Edinburgh

Dunstane House

We discovered the utterly glorious Pride of Britain Hotels collection while working on our England magazine - spending rather decadent nights at The Montagu Arms in the New Forest, and Buckinghamshire’s Hartwell House, a picturesque historic home-turned-hotel now managed by the National Trust.

Made up of over 50 hotels that stretch across the British Isles, each Pride of Britain offering brims with character, showcases the region it’s found within, is often accompanied by a peculiar and fascinating history, and is sure to make you feel that your getaway, no matter how fleeting, is truly restorative.

So when we were given the chance to dine with and rest our heads at the decadent and design-centric Dunstane House in Edinburgh, we jumped at the chance!

Dunstane House.jpg

The newly refurbished, family-run hotel has been owned by Shirley and Derek Mowat for over 20 years and has grown dramatically in that time. The duo had originally travelled down from Orkney, bound for London, where they had dreams of running their own hotel. But upon discovering this Scottish bolthole, they found they no longer had a desire to part with it - or Edinburgh.

Located in the calmer, lesser-explored West End, the hotel’s heritage has been lovingly maintained - indeed, they’ve clearly revelled in the joys of having a stone Victorian Townhouse as their canvas. The interiors are a mix of the traditional and playful, and Dunstane House is filled with homely Orcadian accents. It is the definitional of boutique and worthy of its five-star rating.

The walls are adorned with artworks that depict calming Edinburgh and Orkney scenes, while the colour palette is inspired by the Orkney landscape, the soft blues and beiges bringing to mind the wildest of northern beaches. In the downstairs bar, attached to a light-filled dining room - the setting of relaxed breakfasts and dinners that feature the most delectable Scottish fare; hearty, inventive and absolutely perfect on those cooler winter nights - Orkney gins and whiskeys are served, alongside creations from local microbreweries.

The bar itself - the Ba'Bar - is named for Okney’s answer to rugby; a game played twice a year (on Christmas and New Year’s Day, which also happen to be the local hospital’s busiest days). There are no rules and it is equal parts madness and brilliance, with the entire community getting involved, hoping to get the ball to the town wall or water to claim victory. A Ba’ ball, given to the player of the match, takes pride of place above the blue, art-filled bar. As it should!

The hotel’s most recent refurbishment saw Shirley and Derek return it to its neoclassical roots in their decor and furniture choices. Original cornicing becomes a statement feature, chairs and throws are adorned with Orkney tweed, and each room - all of which are different - comes with shortbread, made fresh every day. There are four posted beds in some, the odd freestanding copper roll-top bath, restored vintage wardrobes, Persian rugs, thriving house plants and flowers, an assortment of sculptural lighting features and wallpapers you long to secret away. Many of the furnishings are either bespoke or sourced from antique fairs - all different, all curious, and that’s precisely the point. Everything here is intentional, considered, a work of art.

This is a hotel that captures the soul of Orkney in a quieter corner of Edinburgh - a place I can’t wait to return to. To learn more or simply book a room, click here.

The Sanday Room Lounge.jpg
the Ronaldsay Suite.jpg
The Rousay Room (2).jpg
The Westray Room.jpg
The Scapa Suite.jpg





















Pyrus Flowers

Craig-Eva-Sanders-Photography-2.jpg

Photo by Craig & Eva Sanders Photography There are always flowers for those who want to see them. Henri Matisse

With our Scotland issue due back from the printers any day now we thought now would be a rather grand time to introduce you to Fiona Inglis and Natalya Ayers, the floral-minded duo behind Pyrus, a flower studio dedicated to foraging and promoting Scottish blooms. You can catch the printed Pyrus feature from mid-March - until then we hope this interview gets your green thumbs twitching.

Can you tell us a little about your training and background and how Pyrus Flowers came to be?

We both have creative backgrounds (in fine and applied arts) and discovered the world of flowers by accident, taking positions in the same Edinburgh flower shop. Quickly bitten by the botanical bug we were captivated by the incredible garden roses grown by a local market gardener, which smelt so intoxicating and were so different from their imported counterparts. Mr. Smith’s glorious blooms inspired us to join forces in 2011 to establish our own flower garden and studio. We had become disillusioned by the Dutch flower industry and the lack of variety, scent and seasonality; from the beginning we sought out unusual, Scottish native and heritage varieties and foraging has become an important part of our practice.

