both the spacious men’s and the women’s shop. These pieces have an elegance and refinement that is timeless.
Hubs with his impeccable eye for detail and cut picked out for me a contemporary asymmetric bias cut jacket in a grey tweed with black suede detailing, which judging by the looks from my fellow fashion beasts, was definitely the style to take away. So take it away I did. Next, we hit the tartan shops for some kilts. If Karl says tartan and tweed is this season’s look …
While not yet available for online order, you can contact Walker Slater via email, or pop by for a visit at either their London or Edinburgh shops, if you’re in town.
46 Victoria Street, +44 131 225 4257, www.walkerslater.com
A few other addresses worth checking out if you’re ever in Edinburgh …
The Balmoral Hotel
Known as the North British Hotel for most of the 20th century, the beautiful building is a landmark of luxury in Edinburgh. There’s a fabulous spa, dining at Michelin starred Number One restaurant, afternoon tea at the Bollinger Bar and a great nightcap at The Balmoral Bar. Located smack bang in the middle of the central shopping district so you have everything at your fingertips.
1 Princes Street, +44 131 556 2414, www.thebalmoralhotel.com
The Hotel du Vin is a smaller hotel with 47 rooms, tucked away in the Old Town a short walk from the main tourist drags, but just a stone’s throw from the National Museum of Scotland and The Royal Mile. Housed within a former city asylum the cheery super friendly staff ease any misgivings you may have over its creepy history. The rooms are spacious with decor that is a modern take on Scottish traditional. There’s a lovely bar upstairs serving a wide selection of top notch single malts and wines, as well as a wine tasting room and a cozy little library where you can can sit by the fire and sip your liquid amber.
11 Bristo Place, +44 131 247 4900, www.hotelduvin.com/hotels/edinburgh
There are cashmere mills aplenty in Scotland and you can pick up great quality pieces that won’t leave your wallet anorexic. For soft, luxurious and stylish cashmere pieces visit Belinda Robertson.
13A Dundas Street, +44 131 557 8118, www.belindarobertson.com
For less traditional kilt options head over to 21st Century Kilts. Launched at London Fashion Week in 1999 by Howard Nicholsby, the brand has a rockstar and celebrity following for its unconventional kilts made of denim, leather and everything in between. Nicholsby also does bespoke.
49 Thistle Street, +44 131 220 9450, www.21stcenturykilts.com
If you want to avoid the tourist shops selling Nessie trinkets and plastic haggis and prefer to take away a unique souvenir of Scotland head over to Anta. Here you’ll find everything from fabrics, throws, stoneware, and clothing. Run by a couple of local designers, everything is made in Scotland.
73 The Grassmarket, +44 131 225 9096, www.anta.co.uk
Ahhhh, the real reason we were in Scotland- whisky! Exports of this ‘water of life’ contributes more than 2.5 billion pounds to the Scottish economy every year. The country is littered with distilleries galore and Edinburgh itself has more than its fair share of whisky shops, pubs and bars. We liked Cadenhead’s Whisky Shop on the Royal Mile, a real gem with friendly, helpful service and an excellent selection of whiskies. At The Whisky Shop the super knowledgeable staff can guide you through a tasting to educate your palette on the different regions of whisky and decide which you like best. The pricing is a little higher, but if you’re after some useful advice on a gift, a great selection and some limited edition whiskies, then this is a good one-stop shop. If you want to put up you feet, grab a drink (any drink) and maybe a bite, then The Bon Vivant is also worth a visit. The food is Scottish fusion and the cocktails are splendidly original and delish.
Cadenhead’s Whisky Shop
172 Canongate, The Royal Mile, +44 131 556 5864 www.wmcadenhead.com
The Whisky Shop
28 Victoria Street, +44 131 225 4666, www.whiskyshop.com
The Bon Vivant
55 Thistle Street, +44 131 225 3275, www.bonvivantedinburgh.co.uk
This tiny city packs a lot of punch when it comes to the dining scene, boasting five Michelin starred restaurants and countless other restaurants, pubs and cafes to cater to your every whim. For a luxurious, indulgent high tea, head to the Bollinger Bar at The Balmoral. The clotted cream is so good you’ll want to eat it straight out of the jar.
For hearty traditional pub fare (and ale!) Kay’s Bar – a well preserved Victorian bar with original features – is a great little local. And to really, really spoil yourself, book a table at the rather aptly named Michelin starred chef, Tom Kitchin’s restaurant, The Kitchin. The tasting menu, paired with French wines, is wonderful! All products including the meat and seafood are sourced locally in adherence to Kitchin’s philosophy, ‘from nature to plate’. If you still haven’t gotten enough of your seafood fix (and really you shouldn’t, it’s just so good here), grab a bite to eat at Ondine.
39 Jamaica Street Edinburgh, +44 131 225 1858, www.kaysbar.co.uk
78 Commercial Quay, Leith, +44 131 555 1755, http://www.thekitchin.com
2 George IV Bridge, +44 131 226 1888, www.ondinerestaurant.co.uk.
Even if you can’t be bothered going on a tour (you should) of Edinburgh Castle, it’s unmissable. Perched atop the volcanic Castle Rock, the castle towers over the city. Buildings of the structure date back to the 12th century.
Just half an hour out of Edinburgh lies the lovely town of Rosslyn, home to 15th century medieval Rosslyn Chapel (yes, the Da Vinci Code, alas!) and Roslin Castle. In winter you can avoid the hordes of tourists seeking the holy grail, or whatever, and take in the beautiful scenery in tranquility.
The ghost tours sound cheesy, but they’re good fun, particularly if you like a bit of the macarbre. Book a late one and take a tour of the most haunted graveyard in Edinburgh and of the city’s multitudinous underground vaults and passages, historically used for storage, as slum dwelling and to hide the bodies of victims by serial killers Burke and Hare. Ghost sightings and hauntings aplenty!
Check out a local newspaper for the latest exhibitions at a couple of the best contemporary art galleries in the city, The Fruitmarket which has previously exhibited Martin Creed, or Ingelby whose impressive roster of artists includes Harland Miller, Ian Hamilton Finlay, and Edinburgh-born Callum Innes. Definitely do pop into the Scottish National Gallery to see their collections of national and international art including works from Raphael, El Greco, Velázquez, Monet, Cézanne and Gauguin as well as Scottish artists Ramsay, Raeburn, Wilkie and McTaggart.
45 Market Street, +44 131 225 2383, www.fruitmarket.co.uk
15 Calton Road, +44 131 556 4441, www.inglebygallery.com
Scottish National Gallery
The Mound, Edinburgh, www.nationalgalleries.org
Edinburgh is a great city to explore on foot. Walk down the Royal Mile for some shopping, visit the Royal Botanic Garden and Inverleith House, an 18th century mansion in the gardens now housing a gallery. Scrub up on your Scottish history at the National Museum of Scotland, or go on a hike up to Arthur’s Seat for an amazing 360 degree view of the city and the Firth of Forth.
And a few happy snaps …