The cattle grazing on the hotel's 20-acre grounds let you know that you've entered a different world, even though you're ten minutes by car from the Royal Mile. Inside this 1687 mansion, baroque opulence reigns in the well-restored public rooms; there are plenty of gilt treasures to relax among as you sip a whisky. And for US history buffs, there's the Benjamin Franklin suite. The founding father stayed here (when it was a private house) in the 18th century and loved it so much he even wrote a poem about it, which basically still does a fairly neat job of reviewing the hotel even today (although bed bugs are probably a bit rarer nowadays): 'Cheerful meals, balmy rest, Beds that never bugs molest, Neatness and sweetness all around, These - at Prestonfield we found.'
YOU SHOULD KNOW This is not the hotel for you if you want to stay central; the hotel is in a park on the edge of a residential neighbourhood by Arthur's Seat.
Guest rooms are individually decorated, mixing antiques with the latest amenities and a delightfully over-the-top touch for total indulgence. There are 23 rooms, including 5 suites, and all are large and kitted out with velvet walls and baroque patterns, giving them warmth, coziness, and something of a princely vibe.
If you book direct with the hotel, they'll leave a bottle of champagne plus some petits fours in your room.
Bathrooms have a similarly luxurious feel, with Venetian glass mosaic and marble. Most rooms have bath/showers, and fluffy towels, bathrobes and slippers are provided.
The hotel has the wow factor going on before you even get inside. A dramatic driveway approach, studded in spring by daffodils, leads to the main house, with Arthur's Seat to your left. Once through the doors, you are greeted by a doorman in a kilt (of course). The house has a long central corridor, with marble tiled floors, a striped carpet, claret walls, chandeliers, soft lighting and a few gilt curios, and the reception desk is to the right.
There's no gym but guests can walk in the hotel's grounds and those with dogs are welcome to take their canines out for a run in a special dog-friendly section. There's also a golf course next to the hotel.
The romantic Rhubarb restaurant created by James Thomson—the man behind the Witchery—is suitably sumptuous: expect theatrical decor and a menu starring the best Scottish produce, such as hand-dived scallops, venison, and partridge. Breakfast is fantastic and afternoon tea is a treat too.
Private dining is available; the most atmospheric spot is in the tiny two-person 'salon' halfway up the staircase, which overlooks the grounds from its own little window.
The hotel's lounge areas, all tapestries and lush upholstery, continue the luxe vibe and are a gorgeous spot for a tipple. The public bathrooms are fun too: the ladies is bright pink and decked out like some kind of mad Marie Antoinette fantasy.
Prestonfield isn't about being close to the action; it's about a retreat. Nonetheless, because Edinburgh is compact, it's only a 10-minute drive to the Royal Mile, and a short walk away a number of buses also connect you to the city center.
Keep the indulgence going and take a taxi to Number One (13-minute drive), one of Edinburgh's Michelin-star restaurants in the basement of the swanky Balmoral Hotel. Or for a break from all the velvet and swank, modern, light-filled restaurant Apiary (6-minute drive, 20-minute walk) still offers top-quality 'top-to-tail' dining.
The Sheep Heid Inn (9-minute drive) on the other side of the park has been a pub since the 14th century, and its skittles aisle is nearly as venerable. Or try The Royal Dick (7-minute drive), a quirky bar with an on-site gin distillery that is part of the Summerhall arts complex.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Swanky, saucy and fun, with serious hospitality chops to match and a gorgeous restaurant: if it was good enough for Ben Franklin to write a poem about it in the 1800s, it's good enough for us.