Sometimes travel is like time travel. One spot that recently allowed me to inhabit a long-vanished era was Prestonfield House, an extraordinarily lavish boutique property housed within a late-17th-century mansion, situated 3 miles southeast of Edinburgh’s city center. Set in the shadow of Arthur’s Seat, the extinct 800-foot volcano whose imposing bulk looms over the city, Prestonfield was converted to a 23-room hotel in the 1960s and is now owned by well-known local restaurateur James Thomson.
The surrounding 20-acre gardens still endow the property with the feel of the country estate it long was, as do the immaculately maintained croquet lawn and putting green, across which peacocks occasionally strut. The ruins of nearby Craigmillar Castle provide a romantic backdrop.
At the porte-cochère in front of the hotel entrance, a bellman in a kilt greeted me cheerfully before hauling my luggage from the car and leading me down a carpeted hallway to reception. Despite a group of six travelers having arrived just moments before, my check-in was friendly and efficient. The hotel’s interior design is operatic and defiantly over-the-top, especially in the Leather Room, where panels of 17th-century leather from Córdoba grace the walls, and the Tapestry Room, which is decorated with grand English Mortlake tapestries. Impressive antique furniture is arranged throughout the building, while the structure’s rich history is highlighted by depressions in its stone floors caused by centuries of passing feet.