Is The Witchery By the Castle in Edinburgh the UK's spookiest hotel?
- Credit: Emma Bartholomew
Halloween comes but once a year for most - but The Witchery by the Castle in Edinburgh evokes a supernatural step back into the past every day.
Not only does the hotel have the most fabulous display of pumpkins down its little alley way entrance off the Royal Mile at the heart of the Scottish capital - but its founder James Thompson drew on the 16th century building’s creepy medieval past in christening it.
Suspected witches were tortured and burnt at the stake just a few metres up the hill, close to the gates of Edinburgh Castle, between the 15th and 18th centuries.
And The Witchery - originally named Boswell’s Court after the man who built it in 1595 - is set right opposite the Witches' Well fountain - a memorial to those who lost their lives during the Great Scottish Witch Hunt.
King James VI believed witchcraft was a form of Satanism, and as a result more than 4,000 alleged sorcerers were put to death.
Anyone could be accused of black magic at the time, and those who were targeted might have been mentally ill, a herbalist folk healer, or at the unfortunate receiving end of someone else’s ire.
The Witchery has nine unique opulent suites, lavishly furnished with antiques, collectibles and gothic touches.
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We stayed in the Inner Sanctum.
The spacious first-floor suite was the very first to be renovated by James Thomson after he opened his restaurant in 1979, and set the Witchery's hallmark style.
It is reached by a turret staircase above the famously atmospheric Witchery at the Castle Restaurant.
The red and gold hued bedroom boasts a four-poster bed, a giant black bust of Queen Victoria, and a mannequin soldier behind her, next to a fireplace that’s lit in winter.
The study is lined with tartan-wallpaper and the bathroom's centre piece is a huge free-standing bath.
Each of its three rooms is kitted out in oodles of eclectic clutter, from paintings through to gilding, velvets, silks and brocades, candles and carved wood.
The most modern touch is an Amazon Echo. You can give it instructions to play all your favourite tunes as you crack open the bottle of champagne on ice which awaits every arrival, and proceed to marvel at the decor.
Breakfast is included in the stay, and you can choose between a hamper served in the room to eat at its raised dining area, or a cooked menu served by candle light in the wood-panelled restaurant below.
Options include likes of haggis, Findlay's black pudding and Berwickshire sausages in the full Scottish breakfast, or avocado on toast, eggs Benedict and smoked salmon.
From lunch onwards you can feast on fine Scottish dishes in here or in the second 'Secret Garden' restaurant.
The a la carte menu offers the likes of Isle of Barra mussels with courgette linguine, lavender and honey glazed partridge, Scottish lobster, roast loin of Glenfeshie red deer or a six-week dry-aged Highland sirloin.
The hotel's location is sought after, and you’ll find The Scotch Whisky Experience on one side and Camera Obscura World of Illusions attraction on the other.
Edinburgh is a delightfully compact city to explore on foot, with plenty of free museums and art galleries. Masterpieces from Van Gogh, Rembrandt and Botticelli can be found in the Scottish National Gallery.
Otherwise it's just a stroll down the hill to the Scottish Parliament where you can climb Arthur’s Seat in the 650 acre Hollyrood Park for a spectacular view.
Some claim the ancient volcano was the site of the mythical Camelot, while others say it was named after King Arthur and his knights won a series of legendary battles in Scotland and the north of England
Edinburgh is just over four hours away by train from London and exploring the Scottish capital makes a perfect weekend away. Lumo’s just-launched low-cost twice-a-day service from Kings Cross to Waverley set me back just over £10 each way with a railcard.
The Inner Sanctum Suite costs from £450 a night including breakfast and champagne on arrival.