For someone who travels for a career and has visited many far-flung, exotic destinations around the world, I had never been to Scotland! So when I received a lovely invite from Rocco Forte Hotels for a ‘Discover Edinburgh’ FAM trip, I jumped at the opportunity.
The world-famous Balmoral Hotel would be my home for the weekend, and what a home it was! We arrived on Friday evening after a delayed flight from LHR and the hotel welcomed us with open arms, champagne and canapes. We tucked into a truly Scottish feast of the finest smoked salmon, ‘Haggis and Tatties’, scallops, partridge and a delectable selection of cheeses and desserts. It was clear from the start there was no chance of hunger this weekend!
The following morning a few of us challenged ourselves to a brisk early hike up to Arthur’s Seat. We were blessed with the most amazing weather, crystal clear blue skies and a slightly Baltic breeze. It was certainly worth the early start as we had spectacular views of the city and blew out the cobwebs ready for a busy day of sightseeing.
Back at the hotel, we had a chance to explore the event spaces, ten in total, which accommodate events for up to 450 people and boast unrivalled views across to Edinburgh Castle and the city. We explored two of the 188 bedrooms including the J.K. Rowling Suite where the author herself stayed and allegedly wrote some of the Harry Potter books.
Rocco Forte hotels had arranged for us to have a guided tour of the city by Merket Tours. They showed us all the Closes (winding streets off of the Royal Mile) and told us tales of the gruesome city life and public punishments that took place back in century’s gone by.
We took a walk up to Edinburgh Castle, where we were shown event spaces that could be used for dinners, conferences and corporate events. We also got to see the Crown Jewels and where James VI was born.
We stopped at the Cannonball restaurant for lunch and a spot of gin tasting. The restaurant is situated at the foot of the castle and has three floors, each you can hire for private events. The passionate owner Victor Contini joined us, sharing an insight into the venue's history as a school and how they can deliver a wide range of traditional and ‘out of the ordinary experiences’. I would certainly recommend dining there for anyone visiting the city.
That evening we donned our glad rags and were driven to the HMS Britannia, which was used by The Royal Family for over 40 years, sailing over 1,000,000 miles around the world. Now berthed in Edinburgh, our group was privileged enough to follow in Royal footsteps and have a guided tour of the yacht. Nowadays the ship can be hired as event space for a range of drinks receptions, dinners and conferences, which is perfect if you are looking to create a really memorable and special experience for your guests!
After our regal pre-dinner experience, we were taken to the National Museum for a truly spectacular, ‘gothic themed’ dinner. We were hosted by both Heritage Portfolio, who look after a collection of venues across the UK, and various suppliers that we could use to book for events. We were privileged to have the whole museum exclusively to ourselves and were seated at a beautifully decorated table in the heart of the grand hall. At the end of our delicious five-course feast, we were ceremoniously escorted out of the venue by an amazing bag-piper, creating a truly memorable end to our day of exploring!
On Sunday morning we continued our Scottish adventure by going on a Ghost Tour arranged through Merkat Tours. They took us down into the deep, dark and damp underground vaults that were built below the city, originally for storage but then became frequented by mischief-makers and murderers, vagrants, and torturers. It’s one of Edinburgh’s most haunted sites, "where restless spirits still tread". I can honestly say it was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. Even though we didn’t see any ghosts (THANKFULLY!), there was most certainly a chilling feeling, helped by the brilliant story-telling of our very scary-looking guide. There is nothing quite like a frightening ghost story to wake you up in the morning and send you on your merry back to the airport!
I would like to say a HUGE thank you to Alessia from Rocco Forte Hotels and Jane from the Balmoral Hotel for organising such a fabulous, fun-filled weekend and taking care of us on our trip. Also, thank you to Kathy and Wendy from All About Flights, who arranged all of our travel and were such a great laugh to be around. Finally, to all of the suppliers across the city who gave us a fantastic insight into what is available in the city for meetings, events and incentives.