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Kimpton Blythswood Square

It must be a soul-destroying gig trying to run a hotel at the moment but one bunch who seem to be making the best of it are the Kimptons (very good with the LGBTs, by the way. Go out of their way, they do. Famous for it. Always have been.)

Dropping in on their Scottish offerings deep in lockdown, you almost wouldn’t know there was a ‘demic on, with meticulously planned weddings (including LGBT+ ones!), buzzy restaurants, operational spas and the famed ‘Social Hour’, where you get complimentary wines and beers so you can mix with your fellow guests, going great guns. All this brilliantly and cunningly socially distanced and backed up with their Clean Promise, meaning they’ve gone above and beyond in scientifically keeping everything as safe as houses.

Kimpton Charlotte Square

The Edinburgh Kimpton couldn’t be better situated if it tried: slap bang in the heart of the Georgian loveliness that is the New Town (fifteen minutes from the castle/Old Town), overlooking Charlotte Square, so when you have your dinner at Baba the view is sumptuous. But that would be jumping ahead.

Swishing up at Kimpton Charlotte Square in the latest Continental GT – courtesy of our chums at Bentley (they get closer by the minute!) all resplendent in ‘orange flame’ (kicky, fresh, conspicuous in all the right ways), making the Georgian streets of New Town pop as you cruise over those fabled cobbles like they’re candy floss – is what is known in show business as making an entrance. Because it’s true what they say; ‘once you go Bentley, there’s no going back.’ We think ‘they’ might be the Real Housewives of Cheshire, or the voices in our head. Either way, driving dreams are made of this, the Continental GT.

Bentley's Continental GT

But first we need to check in at a reception that is grand yet funky, then through the light-filled covered courtyard restaurant, The Garden, (have your Social Hour here or in the cosy bar just through there), up some very grand stairs with quirky retro travel prints to cheer things up and into a room that is every bit as grand as that stairway promises.

Ceilings way up to there, so much space you might want to bring skates and an antique fireplace. Oh and a rainbow flag draped over the easy chair, though probably everyone doesn’t get that. The bathroom is a big, white, retro-feeling conversion with a huge window so you can laze in the bath and look at the sky.

Kimpton Charlotte Square

Downstairs is Baba, their standout restaurant, beautifully done out in colourful maximalist style, that takes top class Scottish ingredients like venison and magics them into a glittering array of Middle Eastern delights: slow-cooked lamb shoulder with harissa, chuck-eye steak with date molasses, a top-notch vegan offering because Middle East does great vegan, you get the picture.

But more than just fine design, it’s the vibe that Kimpton gets so right. Staff that muck around (in a respectful way!) so that you feel part of the story and touches like free magazines on your iPad and that fabulous Social Hour, that works in all the different countries we’ve enjoyed it in, if you’re taking notes.

Kimpton Blythswood Square

Meanwhile, over at the Glasgow Kimpton, up on the deliciously Georgian Blytheswood Square, they do all that but in their own unique way. Through the monochrome Georgian foyer, splattered with contemporary art and furniture, you’ll find Bo & Birdy, a grand and glamorous restaurant pelted with light from those huge Georgian windows, with a huge central bar with ceramic green fish scales, sweeping green booths and all the right brass fixtures and fittings. The cocktails are crisp and comme il faut, while the food is a comforting mix of homely favourites like shepherd’s pie, fish and chips and lamb chops (done fancy!) and edgier beetroot risottos, albeit for hotel guests only at the moment (thanks Covid!)

Bo & Birdy

Social Hour is in the little lounge out there in the lobby where you’re swift friends with your neighbours two glasses down, while upstairs rooms go from basic contemporary – with a cheeky little bottle of Glaswe-GIN to welcome us – to fine and grand and spacious and wow (the penthouse with its own outside space where you can have dinner overlooking the square is the king of the castle, without a doubt).

In the basement is the spa, still running though they’ve obviously closed the sauna and steam room for Covid reasons, and actually rather huge with the waiting lounge big enough to hold a decent-size party (we thought as we waited in gown and slippers for our face-down-only-because-of-Covid massages).

Penthouse, Blythswood Square

It’s tough out there for hotels – you can imagine! – but with Clean Promises and social distancing and cheerfulness and a great product, Kimpton are proving beyond any doubt, that it can be done.

And when you dig deep into their LGBT+ credentials – not that you have to go deep, as they’re there, visceral, as it should be – you’ll see a commitment to inclusivity and diversity; a celebration of individuality regardless of sexuality, gender, colour, hair style; actual real life partnerships with forces for change like The Trevor Project and HIV Scotland. One of the big, big hotel brands that supports all their local Prides by default and splashes their mainstream advertising with LGBT+ imagery and if those Tea Party moms get their knickers in a twist, more fool them. We’re not talking a side-bar to tick boxes, we’re talking the real LGBT+ deal. Which gets you right there, right? Especially after that legendary Social Hour.