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Review: Gleneagles Townhouse, Edinburgh – a very classy experience

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This is our review of Gleneagles Townhouse in Edinburgh.

Exactly a year ago, Accor opened Gleneagles Townhouse in St Andrew Square, Edinburgh. The square is also home to a Malmaison and just a few seconds from InterContinental The George.

It is important to note that this hotel is not part of Accor Live Limitless and neither is the original Gleneagles resort which I reviewed here. This may change in the future. You don’t earn points here, you can’t spend points here and your Accor status gets you nothing.

Review Gleneagles Townhouse

I travelled to Edinburgh because this was one of the big UK hotel openings last year and I wanted to take a look. My recent review trip to Virgin Hotels Edinburgh was brief and I wanted to spend a bit more time in the city. HfP paid for its own stay.

What is Gleneagles Townhouse?

What it’s NOT, to be clear, is a full service hotel. It is a semi-private members club (£2,000+ annual membership fee) with 33 bedrooms attached which can be booked by anyone.

Many private clubs operate like this – Soho House being the most common. The Arts Club in Mayfair, which we use for a lot of HfP meetings in the West End, is another. Booking a room is a way of getting a look inside a venue you wouldn’t normally be able to see.

The rules are slightly different here though:

  • the excellent main restaurant, The Spence, is open to the general public so you don’t need to stay here to eat in it
  • the Members Lounge is blocked to hotel guests, which is a mistake as I will explain
  • the rooftop bar is only open to hotel guests and members, so this is a genuine added benefit if you stay overnight
Gleneagles Townhouse review

Where is Gleneagles Townhouse?

As mentioned above, it is well situated in St Andrew Square. The tram from the airport literally stops outside.

Harvey Nichols and Louis Vuitton are virtually next door. Princes Street and Waverley railway station are just a few seconds away, and the National Museum of Scotland is very close. The castle requires a bit of a hike up into the old town – Virgin Hotels Edinburgh is a good choice if you want to be by the castle.

Check in went well. I was there at noon and my room was ready. I had booked via Virtuoso (see below) which gets you ‘early check-in if available’ but its never clear what this really means. The person who checked me in was fully on the ball and knew all the details of my package and what the hotel had to offer.

I did not get an upgrade. This is an ‘if available’ Virtuoso benefit. When I looked at 6pm, the hotel was still selling ‘Town Bedrooms’ which are bigger than the ‘House Bedroom’ I had booked. An upgrade clearly was ‘available’ but I didn’t get it.

(My early arrival was not the reason I didn’t get upgraded, because a card with my name on it was waiting in my room. The room had been allocated before they knew when I would arrive.)

Gleneagles Townhouse review

My room at Gleneagles Townhouse

The building was previously a bank and has been converted into a club / hotel at great expense. The original features have been lovingly maintained and the Victorian style carried across into the new rooms and furnishings.

If you have been to the ‘main’ Gleneagles, this may surprise you. The ‘original’ was also a historic Victorian building, but that didn’t stop it being ripped apart and refurbished in a (hugely successful, in my view) ‘international modern’ style without a whiff of tartan, aimed at the West London market.

So, it’s not like ‘main’ Gleneagles. It’s still impressive though.

You’re in a classy place. You know you’re in good hands when you see 10 coffee pods with your coffee machine – with a list of which colour is which – and a pot of fresh milk in the fridge. No UHT sachets here.

Gleneagles Townhouse review

You know you’re in good hands when you come back from dinner and turndown has left the Roberts radio on playing some relaxing jazz.

You even get ‘not seen since covid’ goodies like – shock – copies of the hotel magazine.

Let’s take a look at my room. These are accessed via a key carded door just off the lobby, and there is a further key card door before you get onto your corridor – plus of course a key card door on your room.

Rooms here are not large. The base category rooms, tucked into the roof, start at 29 sq m. I had a ‘House Bedroom’ which is listed as 26-32 sq m, of which mine seemed to be at the bottom end of the range. The fact that I was still impressed by a room of this size, given my usual aversion to small spaces – especially for £500 – is testament to how good the hotel is.

Don’t freak out over the Victorian style bedroom photo above. When you’re in it, you will find that the decor really works. It’s not like staying in your grandmother’s spare bedroom.

I had a view of the golden poo W hotel, which is due to open later this year:

Gleneagles Townhouse review

There was a welcome gift of two chocolate covered cakes. The minibar (not free) has an interesting high/low spread with Ruinart and Veuve Cliquot champagne alongside coke, water and some craft Pilot beer. There was also an extensive spirits selection, but only via full size bottles.

Slightly oddly, because there are no cupboards in the bathrooms, the same cabinet that held the minibar and coffee machine also contained bathroom accessories – shaving kits, toothbrushes etc.

