It takes its name from the hundreds of witches burned at the stake nearby, but The Witchery is, thankfully, not macabre. However, it is gothic and, above all, luxurious. Started some 30 years ago by James Thomson, it occupies a 16thC building at the gates of Edinburgh Castle and was previously used as committee rooms for the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.
Entering from a close off the Royal Mile, you pass through a doorway still marked with the original merchant’s initials and motto. Inside, candle-light reveals painted and gilded ceilings and walls covered in tapestries and 17thC oak paneling rescued from a fire at St Giles Cathedral. Gilded leather screens, red leather upholstery and antique church candlesticks add to the atmosphere.
Suites, either above the restaurant or in an adjacent building, are plush and opulent, with open fires, antiques, historic paintings and dramatic colour schemes, and have views towards the Old Town or over the Royal Mile.
You can eat either in the award-winning restaurant of the same name; in the Secret Garden, a terrace garden restaurant built behind the Witchery; or in The Tower, on the fifth floor of the National Museum of Scotland. If The Witchery is full, try its sister hotel, the smart Prestonfield (0131 225 7800).