Where does the name Pyrus come from?

The Latin word Pyrus refers to a genus of fruit trees which include pears; we chose it because we wanted a strong, timeless name for our studio that encompasses all things botanical and not just flowers.

Photo by Caro Weiss Photography

What inspires your work?

If you have a creative sensibility and sensitivity to your surroundings, what doesn’t inspire you? We are endlessly inspired by the Scottish landscape, other cultures and the patterns and rhythms of nature. A swathe of cloud in the sky can be enough to evoke endless conversation and form the seed of a new idea. Lately we have found collaboration with other creatives has produced exciting and challenging ideas which is taking our work in new directions.

What do you love most about your job?

It often depends on the changeable Scottish weather! Time spent in the studio working with botanicals is always the most rewarding and constructing an installation on site is the exciting part of our work. However the heart of Pyrus is the flowers so, working in the garden among the blooms or taking a long foraging walk to gather materials feels like the soul of what we do.

What is the most challenging part of the work you do - and for that matter, what is the most rewarding?

Our day to day work is physically demanding and we are both quite impatient; we want nothing less than a flower revolution to flood the UK flower industry with local flowers and it cannot happen quickly enough! The most rewarding part is definitely being plant mothers to our flowers; watching something bloom for the first time that we have nurtured from seed never loses its shine. All those months waiting, protecting and caring for it is always worth it.

Has there been a project (past, present or future) that you particularly enjoyed?

We love travelling as part of our work so our trip to Saudi Arabia in 2014 for an installation at KAUST University was a highlight. We created a Kokedama installation (Japanese string garden) at the heart of the campus to celebrate the UN year of farming; it was a great experience to share our ideas and methods with such a varied group of nationalities in a unique environment. We are lucky enough to work alongside some fantastic creatives in the worlds of art, poetry and immersive events and have a number of exciting projects in the pipeline for 2015; watch this space!

Photo by Caro Weiss Photography

Does Edinburgh, or Scotland for that matter, influence your work in any way?

Yes. Pyrus is half Scottish, half English so our heritage and the way we view Scotland is different: homeland and chosen land. It has great beauty and elegance while being tough and inhospitable at times but even on a windswept day in February there is always something which takes your breath away. Living in Edinburgh is special in itself; its geography is quite singular. We are flanked by sea, hills, farm and woodland with an extinct volcano in the heart of the city. You can’t escape nature here and that proximity to the elements influences everything in daily life, we try to bring a little bit of that to Pyrus; there is beauty in everything and nature surrounds us.

Do you feel that there is a real florist community working in Scotland (and beyond)? There are just a small number of florist/famers in Scotland and we would love to see other growers establish here to make local, seasonal flowers more accessible. It is much more common in Southern England where the weather is kinder and the season slightly longer. We are however part of the British Flower Collective which is a great support network for florists championing British grown flowers across the UK. The global flower family is a continuous wealth of friendship and inspiration for us and we have links as far afield as the US and Australia; talking, travelling and being part of this community of talented florists is a pleasure and a privilege.

Given the chance, who would you like to collaborate with?

We love collaboration; it continually informs and enriches our creative practice. Dream collaborations? Photographer Tim Walker and set designers Rhea Thierstein and Shona Heath. The inimitable Kate Bush. And we would love to work for Scottish designers like Christopher Kane or Holly Fulton to create incredible botanical installations.

What advice do you have for aspiring florists?

If you choose floristry as a career, stay true to who you are and what you love about flowers. There is room in our industry for a myriad of styles and, we say, embrace those differences. We have never striven to be like any of our contemporaries and that allows a freedom in our work. It is more of a way of life so be prepared to work hard, it can be quite tough but, at the end of a long day, we still wouldn’t do anything else.

