An imposing block of red sandstone beyond the west end of West Princes Street Gardens, "The Caley" has grand Victorian decor, top-end hospitality and beautifully restored interiors. Built between 1898 and 1902 as the flagship hotel of the Caledonian Railway, the hotel still oozes old-school, slightly ostentatious charm with its new Waldorf Astoria hat on. Its Peacock Alley central lounge - formerly the station concourse, now a lovely indoor/outdoor atrium - is unique, and its two top-end restaurants, operated by the Michelin-starred Galvin brothers, are knockouts.
The hotel's elegant guest rooms are sumptuous and understated - perhaps a little too understated - although some have great views of the castle. The Carriage Queen rooms, which pay tribute to the building's railway heritage, have a lot more personality: every fixing, from the metalwork to the veneers, harks back to the Victorian railway carriages that would once have brought guests to the hotel's doorstep.
Bathrooms are the largest in the city, and come equipped with Salvatore Ferragamo bathing products.
The slightly underwhelming white lobby opens into the amazing Peacock Alley space, which brings the drama the lobby itself lacks. Staff are friendly and accommodating, but there can be a small element of stuffiness.
A reasonable-sized pool comes attached to the spa. Children under 16 have to be accompanied by adults.
The hotel boasts the UK's only Guerlain spa, and as you'd expect, it offers topnotch skincare treatments and a real sense of indulgence. There's also a steam room, sauna and whirlpool, and the whole vibe is so warm and relaxing its unsuprising that the spa regularly wins best luxury spa in the UK awards.
The hotel has a fully-appointed fitness center, with exercise machines, weights, and personal training sessions available on request.
A smashing offer: a standout breakfast with some lovely touches - guests spoon out their honey from a honeycomb, for example - plus two brilliant restaurants, the extremely fancy (and delicious) La Pomadour by Galvin and the Parisian-style, more informal Galvin Brasserie de Luxe.
Try the afternoon tea for the full Caley experience, gorgeous cakes served in the unusual grandeur of Peacock Alley. Sandwiches are global - try po'boys from Louisiana, the US - and the Irn Bru scones (extremely Scottish) are worth a try too for novelty value alone.
The Caley Bar opens in the afternoon/evenings and is a convivial spot, with Oriental Express-style decor and a range of whiskies, cocktails, champagnes and other drinks.
YOU SHOULD KNOW Some guests have reported waiting for a while to be served in Peacock Alley, although on our visit this wasn't an issue.
The hotel is located at one end of Princes Street, close to stylish George Street, good shopping, and Princes Street Gardens. At the same time, Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile are only a short walk away (15 minutes).
Teuchters (5-minute walk) is a relaxed bar and bistro offering Scottish classics (haggis, neeps and tatties, anyone?), or La Piazza (4-minute walk) is a good traditional Italian.
Hip bar Panda & Sons (8-minute walk) is worth a visit for its cocktails and atmosphere. Or, for gin fans, the hotel is basically next door to the Edinburgh Gin Distillery (1-minute walk), where you can take a tour, watch gin being made, learn about its history and round things off, of course, with a G&T.
WHY WE LIKE IT
Old-fashioned swankiness in a building with spades of history. The Caley is a must for railway fans, and a great option for others on the hunt for a treat, thanks to its central location, sense of occasion, great spa and good restaurants.