The bathroom continued the Victorian theme in a successful way. There was only a shower, no tub:

Gleneagles Townhouse bathroom review

Food and drink at Gleneagles Townhouse

Well, what can I say? I had been told before I went that The Spence restaurant was excellent, and the rumours were correct.

As well as being a stunning space architecturally, the food is of a very high quality. If you are in Edinburgh but staying elsewhere, I strongly recommend booking in for lunch or dinner.

The Spence restaurant Edinburgh Gleneagles Townhouse

It’s not even crazily expensive, at least in comparison with equivalent London prices. Starters run from £11 to £19 whilst mains start at £17 (tagliolini) and go up to £34, unless you want to splurge on steak. Sides are extra at £6 each.

Here are some examples – a burrata, intriguingly paired with courgette, candied lemon and green salsa:

Gleneagles Townhouse The Spence

…. and here’s a typical main – corn fed chicken with potato terrine and tarragon mustard:

Gleneagles Townhouse review The Spence

Breakfast is a la carte and included in all rates. Here is a scrambled egg with salmon on sourdough which was excellent. My son and I cook the same thing every Sunday for our household and this was, annoyingly, 10x tastier than our best efforts.

Gleneagles Townhouse breakfast

Seating in the restaurant is quite tight. Whilst this is not uncommon for a dinner service, I didn’t expect to be placed literally six inches from my neighbour at breakfast. When I made up a story about having to make some calls and not wanting to disturb anyone I was shunted off to an unused corner with the expected delays in getting any food ordered.

Do eat in The Spence. Even if the food was terrible it would be worth coming just for the architecture, but you will get a great meal too.

The rooftop bar

The hotel has a rooftop bar, Lamplighters, open only to club members and hotel guests. It is rather full-on in terms of decor:

Gleneagles Townhouse bar

…. with a roof terrace overlooking the square:

Gleneagles Townhouse bar terrace

It wasn’t busy late afternoon / early evening but I can imagine it picking up later, especially on sunnier days than mine.

Where can you hang out?

Now I come to my one and only criticism of the hotel, although it is a fairly major one.

Unlike Soho House or The Arts Club, Gleneagles Townhouse does not open up the entire property to hotel guests. You cannot use the Members Lounge:

Gleneagles Townhouse members lounge

…. which is the key social area and the only other eating space in the property.

This leaves hotel guests with just the overpowering main restaurant (very formal – you can’t sit down with a laptop and just order a coffee) and the rooftop bar, Lamplighters, which doesn’t serve meals and doesn’t even open until 2pm during the week.

I had to do some work on the morning I checked out and the options weren’t great – work in my relatively small room or, erm, that was it. The bar wasn’t open, I was banned from the lounge and the restaurant was not welcoming anyone who wanted to hog a table with a laptop without ordering.

For me, the attraction of staying in a private club is access to a wide range of social spaces. You have less space in which to hang out at Gleneagles Townhouse than you would in the average luxury hotel.

Gym and spa

I should add that there is a gym and treatment room which I didn’t visit. This includes “innovative technologies including a cryotherapy chamber and infrared sauna”. Hotel guest are welcome to join the free classes for club members in the gym.

Conclusion – would I stay here again?

Gleneagles Townhouse is a very, very classy operation. This is NOT a ‘luxury hotel by numbers’ as you often see churned out by the big global brands. Ennismore, Accor’s lifestyle arm which is allowed to operate at arms length, genuinely knows what it is doing, as the refurbishment of the original Gleneagles showed.

The staff were also excellent. Everyone was disarmingly charming, clearly delighted to be able to focus on just 33 bedrooms.

It is fair to say that Virgin Hotels Edinburgh was equally slick when I was there, and that is a far bigger hotel. The two hotels have more in common than they would necessarily admit, and I would happily return to both.

My only gripe at Gleneagles Townhouse is the lack of access to the Members Lounge. I would be less bothered if the rooms were 40 sq m or if the bar was open all day but this is not the case. It is an environment that encourages lounging, but as a hotel guest you have nowhere to lounge.

In terms of pricing, here is a random comparison of various options for Wednesday 19th July:

  • Gleneagles Townhouse – £475 + 5% service (smallest ‘Nook’ room), includes breakfast
  • Virgin Hotels Edinburgh – £396 for the smallest room, room only
  • Waldorf Astoria The Caledonian – £406 for the smallest room, room only
  • The Balmoral – £695 + 5% service for the smallest room, room only

In terms of the overall quality of the room, food and service, I would happily pick Gleneagles Townhouse again given the options above with Virgin Hotels as my second choice. I’ve stayed at the Waldorf Astoria and was not hugely impressed, but can’t comment on The Balmoral.

