When MI6 asked VisitScotland to send one of their best agents on a city break in Scotland, we were tasked with writing this top-secret memo. The agent’s name was Bond, James Bond, and no expense was to be spared. We told them we had something special in store for 007: a luxury weekend in Edinburgh, with a twist. How could they say no?
Created by Ian Fleming, James Bond is the debonair star of countless books and films from Skyfall to Goldfinger. Played by actors such as Daniel Craig and Roger Moore, Bond has travelled all over the world, but his ties with Scotland are undeniable. In the novels, a young James Bond is educated in Edinburgh, while his father was born in Glencoe, and of course it doesn’t get much more Scottish than Sean Connery, the iconic Bond actor and Hollywood star.
So how did 007 spend his long weekend in Edinburgh with us? Read on for all the intel.
Day 1: London to Edinburgh
London, 22:00 hours
After a late-night meeting with his superiors at MI6 headquarters in London, Bond is told he needs to take a holiday. No ifs, no buts – he’s too wrapped up in his work. Q has booked him a ticket on the Caledonian Sleeper from London Euston. He leaves Moneypenny with a customary quip and departs for Scotland.
The Caledonian Sleeper
Bond makes himself comfortable in first class on this famous overnight train service, where he enjoys a private, air-conditioned room. Priority access to the lounge car and the knowledge of a complimentary breakfast in the morning make the journey even more relaxed. There is even time for a vodka martini before bedtime, shaken, not stirred.
Arrival in Edinburgh
The next morning, Bond wakes up feeling refreshed after a good night’s sleep, all whilst travelling north to his destination. After a quick coffee near the station at the Fruitmarket Gallery, he walks towards Princes Street Gardens and admires the city views. Just as he reaches the impressive Scott Monument he receives a text from Q: “I trust you slept well 007, your luxury stay in Edinburgh starts with a trip to the spa, in Edinburgh’s cosmopolitan West End.”
One Spa, Festival Square
What better way to unwind than in Edinburgh’s ultimate thermal spa experience, One Spa – part of the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa. Immediately Bond felt at ease in the enveloping steam of the Hammam and Aroma Grotto, before taking a dip in the rooftop Hydropool. In fact, he even treated himself to a pedicure at the onsite salon – a rare luxury for someone always on their feet. He spent most of the day chilling out, enjoying the occasional glass of champagne, naturally. Where to next?
Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh, The Caledonian
Bond had almost forgotten his series of long and dangerous missions after a day at the spa. He was now on his way to a luxury hotel for the night, The Caledonian. Located at the West End of Princes Street, Bond’s luxurious suite had incredible views of Edinburgh Castle. He felt so at home, he almost didn’t make it out for dinner at one of Edinburgh’s Michelin Star Restaurants. Travelling back by taxi to the hotel that night, he was struck by the city’s beautiful lights and the shadows and silhouettes of old buildings. This was history coming alive.
Day 2: A Royal Visit and a Whisky Experience
The Palace of Holyrood House
An early riser, Bond was walking through the winding, cobbled streets of Edinburgh’s Old Town by breakfast time. A text from Q had come in: “Bond, why not pay a visit to Her Majesty The Queen’s official residence in Scotland? Please stay in her good books.” There was no time for mischief as 007 walked down the dramatic Royal Mile towards The Palace of Holyrood House. Once inside, he joined a private tour of the palace, marvelling at the many masterpieces on show and the rich history of the building.
The palace’s striking setting beside Arthur’s Seat and the Scottish Parliament also attracted his attention. Luckily Q had built a camera into his sunglasses, so he took some nice photographs for Moneypenny. Speaking of gadgets, he had it in his mind to buy her a gift, as well as something for himself, a little souvenir to remember his trip to Edinburgh. He took a leisurely walk towards Princes Street in the city centre, which divides the Old and New Towns, hoping the secret camera had enough space for all these photo opportunities.
Shopping at St James Quarter
Edinburgh’s newest retail and leisure area, St James Quarter, is aptly named for this secret agent. The coincidence was not lost on him as he browsed the enviable list of local and global brands, stopped for a bite to eat, and took in the bustling atmosphere. He was searching for a watch and a new suit and soon found what he was looking for. As well as something tasteful for Moneypenny that he had shipped back to London.
Johnnie Walker Princes Street
Later that evening, shoes polished and dressed in his suave new suit, 007 dropped into Johnnie Walker Princes Street. He loved the immersive tour and stayed for exclusive cocktails and cuisine in the lavish rooftop bar. He couldn’t get enough of the castle views from up there, and politely asked the staff to take his picture in front of the backdrop. Before going back to his suite, he decided on one last twilight walk into the city.
Nightcap at The Devil’s Advocate
Bond couldn’t resist the lure of Edinburgh’s Old Town at night. A whisky cocktail at one of Edinburgh’s whisky bars had his name on it. He settled on Devil’s Advocate, a hidden gem tucked away up one of Edinburgh’s famous narrow closes. The welcoming atmosphere and tremendous drinks list was enough to disarm even this cool customer. Before it got too late, he checked his phone. A text from Q: “Get back to your hotel 007, we have a taxi booked to take you to East Lothian in the morning. You have a big day ahead of you.”
Day 3: Along the Coast to East Lothian
The Perfect Drive
It took less than an hour to drive to Gullane in East Lothian, the heart of Scotland’s golf coast. The taxi driver took the coast road and Bond admired the attractive scenery from the passenger seat. Q had told him to dress for golf so at least he knew what was ahead. He had played with supervillains in the past – and prevailed – so wasn’t worried about his form. A set of golf clubs would be waiting for him at the clubhouse.
The scenic grounds around Archerfield House suited Bond to a tee. With two golf courses to choose from and a spa, he wished he was staying longer. He was already planning his next golf break, even as he shot a few over par for the day. Nothing works up a healthy appetite quite like a morning round of golf, and before long it was onto his next stop a few miles away, the pretty town of North Berwick.
Lunch by the Sea
North Berwick was just the kind of place Bond could imagine settling down after his service was over. A harbour town with spectacular views and some great places to eat. He decided on lobster by the beach at one of Scotland’s popular seafood shacks. As he was tucking into this local delicacy and looking out to sea thinking of adventure, Q got in touch again. “Bond, we have one last activity for you. Prepare to take to the skies.”
East of Scotland Microlights
Bond looked in his jacket pocket and realised Q had slipped in a voucher for a 90-minute microlight flight that afternoon, at nearby East Fortune Airfield. 007 knew of course that a microlight is a lightweight aeroplane capable of carrying no more than two people. He made the short journey to East Fortune and met with the instructors, before taking a thrilling flight over beaches and beautiful countryside. The longest established club of its kind in Scotland, East of Scotland Microlights ensured that he had a memorable afternoon in the air. A fitting end to a great holiday in Scotland.
Back to London
As the sleeper train headed back down towards London that night, Bond reflected that MI6 should send him on luxury holidays more often. He’d had a super time and had even managed to keep out of trouble. International espionage isn’t for everyone, but a luxury city break in Edinburgh certainly is. He’d be back for another instalment as soon as time allowed.
The name’s Scotland, VisitScotland. We hope you enjoyed this special blog for Scotland’s Year of Stories. Look out for more famous characters travelling to Scotland this year.