Great Places to Stay
- Channings, Edinburgh
If you browse through a selection of the leading Hotel Guides - Time Out -Edinburgh, The AA hotel guide, Fodor's guide to Great Britain, Johansens, and Scotland the Best, which is the one hotel to be consistently recommended? Channings in Edinburgh.
Most Excellent City hotel award, 1998 - Johansens
Listed under Best Hotels in Edinburgh, "it is a quietly elegant hotel" - Scotland the Best
"Restrained colours, antiques, quiet rooms and great views to Fife" - Fodor's
"Comfortable attractively furnished rooms equipped to meet the needs of tourists and business visitors alike". - AA hotel guide
"Channings always had a good reputation for food with surroundings to match. Swell". - Time Out
Part of the beauty of Channings is that it is hidden along a tree-lined crescent, South Learmonth Gardens, away from the hubbub of the city's West End, yet only a ten-minute leisurely stroll away. From the moment you walk in through the front door you know that you are going to be cosseted in luxurious comfort and excellent service. The welcoming homely hallway has comfortable armchairs beside a glowing fire (this was January!), a chiming clock on the mantelpiece, and everywhere a real sense of quality and tradition. While near the centre of Edinburgh, the atmosphere is that of a charming country house. The district surrounding Dean and Stockbridge, including the prestigious Ann Street and St. Bernard's Crescent just down the road from Channings, is of great architectural significance, as part of a major property development in the mid 19th century. The Lord Provost of the time, John Learmonth owned land on the Dean Estate and negotiated the building of Thomas Telford's magnificent Dean Bridge over the Water of Leith, in 1831 thus providing a valuable route from the Queensferry and the west into the city.
A street of elegant private homes began to be built in the 1870s, separated from the main thoroughfare by gardens, to be named Learmonth Terrace. Further development of attractive townhouses on tree lined streets to the north was later continued by Sir James Steel on his estate to the north, including South Learmonth Gardens in 1900.
Created in 1990 by combining five Edwardian townhouses, 12-16 South Learmonth Gardens, Channings provides luxury accommodation in forty-six individually designed bedrooms, ranging from single to superior doubles. Rooms on the top floor at the front have superb views right across to Fife on the other side of the Firth of Forth, while three Club Rooms are at garden level at the back of the hotel. There is also a Suite with a separate sitting room, and for a special romantic weekend or perhaps a Honeymoon there is a special Four Poster bedroom that also features an oval bath designed for two.
Staying at Channings
Our luxury double bedroom was most attractive and extremely conducive to a very relaxing and comfortable stay. What was immediately apparent was the exceptional quality of the furnishings and fabrics, with beautiful canopied curtains, two armchairs and a king-size bed with thick soft bedspread and piles of velvet and silk cushions. Period style furniture including a very welcome traditional dressing table (curiously not seen as a necessity in many other hotel bedrooms), all adds to the sense of glamour and distinction. The overall colour scheme of this room is a soft Wedgwood blue and cream. Every room is individually designed from the traditional flower chintz look for the Four Poster suite, to newly refurbished rooms with a more contemporary choice of neutral soft colours and fabrics, yet ultimately classic and "classy" in style
The attention to detail is superb with a vase of fresh flowers, glossy magazines for a quiet read, and perfect soft lighting from small table lamps dotted around the room. The piece de resistance is the bathroom! Modeled on the original period features, there's a large and very deep claw-foot bath in the middle of the room, dramatic shiny black and white chequered floor tiles, marble washstand with good quality soaps and bath oils. There is also a separate freestanding power shower thus blending Edwardian tradition with 21st century convenience and technology.
While you may certainly relax in the privacy of your own room, with luxurious armchairs and television, the lobby lounge and intimate cosy drawing room both offer a very quiet and tranquil place to sit and read or sip a cup of tea. With wood paneled walls, spacious sofas and wing armchairs to sink into, and surrounded by attractive prints on the wall, books, antique furniture and fascinating collection of objets d'art this is the perfect environment after a busy day out or the end of the evening. We sat here for hours on a Sunday afternoon, browsing through the papers, simply not wishing to leave or move a muscle!
Sir Ernest Shackleton
A fascinating historical connection links the famous Antarctic explorer, Sir Ernest Shackleton with Channings hotel. From April 1904 until July 1910, Shackleton and his wife Emily lived at number 14 South Learmonth Gardens. This townhouse is now of course in the centre of the hotel "suite" of townhouses and his former home is now occupied by the private library and the Kingsleigh drawing room.
