TRAVEL GUIDE: Edinburgh
It's not every day you follow in the footsteps of a gruesome twosome who are the subject of a Hollywood movie. But that’s exactly what was in store for my husband and I when we visited Edinburgh recently.
We had planned a two-night stay in a luxurious boutique hotel in the Scottish capital to experience its unique Burke and Hare package.
The plan was to learn the truth about how Ulster-born villains William Burke and William Hare waged terror on Edinburgh in the early 19th century by killing 16 people and selling the bodies to a lecturer of anatomy. Even before we had made it from the taxi to the hotel’s foyer we knew we were in for a treat.
Edinburgh’s Hotel du Vin is located in the old town — just a 10-minute walk from Edinburgh Castle and a stone’s throw from Greyfriars Kirk. The hotel itself used to be an asylum, but now it houses 47 gorgeous bedrooms and suites and boasts a welcoming bistro, a smart mezzanine bar, an events room (named the Burke and Hare room after the notorious serial killers) and a whisky snug. It even has a cosy wooden cigar bothy in the courtyard outside.
Of course, with a name like Hotel du Vin the emphasis is on wine. The hotel has a wine cellar and tasting room where the Sommelier hosts wine-tasting sessions for small groups and I had to look twice at the eye-catching chandelier in the foyer... yes, it really was made from wine glasses (quite a conversation piece but a nightmare to dust, apparently).
The wine theme is continued throughout the hotel as every room or suite is named after a type of wine. We had the pleasure of staying in the Krug suite — and that is where the “problem” lay.
Each room in the hotel is slightly different, the old building dictating how each of the rooms was refurbished. But it’s amazing that people staying in the Krug suite see any of Edinburgh at all because despite the hotel’s great location the Krug persuades you to cosy up indoors. As well as its king size bed and superb room service, the Krug has probably the best hotel bathroom I’ve ever seen.The large open plan bathroom has a huge walk-in shower running the full length of the bathroom wall, and a separate bathing area with a free standing slipper bath and its own TV (with waterproof remote).
Starting close to the Castle on the Royal Mile, the West Port Tour took us to the Grassmarket where Burke and Hare met most of their victims. We walked the cobbled streets of the slum where they lived and across town to Surgeon Square where they sold the bodies of their victims to Professor Robert Knox. This is the same tour that director John Landis took before directing the film starring Simon Pegg, Andy Serkis and Isla Fisher.
Our guide brought the story to life as he walked us through the old town describing how Burke and Hare murdered their victims. He brought us outside the courtroom where Newry-born Burke was found guilty and finished at the spot on The Royal Mile where he was hanged in front of a baying mob (Hare was offered immunity for being a witness and it’s thought he may have lived the rest of his days in Kilkeel, Co Down).
All that walking through the chilly Edinburgh streets meant we had worked up quite an appetite so it was back to the hotel bistro for a delicious three course meal — washed down with a bottle of wine of course.
The next day we managed to prise ourselves out of the Krug suite to explore the old town and its quirky shops and cosy pubs by daylight.
With the skies opening that night we headed back to Hotel du Vin’s bistro for another delicious dinner and to cosy up in the whisky snug.
The next day we stopped off at the intriguing Surgeons Hall Museum which charts the story of Dr Knox and his involvement in the infamous serial murder cases before catching the short flight back to Belfast.