The Principal Edinburgh George Street, previously the George Hotel, occupies a prime location on the south side of Edinburgh's George Street, the most important street in the early development of Edinburgh's New Town in the second half of the 1700s. The hotel is a remarkable Edinburgh institution. A £20m programme of investment in recent years has resulted in the unlikely combination of a large and busy city centre hotel whose elegance, history and depth of character give more than a hint of the grand country house. The result is an outstanding hotel that offers the best of both worlds, and one you will want to come back to. You can read our dining review for The Principal Edinburgh George Street here.
This part of the New Town was ready for its first residents by the 1780s, and the plot now occupied by The Principal Edinburgh George Street originally comprised six prestigious townhouses, Nos 15-25 George Street, backed by gardens. Number 19 was occupied by the Caledonian Insurance Company in the early 1800s and given a grand facade in 1840. The first hotel on the site appeared in 23 George Street in 1860. It became known as The George Hotel in 1880, by which time it occupied two of the houses and the upper floors of three more. By 1950, The George Hotel occupied the plots originally occupied by all six houses. Careful expansion of the Grade II listed building has since provided additional accommodation which now fills the original plot without detracting from the building's historical importance or the attractiveness of its appearance from George Street. It became The Principal Edinburgh George Street in 2016.
The main entrance is set within the impressive insurance company facade and brings you into the welcoming reception area, an elegant space characterised by pot plants and divided by impressive columns. Beyond the reception is the King's Hall, the largest of the hotel's eight conference and event suites. This was originally built in 1827 as the Caledonian Insurance Company's main trading hall. Today it offers sumptuous accommodation for up to 200 for a wedding or 300 in theatre layout.
Other conference and event suites are located on the ground or lower ground floors, and vary in size, ensuring that there is something here for just about any size of event up to the maximum accommodated in the King's Hall. One even comes with its own roof terrace offering views of Fife in one direction and Edinburgh Castle in the other. The style and character of the hotel make it a very popular venue for weddings ranging in size from 60 to 200, and the hotel's two wedding planners help ensure that the big day is one to remember for all the right reasons. The hotel is licensed to conduct wedding ceremonies on the premises.
If you head to your left from the main reception, you pass through to the Tempus Restaurant and Bar, which occupies the western part of the frontage when seen from George Street. At the front is the attractive Tempus Bar, with its own entrance from George Street. To its rear is the Tempus Restaurant, offering enjoyable and good value brasserie style dining. You can read our dining review for The Principal Edinburgh George Street here.
It comes as a considerable surprise to find that The Principal Edinburgh George Street has 249 guest rooms. The rooms are in different parts of the hotel, of different vintages, come in different sizes, and have a range of outlooks. All are equipped to the four star standard you would expect, and two other things common to all are the very high quality of the fixtures and fittings, which give many rooms a slight "boutique" feel, and the outstanding quality of the housekeeping. Rooms come as suites; junior suites; premium deluxe rooms; executive rooms; and standard rooms. Rating and price depend on a combination of size and view and there really is something here to suit just about every taste.
With the exception of the single step from the street, which cannot be changed because of the building's listed status, accessibility is good. Changes in level within the public areas are overcome using lifts, and all accommodation floors have lift access. There are also four accessible guest rooms.
We hoped for a lot from our visit to The George Hotel, as it was at the time of our last visit, and found our hopes were surpassed. There is something deliciously decadent about living, however temporarily, somewhere that offers elegance, character and history: and here it is possible to do so in a large city centre hotel offering all the facilities you would expect. Add in friendly and professional staff and excellent food, and the package amounts to a fairly compelling set of reasons to stay.