Photo by Craig & Eva Sanders Photography

Photo by Craig & Eva Sanders Photography

Photo by Nic Rue

Photograph by Nic Rue

Photograph by Orange Photograpie

Photograph by Orange Photograpie

Photograph by Orange Photograpie

Emily MacKenzie

penguin-e1460061765755.jpg

We had a chat with Edinburgh-based artist Emily MacKenzie about Scotland, illustrations and growing up just a little bit wild. Check out issue 2, out in March, to learn more about this lovely creative and the joys of Scotland. Emily MacKenzie

Can you tell me a little about your training and artistic background?

I come from quite creative family of graphic designers, illustrators, photographers, animators and artists so for as long as I can remember my need to create and my interest in children's books has always been there and encouraged. I have very fond memories of taking over my parents studio and making use of their paper samples and materials to make all manner of weird paper creations! Drawing and making has always been in my blood, I don't ever remember thinking I would be interested in anything other than a creative career.

I grew up in rural Northumberland so when I left school I completed an Art Foundation year in Newcastle where I tried lots of different disciplines on rotation, which was brilliant though illustration wasn't something we could specialise in at that time. I joined the course thinking I wanted to be a fashion or shoe designer or perhaps a fine artist, but it was graphic design that captured my interest in the end and I moved up to Scotland in 2001 to study Graphic Design at Edinburgh College of Art.

After graduating I designed book covers in house at one of Scotland's largest publishing houses, Mainstream Publishing, but I continued developing my illustration and started printmaking in my own time. I designed non-fiction book covers for seven years before realising that I was happiest when I was drawing and so I decided to take the plunge to go full-time freelance in order to pursue my dream of becoming a children's illustrator, working on my own personal projects and selling prints of my work through local shops and galleries and online. My first children's picture book Wanted! Ralfy Rabbit, Book Burglar has just been published by Bloomsbury and I've just had great fun completing artwork for my second book, to be published in 2016.

Emily MacKenzie

How would you define your style?

I'd say my work is mostly character based, quite spontaneous, colourful, inky and humorous. I enjoy getting jokes into my work or expressions that make people smile. I also love screen-printing and get a kick out of bringing my characters to life in the form of screen-printed, embroidered 3D plushes and soft sculptures which I sell online.

What inspires your work?

The house I grew up in in Northumberland borders a pine forest so I've always been drawn to foresty creatures! I have quite an active imagination which I think in part is down to all that drawing, reading and forest exploring when I was young so I am influenced by my childhood but also odd things I observe every day here walking around Edinburgh too.

Emily MacKenzie

What do you love about your job?

I love the diversity! Each day a new illustration project brings new challenges and surprises and the flexibility means if I'm having difficulty getting stuck into a project I can go for a thinking-swim, walk around the Botanics, draw in The Museum of Scotland or do some printing to get my cogs working again.

I also love seeing how people react to my work, it's a great feeling watching kids respond positively to my characters and I'll never get tired of watching people laugh or smile at something I've drawn.

There is a certain innocence to your work - is this intentional and where does this come from?

It's not intentional but I suppose I'm aware that the majority of my work is created with children in mind so I tend to be drawn to creating work that I know I would have enjoyed looking at when I was little. That being said, I find it an exciting challenge to get humour into my illustrations that will appeal to children and adults on different levels, so I try and make my picture book work enjoyable and interesting with funny jokes and scenarios for 'grown-ups' too.

Does Scotland influence your work in any way?

Absolutely! I've lived here for 13 years now and am really inspired by the landscape and wildlife here as well as scottish words and phrases I come across. Last year I designed a colour chart poster titled '50 Shades of Scotland' celebrating the hues of some of my favourite scottish things (Nessie, Haggis, Thistle, Smoked Salmon, Loch etc...) and a series of postcard prints based around Edinburgh's beloved Greyfriar's Bobby statue, so I definitely feel that my work is connected to Scotland and my life here.

Emily MacKenzie

Do you feel that there is a creative community in Edinburgh?

Definitely, there are lots of creative studio buildings around the city. I share a studio space at Edinburgh Contemporary Crafts and also print work at Edinburgh Printmakers where I've got to know other illustrators, craftspeople and printmakers. There's also a great craft market scene here which is fun to be part of when I have time.

Has there been a project (past, present or future) that you’ve particularly enjoyed?

