Ten minutes after leaving Edinburgh city centre, our taxi sweeps into the immaculate driveway of Prestonfield. We’re wowed as the imposing former home of the Lord Provost of Edinburgh, built in the 17th century, comes into view – it’s beautiful!
Coming to a halt at the porte-cochere a strapping young man in a black kilt steps forward to open the cab door, discreetly announcing our arrival over the radio – talk about a VIP welcome!
We step into the magnificent entrance hall, lined with portraits. Our bags are magicked away while our kilted companion, Jack, gives us a tour. Jack explains that instead of a bar there are a number of beautiful drawing rooms where we can order anything, at any time, from the butler service – like being in a stately home!
Our suite is named after the US president who once stayed here, Benjamin Franklin. The bedroom boasts an enormous gold sleigh bed, a cabinet concealing our TV and mini-bar, a chaise longue by the window overlooking the beautiful parkland grounds and an escritoire.
A personal welcome note from Prestonfield’s owner, James Thomson, makes us smile.
We have our own drawing room, complete with leopard-print carpet, a huge sofa and a dining table on which sits a bottle of complimentary chilled Champagne, fruit and petits fours. We start to settle in when the phone rings. It’s reception. Do we have everything we need? We do, thank you. So thoughtful.
Prestonfield is set within 20 beautiful acres within which some Highland cattle and sheep are grazing. As we go outside to explore, we stop for a minute. It’s so beautifully peaceful. We’re minutes from the city centre, but could be deep in the countryside.
We bagsie a bathroom each (our suite has two) to freshen up in before dinner. They’re smart, with mosaic walls, but not as luxurious as the suite itself. Still, we’ve everything we need to get suitably spruced up.
Fancying an aperitif, we make our way to the intimate Yellow Room – one of a series of lounges at Prestonfield. We loves its golden velvet walls, lacquer furniture and sexy black-studded sofas, and sit by the crackling log fire with our gin and nibbles.
We are called through to the Rhubarb, Prestonfield’s award-winning restaurant. Occupying two opulent chandelier-lit rooms either side of the sweeping central corridor it’s irresistibly grand but, thanks to its clever low lighting, feels inviting and intimate. Our table is by the window, and overlooks Scotland’s very first rhubarb patch. It’s all so reassuringly loved.
The food – brought to us by another kilted, and very dishy, Prestonfieldian – is wonderful. Seafood for starters: Monsieur 2 chooses huge hand-dived scallops with cauliflower puree and chorizo, and I go for langoustines, braised chicken wings and squat lobsters. They are complex, delicate dishes, and the flavour of every ingredient is crystal clear.
Main courses showcase some magnificent meat and game. My grouse dish includes slices of wonderfully high breast meat and a ‘lollipop’ cleverly made of the confited leg. Monsieur 2’s ample 350g sirloin steak comes with lovely crisp discs of potato and is cooked perfectly rare.
Desserts look amazing but have a little too much going on for our palates; my tart, refreshing strawberry ‘raviolo’ with aged balsamic, and Monsieur 2’s caramelised white chocolate mousse, need only one or maybe two of their several accompaniments. That’s not to say that we didn’t enjoy them. Even more so with a delicious glass of Monsieur 2’s favourite Elysium black Muscat dessert wine. Mmm.
Now, since we’re in Scotland, we feel as though we should go native. Foolishly, we’ve left our kilts at home, so decide to be guided by an old Scottish proverb we’ve heard: “There are two things a Highlander likes naked,” it claims “and one of them is malt whisky. Making haste to Prestonfield’s Whisky Room (we’ll save our other naked like until later), we put it to the test, ordering a smoky single malt, which hits the spot perfectly.
Sitting in chairs crafted from Scottish stag antlers, tumblers in hand, we feel splendid – two lairds lounging in a Scotch bay of bliss!
We return to the Benjamin Franklin to find the bed’s been turned down, ready for us to slip between the sublimely-soft Frette covers. Heaven.
After a great night’s sleep we’re so relaxed that we don’t fancy getting dressed for breakfast. And there’s no need – we call to say we’ll have it in our room.
Breakfast’s such a huge spread it takes two staff to carry it in! Fresh juices, just-baked pastries, fruit and yoghurts are served along with full Scottish breakfasts which include potato scones, haggis and traditional fruit pudding together with excellent bacon, sausage and eggs.
As we eat, one of the resident peacocks struts his stuff outside our window! We’re not unaccustomed to a spot of peacocking ourselves, but this colourful ave puts on a show Sir Elton would find hard to beat.
After a shower and a long stroll around the grounds it is, we’re sorry to say, time to go – but what a wonderful time we’ve had. Prestonfield is easily one of the most opulent, indulgent and cosseting places we’ve stayed, but the unobtrusive, polished service has meant we’ve felt more like welcome guests in a gorgeous private home than residents of a hotel.
As dishy Jack waves us goodbye, I can’t be sure that I don’t spot a tear welling up in Monsieur 2’s eye…