Later this year, Red Carnation Hotels opens its 19th hotel and first Edinburgh property, a long-held dream of ours that we are thrilled to realise. The hotel is located at the heart of Edinburgh’s most famous boulevard, at 100 Princes Street; here, it looks directly up at neighbouring Edinburgh Castle and stands over the verdant Princes Street Gardens below. 100 Princes Street has long been a prime location for hospitality. Here we explore its iconic guest-welcoming heritage, dating back over 150 years.
Princes Street became a lively city centre in the 19th century following a dramatic Victorian makeover. With the coterminous expansion of Edinburgh Waverley station, the fashionable boulevard saw the establishment of several high-end hotels that put the Athens of the North on the map.
One such entrepreneurial hotelier was Calixte Dejay, a French monsieur who took over 99-101 Princes Street for his new luxurious lodge, Dejay’s Hotel. Founded between 1867/8, the establishment was listed as a “French hotel” which commanded “one of the Finest Views in the City” and whose culinary department was “under the Personal Superintendence of C. Dejay.” The property included billiards and smoking rooms, as well as an opulent dining space for over 50 guests and direct access to Princes Street Gardens.
Dejay’s Hotel prided itself on its impressive, modern cuisine and unrivalled views—two aspects we are working very carefully to recreate. While little else about Dejay is known, his grave is located just a stone’s throw from his beloved magnum opus in the atmospheric Dean Cemetery.
Following the death of Calixte Dejay, 100 Princes Street then passed into the hands of German immigrant Albert Thiem, who re-christened it the Windsor Hotel in 1877. A successful hotelier, Thiem began his hospitality career as an apprentice cook in Germany, Dover, London and Edinburgh—where he worked with his brother.
Upon purchasing 99-101 Princes Street, the original four-storey Georgian townhouse was expanded into a seven-storey hotel—the design of famed architect Robert Paterson. To cement the new Windsor theme, a cartouche (which still survives!) was carved over the first-floor windows of 100 Princes Street, depicting the battlements of Windsor Castle. Simultaneously, Thiem used his expertise as a chef to establish the Windsor’s reputation as a first-class dining establishment, with him also catering for Edinburgh’s great political banquets. Under his management, the hotel became renowned for its exceptional cuisine and plush interiors.
In 1890, Thiem founded a sister property in St. Vincent Street, Glasgow, also christened the Windsor Hotel. The two hotels were connected by state-of-the-art telephones and were both marvels in their respective cities. The premier travel writers of the 19th century, Appleton’s Guides, praised both Windsors for being exceedingly comfortable.
The Royal Over-Seas League
As other establishments along Princes Street were demolished or converted into shops at the turn of the century, Windsor Hotel was purchased by the Royal Over-Seas League in 1929 and reopened as club premises by the Duke of York the following year. 100 Princes Street then became Edinburgh’s first mixed club, with a bar and small number of guest rooms appointed by local Scottish designers. Throughout its 90-year existence, high-ranking officials from across the Commonwealth frequented its adorned halls.
To this day, the League’s long-found Edinburgh presence continues. During the capital’s famous Fringe festival, its music programme sponsors talented upcoming classical musicians from the Commonwealth.
In July last year, Red Carnation Hotels acquired the preeminent property from the Royal Over-Seas League. As with any property as storied as 100 Princes Street, our first priority has been to faithfully restore its historic façade and interiors, as we have already carried out with several other properties, most famously the 800-year-old Ashford Castle.
We look forward to bringing back to full life Dejay Hotel’s delicious fine dining, Windsor Hotel’s exuberant interiors and the Royal Over-Seas League’s elegant Scottish designs. The finished hotel will be a beloved Edinburgh boutique—similar in feel to London’s acclaimed Hotel 41—with 30 individually appointed bedrooms and an executive lounge overlooking stately Edinburgh Castle.