Although they haven't been without their challenges, I've loved the experience of writing stories and bringing my characters to life in both my books, particularly the second which will be published next year. The character who features in my second book has been alive in my head for years now so it's been a dream come true to bring him into the world and I can't wait to see him in print, but I know I'll always have a soft spot for Ralfy too!

What advice do you have for aspiring illustrators?

It's a very competitive industry so persistence and believing in yourself and your work is really important. It's quite easy to get a confidence knock if you're turned down for a job or a commission you really want to do and I've lost hours comparing myself to other illustrators online afterwards which can be really self destructive! Think about what it is you like about your own work and what you think makes your work unique and write it down, that way you can refer back to it if you lose your way a little. I find this technique can help me to refocus and start working on a job again with a fresh perspective. I also find working in a shared studio really inspiring as I enjoy having other creatives around me I can bounce new ideas ideas off.

Emily MacKenzie

Emily MacKenzie

Emily MacKenzie

Scotland

IMG_4299.jpg

For the past few months we have been braving the elements and the dwindling daylight to explore Scotland, a wonderful country that's impossibly ancient, achingly beautiful and humbling in every possible way. A fickle friend when it comes to the weather and brimming with locals who take the notion of friendliness to a whole new level, it has been such a delight to get to know this place and its people. Below are just a few of the photos we've captured during our travels. For the complete set, the accompanying words, and a few illustrations you're going to have to wait until March when issue 2 of Lodestars Anthology is set to hit newsstands. Until then, enjoy the snaps, and, you know, invest in a shiny new copy of issue 1 (by clicking here), all about glorious England.

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Scotland

Edinburgh

img_9525.jpg

Edinburgh Picturesque beyond belief and impossibly beguiling at dusk, Edinburgh is a city of élan, cobbles and architectural contrasts. Frequently swathed by cloud, Scotland’s cultural and traditional capital is ideal for those who delight in discovery. There’s the famously lyrical (or should that be inscrutable) dialect, fondness for foraged food and a literary history made up of wizards, sleuths and treasure islands. A World Heritage Site twice over – the Medieval Old Town overlooks the Georgian elegance of New Town - here you can be a romance-seeking tourist, climb a volcano, overindulge or fall under a Scottish spell … and I mean this a little literally.

Edinburgh

HIGH ON A HILL

I’ve got to call out Robert Louis Stevenson. This native son of Edinburgh claims that the best view of the city is gained from Calton Hill - a monument-dotted hilltop overlooking the port-town of Leith (made famous by Trainspotting), Princess Street and Salisbury Crags. It’s stunning, don’t get me wrong, but the view from the once volcanic Arthur’s Seat, well, that’s just breathtaking.

Reached by scrambling past grassy knolls and weathered ruins, Arthur’s Seat’s rocky summit rewards you with more than a panoramic vista. When it’s not too blustery (standing atop this peak can be a tad tricky when a breeze picks up) you’ll find yourself greeted by a rather mixed bunch; travellers posing excitedly with Edinburgh beneath them, suit wearers on an unconventional lunch break and locals accompanied by a book, cider and slightly bemused expression. Such company is an experience in itself.

If climbing isn’t your forte make for Edinburgh Castle. Charming despite the throngs of tourists it attracts, the castle’s battlements offer up a view of the city from every conceivable angle. Or just get amongst it. Brave the bagpipe and busker adorned Royal Mile, which leads from Edinburgh Castle to the Palace of Holyroodhouse (once the home of the ill-fated Mary, Queen of Scots), before wandering down a ghost-guarded close and getting a little lost. No doubt you’ll soon find yourself sun bathing with students on The Meadows.

Edinburgh

BOOKS, ART AND ACROBATS

The heart of the global theatrical, musical and comic community every August, Edinburgh doesn’t just celebrate art. It thrives on it. But while this ancient city of spires and stone may be a menagerie of mind readers, contortionists and mimes when the famed Edinburgh International Festival, and equally enthralling Fringe Festival, takes hold, its creative antics reach far beyond this one month period. It is, after all, a UNESCO city of literature. Ian Rankin, Walter Scott and Arthur Conan Doyle have all called the capital home. Yet Edinburgh’s most iconic literary export, at least in recent years, has to be J. K. Rowling.