There’s one other point to note on pricing. Gleneagles Townhouse only has one price point – there are no packages and no advance purchase discounts. If you book via Virtuoso (see below) you get the $100 food and beverage credit on the rate I quoted above.

For The Balmoral and The Caledonian, I quoted restricted rates which would not qualify for the Virtuoso $100 credit. As long as you would spend the $100 food and drink credit and want breakfast, Gleaneagles Townhouse is actually the cheapest of the options above.

How to book

Whilst you can book direct on the club website, I recommend using our hotel booking partner Emyr Thomas instead.

You will pay the same rate. However, Emyr will get you extra benefits, even on a one night stay:

  • upgrade on arrival, subject to availability
  • $100 equivalent food & beverage credit
  • early check-in / late check-out, subject to availability

All bookings at Gleneagles Townhouse get free breakfast, irrespective of where you book. You can contact Emyr via the form on this page of HfP.

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Comments (47)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Novelty-Socks says:

    Ten coffee pods, nicely labelled, but they’ll still all taste like the same old rubbish. (As well as being a sustainability nightmare.)

    This is a total nitpicky comment, but if a hotel can provide fresh milk in the fridge, I wish they’d also provide a bean-to-cup machine with a small bag of fresh beans.

    I suppose I can dream… until then I’ll be hunting out the best local coffee wherever I go, or even packing my Aeropress…

    • Matt says:

      Cafetière with some decent ground coffee is a far better option than coffee pod machines. I used to have a nespresso machine at home and thought it was good coffee. I then switched to a Sage Barista Pro machine and realised how little I used know about good tasting coffee. I’ve since tasted pod coffee at friends and families and it tastes rubbish!

      • Novelty-Socks says:

        Yeah, do love a cafetière too. I get that cleaning them may be more problematic for hotels though. If I’m in an Airbnb though, there had better be more than just a pod option!

        • AnotherUser says:

          Intercontinental Edinburgh had ground coffee and a v60 style filter. I don’t find Nespresso that bad, though – usually won’t bother bringing my grinder/filter if a hotel has a machine, and the pods go stale much slower than ground coffee. You can get some quite nice pods now, albeit very expensive compared to grinding your own – e.g.

          • Duncan says:

            I much prefer when hotels offer a pour over option like a V60. It’s rare, I assume because many people either don’t know how to use it (despite the instructions) or can’t be bothered.

      • @mkcol says:

        Seem to recall the Kimpton does ground coffee in the room.

        • Chas says:

          Not in the De Witt where I was last summer or in Manchester two weeks ago. The later had an unbranded coffee pod machine (with no description of which colour pod was which), and Amsterdam may have been the same, but I can’t be certain.

        • NorthernLass says:

          It does, in cute little tins. They make nice souvenirs!

  • Andrew. says:

    It’s quite fun. There used to be a BoS branch inside Gleneagles, now there’s a Gleneagles inside an old BoS branch.

    The two statues Rob chose to take a pic of the back of are propabably the most appropriate ones for this site. Commerce and Navigation.

    Looking from the the front of the building the statues are Navigation, Commerce, Manufacture, Architecture, Science, and Agriculture.

  • Tiger of ham says:

    The prices are eye watering. You can pay cheaper rates in Egypt/Tunisia/Turkey for as nice hotel. Get a cheap flight. See another country.

    • Rob says:

      I’m guessing that anyone going to Edinburgh for a couple of days is not trading off Egypt / Tunisia / Turkey 🙂

      • NewsKnight says:

        If they were, BA would consider the business class experience the same. 5hrs in Club Europe…

  • Dave Barron says:

    Happy to recommend Hawksmoor restaurant which is off St Andrew Square – used my Amex Platinum dining credit here 👍

  • alex says:

    Hotel quality is pants in Edinburgh so the few hotels which believe they are in the top flight in the town charge rip off prices, they need to come down to London to see how 5 star hotels operate.
    Such a shame Rosewood struggled to get their project off the ground in Edinburgh as it would have raised the bar significantly, but alas!

    • Peggerz says:

      I’d have to disagree with you @Alex. I meet a lot of foreign visitors to Edinburgh in my working day and most are delighted with service and hotel quality. Personally, I think the WA and the IC are quite poor offerings, but the Balmoral, Grand, Gleneagles etc do a very good job.
      Also, if the Rosewood project you refer to is the old Royal High School site then good riddance to them. That was a major carbuncle waiting to destroy a fine -though admittedly dilapidated – Georgian building. Just like the old St. James’ Centre and the new W “turd” hotel. It’ll serve the city better as the new music school.

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