Hilton’s high-end brand Waldorf Astoria and iconic British car maker Aston Martin have teamed up to combine Bond-esque driving experiences for those resting their heads at the five-star hotel, in the hope that those who like high thread counts also like high-octane thrills. From the gawking and tourist photographs of the Aston Martin Vantage parked outside The Caledonian, that assumption looks to be correct.
The name’s Bond
Aston Martin has long been associated with 007, but I feel the luxury car manufacturer went the extra mile for my spin in the badge’s Grand Touring car, the DB11. My guide David Goode was the driving coach for James Bond in two recent movies (“Daniel’s a really nice guy”, he admitted with all the discretion of a man who’s signed a thousand NDAs). Though we get nowhere near the GT car’s top speed of around 208mph, we let her purr once we get outside the city centre and there’s space to put the foot down. Dave rattles off facts about a twin-turbocharged 5.2-litre V12 engine that now delivers 630bhp and can go from 0-62mph in 3.7 seconds, while I’ve been seduced by that new-leather smell, imagining my life as an international man of mystery – interrupted only by horns tooting, thumbs up and smiles at the red lights.
Even without the luxury sports cars parked out front, The Caley – as the hotel is locally known – is a stand-out property in Edinburgh that draws crowds. Built in 1903 and originally a train station, its pink stone exterior marks it as a grand dame of the city. Many of the 241 rooms offer stunning views up to the old town and Edinburgh Castle (I found the best one in my abode was actually from the loo).
Dan Ashmore heads up Versailles-inspired The Pompadour and during a visit backstage to meet him we get up close and personal with the local produce he enthuses about, shucking scallops hand-dived from Orkney or the Isle of Mull, carving mallard duck and learning about sea buckthorn, pennywort and hedgehog mushrooms from foragers Caledonian Wild Foods.
The menu changes daily (as you’d now expect) but we dined on silky venison carpaccio with celeriac, truffle cream and hazelnuts. My own shucked scallop was paired with Scottish girolles and XO sauce. With trout from nearby Loch Etive with a ragout of mussels and clams as a main course the sensory overload for the day is complete or, as Ashmore describes it: “taking the flavour and ingredients people know, and trying to elevate them a little, to something you can’t quite achieve at home”. Quite the understatement.
Things to do in Edinburgh
Ask your hosts about things to do away from the usual Edinburgh delights of the old town, castle and walk up Arthur’s Seat. We chose to balance our petrol-head adventures with a wander through Jupiter Artland, a sculpture park 25 minutes bus ride from the hotel, with pieces by Amish Kapoor, Laura Ford and Marc Quinn.
Places to drink
For the ultimate in wine tasting, ask about The Cellar, found beneath the house and where guests can try a few of the 1,200 strong labels, from established and emerging producers, in the adjoining Cellar Bar.
Rooms at Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian start from £179. To book and for more information on the next Aston Martin driving experiences, visit waldorfastoria.com or call 0131 222 888