Her rags-to-riches story is the stuff of bookish dreams and Potter pilgrimages are unavoidable for those who grew up with the books. Start with the graffiti covered bathroom at The Elephant House, where early drafts were perfected against a backdrop of rooftops and gravestones (Thomas Riddell’s oft visited grave is only a short walk away) and end at the iconic Balmoral Hotel. Rather than splurging on room 552, where Rowling completed her mammoth project and engraved a bust to celebrate, I’d recommended investing in Afternoon Tea, complete with all the Scottish trimmings - slightly more affordable opulence.

The artistic, sartorial and all-round-cool allure of the Grassmarket and Victoria Street is another source of creative amusement. Packed with independent retailers, galleries and vintage stores, this is Edinburgh at its bohemian best. Retro art lovers should stop by the Red Door Gallery, which is filled with prints and illustrations created by local and UK artists. Further along, Armstrongs is ideal for those willing to dig for fashion or with a penchant for Bowie, who is played on repeat and not out of place in this eclectic vintage haunt. For something quieter there’s the boutique-feeling Analogue Books, which focuses on the arty and alternative. Who said print was dead!

More traditional artistic wonders are housed within the Scottish National Gallery. With a collection that covers everyone from Lippi to Leibovitz, and an eye for innovative temporary exhibitions, this is where you head when the weather turns Scottish.

Edinburgh

HAUNTED BEAUTY

During the day the labyrinth-like array of courts leading away from the Royal Mile contain nothing but museums and kilt makers. Yet at night, you can’t help but feel that these narrow passages are more than a little haunted.

And it makes sense. Edinburgh’s history of battles, witch trials and royal murder has resulted in a goblin-rich folk law that speaks of a sword-wielding White Lady, headless riders and phantom squadrons of soldiers. To get acquainted with said spirits, all of which have undoubtedly been embellished over time, join a Mercat Tour. Perfectly theatrical, it’s sure to bring out your inner child and make you glance cautiously behind you as you descend into the dimly lit, subterranean world that is the Edinburgh Vaults – the domain of The Watcher. Supposedly.

Yet it’s the places that should be most unnerving that are the most enchanting.

Case in point, Edinburgh Castle. While you’d expect this to be the stomping ground of battle-ready poltergeists and disgruntled witches, all you notice is its beauty. And that’s always been the case. During the Victorian Era the visiting English were so captivated by the fortress they launched rather ambitious schemes to give it a more romantic vision – think French Chateau meets stately home. Thankfully they left it in its original, windswept state. Effortlessly striking and precariously positioned, places like this are haunting in a very different way.

Edinburgh

NORTHERN FLAVOUR

In Edinburgh it’s the restaurant scene that proves just how much Old World Scotland (whiskey, shortbread and haggis, a favourite of Robert Burns and pretty much everyone north of the boarder) and New World fuse. This city prides itself on cutting edge regional cuisine, made from foraged foods and served with an artistic twist.

At Wedgwood, where dishes are prepared under the watchful eye of both chef and patron (the perks of a semi open kitchen), Highland leaves, game and general chicness reign supreme. For characterful local suppliers and a seasonable menu head to Edinburgh Larder Bistro. Sweet and friendly, this is where you go for a contemporary taste of Scotland and suitably homely atmosphere. And then there’s The Tower, attached to the National Museum of Scotland. Here the rustic menu is accompanied by one of the most stunning views of the Edinburgh skyline, often set off by a seemingly endless sunset that makes you contemplate flavours and life.  In such moments you realise just how enthralling Edinburgh’s spell can be.  And just how much you like haggis.

Stay For something perfectly unique spend a night at The Glasshouse. Blending a Georgian façade with gallery-worthy interiors, this hotel, nestled beneath Calton Hill, is the epitome of Scottish elegance.

Travel Go old school and catch an East Coast train up from London. Taking just over four hours, you’ll pass drystone walls, gravity-defying viaducts and British gardens filled with life-sized Thomas the Tank Engine replicas.

Edinburgh

Edinburgh

EdinburghEdinburgh

Edinburgh