A renewed interest in Shackleton today is due in part to a recent British television drama-documentary starring Kenneth Branagh. Further interest in the story of this man's stalwart determination to succeed has also prompted proposals for a Hollywood feature film. The film would be based on the biography, Shackleton's Way by Stephanie Capparell, which describes his unique style of management, and has been snapped up by many an American companies as a motivational business `bible`. The book describes his generosity of spirit, leadership skills, an ability to encourage group confidence and his astute selection process of his staff based on ability, optimism and personality. The book sold 30,000 copies in hardback, the top selling business title last year - an American bank bought 4,000 copies to distribute to its staff.
Dining at Channings
In keeping with the exceptional level of service and standard at Channings, guests (and non-residents too) may enjoy dining in two contrasting restaurants within the hotel, both situated downstairs at the garden level. There is the established main dining room, an intimate and stylish setting, with fireplace, traditional regency stripe wallpaper, crisp linen tablecloths and gleaming crystal."One of the best meals of the year" wrote Neil Maclean in the Sunday Times. "The sort of restaurant Edinburgh should treasure close to its chest."
A sample menu might include sautéed pheasant breast served on wild mushroom risotto, halibut on a smoked haddock and potato cake, and to finish banana tart with ice-cream.
Chef Hubert Lamort’s ‘Luxury Taster’ menu also gives you the opportunity to sample seven exceptional courses at a special price.
A new Mediterranean-style bistro has now opened just next door to Channings restaurant - more casual in ambience and contemporary in style, but no less sophisticated in service, comfort and cuisine. Ochre Vita translates loosely as the colour of life and with a full-length wall of windows looking out on to the greenery of the garden, with pale polished wood flooring, this is a bright, airy and colourful conservatory full of light and sunshine. A Mediterranean hotspot indeed.
The attractive, mouth-watering menu is divided into sections such as Little Foods to start, Pasta and Risotti, Main courses, Greens and things, and Temptations. The prices are extremely reasonable and for the cost of a cheap and cheerful supper at one of the city centre Italian pasta houses, you can dine here within this delightful setting and a far superior quality of experience in every respect.
I began with a delicate salad of avocado and crab, spiced up with gazpacho, perfect to get the taste buds working. My partner enjoyed a crisp and tasty Provencal vegetable tart tatin with a pepper and pesto coulis. The popular Italian starter is a simple bruschetta, rich in garlic and olive oil, served with mozzarella, proscuitto, and marinated olives - very much a speciality here.
Pasta comes in all shapes and sizes including the chef's signature dish, penne with spicy chorizo sausage with mozzarella and zucchini. Also a perfectly balanced seafood linguine, stuffed full of fresh mussels, prawns, scallops and calamares. Classic risotto is a true Italian speciality and a real art in the creation such as the Ochre Vita rich wild mushroom risotto. Excellent fish too can be selected from the main course menu, including poached red snapper or baked escalope of salmon, served with mixed peppers and chilli. For the carnivore there is a wide choice including a rich stew - Beef Bourguignonne, or leg of duck served on a bed of creamed potatoes, green lentils and roasted vegetables.
Generous portions may result in the need for a short rest before attempting the Temptations menu so why not order the banana and toffee soufflé, which is specially prepared for you in 15 minutes. Or perhaps a cooling Mascarpone ice-cream with figs and almonds, or a creamy Pannacotta flavoured with amaretto, may just help with the digestion process.
The wine list is carefully selected at reasonable prices such as our choice of a French Cabernet Syrah, silky smooth and fruity.
The Cocktail Bar
For an aperitif or after dinner dram there is a comfortable bar just outside Ochre Vita and Channings restaurants, with expert staff ready and willing to shake up a perfect cocktail from a long list of classic drinks. The bar is also the ideal place for a light lunch, serving soup, paninis, steak sandwiches and salads as well as coffee and cakes.
I too will add my personal recommendation and share with the other travel writers from the AA, Fodor's and Time Out, the view that Channings is a fabulous, sumptuously comfortable, elegant, exclusive and unique place to stay.
The personal and friendly service is quite superb - attentive without being intrusive, anticipating one's every need before you know what you wish yourself.! From reception to bell-hop, from waiter to barman, the young well-trained staff really look and behave as if they are very much enjoying their work and that it is a pleasure to serve you. The Concierge, on being asked if he could find out about a certain film we wished to see, immediately searched the internet and presented us with a typed list of all Edinburgh cinemas with the film starting times.
As mentioned above, although Channings is a short stroll to the heart of Edinburgh's West End, in this quiet residential cobbled tree lined street, little changed since the time Shackleton lived here, you certainly feel you are in a small country house hotel. Enjoying a leisurely breakfast looking out on to the garden or sitting by the log fire absorbed in a good book, you could certainly imagine you are in deepest Perthshire. Whatever your reason for visiting Edinburgh, for a business conference or meeting, shopping, culture or a romantic weekend, Channings is the ideal place to stay. However tiring and hectic your day in the city, you will appreciate the welcome return "home" to South Learmonth Gardens for a genteel and quiet place to relax.
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