Long considered one of Europe’s most beautiful cities, Edinburgh is better known for it’s volcanic perch, medieval spires, and scotch-soaked hospitality than its canals and waterways. Hoteliers and city planners are hoping to change that by gentrifying the gritty neighborhood around Lochrin Basin, part of the up-and-coming Canal Quarter, ten-minutes from the winding streets of the Old City. The embodiment of the area’s ambition is The Four Sisters Boatel, an amenity-packed 55-foot houseboat permanently moored in Union Canal.
Dredged in 1822 to help punters ferry coal from the rough mines of Lanarkshire into the city, Union Canal fell into disuse in 1930 as an expanding rail network rendered barges all but obsolete. The next 70 years weren’t particularly pretty, but in 2001, an expansive and expensive restoration began to remake the area into what it is today, a popular spot for rowers, walkers, cyclists, and fishers. Today, guests at the boatel can watch well-healed people and brake bread with commuting ducks.
Four Sisters feels like a swanky Scandinavian apartment, replete with flat screen televisions, a leather sofa, and recessed lighting, and can sleep four adults and two children comfortably. While it is still a waterborne vessel, there are no currents or tides to rock the boat – making Dramamine unnecessary. For a maritime adventure, travelers have to hop on a boat tour of the Forth and Clyde canal, which snakes through the central Scottish lowlands connecting Bowiling, just west of Glasgow, and Edinburgh.
Visitors can cook in the Four Sisters’ galley, but they shouldn’t. Nearby, Urban Angel serves up raw smoothies alongside organic eggs and black pudding. Hector’s in moneyed Stockbridge – keep an eye peeled for ‘Harry Potter’ scribe J.K. Rowling – offers similarly updates on pub favorites like bangers with a beer-mustard mash. Edinburgh has worked hard to maintain its character, but a little refinement does go a long way.
More information: Scotrail runs regular trains from London to Edinburgh Waverley Station with a Caledonian sleeper from London Euston. British Airways, KLM, easyJet, United Airlines and Ryanair all fly into Edinburgh Airport.