Coming soon – the transformation of Bothwell House

I am delighted to say that we are very close to completing the £1m refurbishment of Bothwell House, a 16th century Grade A listed building that has had quite a history.

The property was home to Adam Bothwell, the Bishop of Orkney, who officiated at the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots, to the 4th Earl of Bothwell in 1567 and later to twice provost of Edinburgh, William Dick, who rose to become the wealthiest Edinburgh merchant of his generation with widespread business interests in London and France.

Advocates Close sign[205213]

In the last century it was divided up and used for offices, so we have stripped everything backed to the original walls, before converting the building back to a homely residence. Existing blocked windows have been opened-up and former doorways reinstated with original timber panels and doors reused wherever possible.

In the space we have now created another five highly distinctive heritage suites bringing the total number of serviced apartments at the location to 36.

The apartments include four studios and one two bedroom suite and all have been designed to the same high standards of our existing Old Town Chambers portfolio.

Bothwell House deserves to be given a new lease of life and without losing its historic character we are bringing it into the 21st century with modern technology, smart TVs, Wifi, kitchen gadgets and contemporary furnishings. There is always a sense of pride to the sensitive restoration work that we have been a part of and the certainty that we have created a very different and evocative space for people to enjoy.

And the winner is ………………… Old Town Chambers

While the customer remains our best judge and most important critic – and we are constantly delighted by the feedback on Tripadvisor – it is always heartening to win awards.

Within months of opening we achieved a 5 star rating from the AA and now have 5 star accreditation from VisitScotland, with Regional Director, Manuela Calchini saying we offered “world class” accommodation.

These awards are an endorsement of our commitment to quality and service, but what makes them so important is that they set a standard and level of expectation that we have to deliver every time a new client comes through our doors.

But Old Town Chambers is winning other plaudits, which highlights the very unique experience that our guests can enjoy. Our serviced apartments are part of an architectural masterpiece off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and a regeneration project that has transformed 11 largely neglected buildings to open up a number of medieval closes.

To date it has been named Development of the Year by the Scottish Property Awards, highly commended as a city regeneration project and shortlisted for architectural excellence in the RIAS awards.

It is the combination of a special place and exceptional spaces; the combination of the historic and evocative with the cool and stylish which is unrivalled – even if I do say so myself.

Julie Grieve, CEO, Old Town Chambers and Manuela Calchini, VisitScotland[206152]

2014: great expectations and nice surprises!

As a new business we are always taking a good hard look at ourselves, what we do and how we deliver to our guests, but New Year is traditionally the time to set new ambitious goals.

I have four resolutions for 2014. Firstly, Edinburgh’s Old Town provides an intriguing, atmospheric and rich backdrop to our day-to-day lives and the longer I work here the more I want to find out about Edinburgh’s Closes.

From former residents to the ghosts that are still meant to walk the cobbled lanes, from the architecture and town planning that gave us these narrow streets to the uses of the different buildings that remain (which range from breweries to printing presses). The history of the area is a key part of who we are and it is fascinating whether you are simply passing through as a guest or someone who works here all year round.

My next resolutions are all about the business. We are going out to the world to talk about Old Town Chambers and, in particular, why serviced apartments are a positive choice. The comments we have had so far, either directly or through the main booking/review sites, have been tremendous. They give us the encouragement that we are doing the right things and doing them well. For us, it is about thinking differently, to raise and set new standards.

Our official launch in early 2014 will be our first chance to take our philosophy to a wider audience. Part of that message is that we make serviced apartments rock!  Self-catering has been around for years. The same might be said for serviced apartments. But with the Old Town Chambers serviced apartments there is a big difference.

Our apartments have been designed in such a way, and located so perfectly, that they offer the independent traveller far greater independence, freedom and space than anything that has gone before. They also offer a new level of luxury and style that is unquestionably on a par with the best 5 star hotels. The experience we can provide we hope will help change perceptions of serviced apartments for UK travellers in particular and that is one thing we want to achieve in 2014.

Finally, I want to reach out to the business community to promote long stays. As a home from home, the Old Town Chambers is an ideal alternative to a hotel. Its city centre location is also perfect for any corporate exec looking to relocate to Edinburgh and who needs a base to become fully acquainted with Scotland’s capital.

It is exciting times for Old Town Chambers as we head into 2014, but we believe in our product, aim to work hard and grasp every opportunity with style! Happy New Year!

Julie Grieve

Serviced apartments are the future

I am just back from The Association of Serviced Apartments conference.  I found it a very useful two days.

Serviced apartments are growing in popularity in the UK and now make up over 5% of all hotel bookings, whilst in the US it is over 12% – fascinating statistics and good news for us.  It is not always the case that what happens in America happens here, but I do believe we are following our American friends in this trend.  I know I am biased, but seriously why would you stay in a hotel when you can spend a similar amount of money and have often, double the space?

Just to be clear, I am not saying you would never stay in a hotel, of course you would and there are many that I love, it is more just when you need some flexibility and some space, then serviced apartments are a great alternative.

It was also interesting to hear how far ahead Edinburgh is in terms of adoption. So many more people visiting Edinburgh choose to stay in a serviced apartment then in other cities; we really are leading the way.

And finally, I was amazed to hear that serviced apartment is now a more searched term on Google than hotel: that was from the keynote speaker from Savills.

Serviced apartments are here to stay and we know we must make each and every customer experience a great one, so they spread the word.

Julie Grieve


Breathing new life into Edinburgh’s oldest townhouse

One of the most exciting developments at the Old Town Chambers Edinburgh is the transformation of a 15th Century townhouse on Advocate’s Close into a stunningly contemporary living space.

Chambers Apartments 33

The building itself has seen many uses over the centuries, but at its heart it is a family home and it is our aim to combine its historic characteristics with modern day luxury to create that same sense of domestic comfort and ease.

Records show that the townhouse pre-dates 1490 and was first occupied by wealthy merchants who would have carried out their business on the Royal Mile. The building’s solid stone walls, original fireplaces and even painted wall panels and beams have now all been restored and will feature in its renewed form as a unique city centre serviced apartment.

The new internal design will remain true to the period, but because we like to think differently, we are introducing many complimentary contemporary fixtures and fittings, including a free standing bath in the principle bedroom and the most beautiful smoked oak wide board timber flooring.

The open plan living area on the first floor has two original stone fireplaces and the plan is to fit one with a stove fire and have a couple of high backed arm chairs by the fireside. We are also adding a magnificent long solid oak topped banquet style dining table adjacent to the kitchen, with benches and chairs to seat eight.

The layout of the kitchen and finishes used here have been detailed to blend into the room and appear more ‘furniture like’ than kitchen and has a tall handle-less storage wall which conceals majority of the appliances.

Breathing new life into the buildings of Edinburgh’s historic, medieval Closes is what we are all about. Advocate’s, Roxburgh’s and Warriston’s Close have long been neglected and yet represent a rich and fascinating part of Edinburgh’s past. Now we are opening up the Closes, bringing in new restaurants such as Zizzi and by designing in open spaces and new vistas all the way out over Princes Street Gardens, this is once again a dynamic part of the city centre.