At Black Ivy in Edinburgh, Little Luxuries and a Big Breakfast




From about 80 pounds (about $113).


If Black Ivy feels like a stylish gastro pub with lodgings attached to it, that may be because it’s the brainchild of Billy Lowe, an Edinburgh entrepreneur who created and ran dozens of bars in the city before his company, Caledonia Inns Ltd., opened the 22-room hotel last November. Black Ivy, in three adjoining Victorian townhouses, looks like it could well be an Edinburgh family’s stately home — until you step in and the boutique vibe kicks in. Framed photos of random beautiful people frolicking in the surf or sunbathing in silver jumpsuits adorn the walls; Ping-Pong tables (with electrical outlets) do double-duty as meeting or work-space spots; flooring is made of shiny American pennies or wood salvaged from 19th-century French train carriages, and a large bar and restaurant packed with plush, clubby banquettes dominate most of its public space.

Pennies make up the flooring at Black Ivy.CreditIain Robinson


Nestled in the leafy Bruntsfield residential neighborhood, Black Ivy is near Bruntsfield Links, a 35-acre park, and is also a few minutes’ walk from cozy restaurants, boutiques, bakeries and bars. The museums, tourist attractions and shops of Princes Street and the Royal Mile, as well as the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen’s official residence in Scotland, are a short car or bus ride away.

The Room

With its white walls and dark furniture, the aesthetic of my 215-square-foot double room was clean and chic. Little luxuries included high ceilings, a window overlooking the green backyards of Bruntsfield, a firm king bed, a lovely tri-fold vanity mirror and delicious cookies from the Scottish baker Border Biscuits — all of which made up for an open closet where clothes, the ironing board and the iron were on constant full view. (Not to mention the slightly sanctimonious Einstein quote emblazoned above the door: “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”)

The Bathroom

Almost steaming in temperature — which was a delight in often-drafty Edinburgh — the compact bathroom came with a high-powered towel warmer, a spacious glass-walled shower and sandalwood- and mandarin-scented toiletries from the White Company’s “Noir” line.


The bar and restaurant are the focal point of the property and they unfold across several rooms — a large lounge, an outdoor terrace, two airy rooms where you can have dinner, afternoon tea, a jazz brunch. The beer and cider list is impressive, especially if you want to try local brews like Schiehallion lager from the Scottish lowlands, and the cocktails come with suitably cheeky names like “Things Get Better With Sage.” British pub standards like steak and ale pie and fish and chips are on the dinner menu along with steak frites, burgers, chicken skewers, meat and cheese boards and sides like haggis bites (which this haggis-lover found slightly tasteless). The sticky toffee pudding, though a touch cloying, hit the spot. We found the restaurant on steadier footing — and more pleasant without the blaring crowds — at breakfast, which was included in the room rate. The full Scottish breakfast, featuring bacon, black pudding, haggis, sausages, beans, eggs, tomato, mushroom and a potato scone, was an absolute delight.


Free Wi-Fi, a flat-screen TV, laundry service. When I called to inquire about the room-service menu, I was told to look for it online and place my order by phone. This proved challenging as the Wi-Fi was spotty in my top-floor room — and the room phone ceased to work after that call. (It was replaced within an hour.)

The Bottom Line

Given its tranquil location, charming building and proximity to the city’s parks, Black Ivy can be a lovely way to dwell, for a moment, in a true Edinburgher’s setting — albeit one who works on Ping-Pong tables.

Black Ivy, 4 Alvanley Terrace, Edinburgh;