Nira Caledonia in Edinburgh's Gloucester Place is a great place to wake up and breakfast before shopping your way down Princes Street. The hotel is made up of two large Georgian townhouses on the north side of Edinburgh's New Town. Inside the decor has eschewed stags heads and tartan in favour of black and silver, with black laquer Chinese furniture in every bedroom and an all-black restaurant on the ground floor. Head Chef Gordon Inglis oversees the menu, one that gives you the provenance of just about every Scottish ingredient from Loch Duart salmon to beef from Highland Drovers Farm, pork from Puddledub Farm in Fife and seasonal free-range turkeys from Gartmorn Farm near Alloa.
Now for a day plan. First talk to the hotel's concierge team who will be very keen to help you find just the right purchase (they will even help you back with your shopping if your purchase exceed your upper body strength - just ask ). I'd start on George Street with its upmarket brand names and then drop down to Princes Street for the more familiar chain stores. By the end of a busy day you may be desperate for Nira Caledonia's own single malt scotch, a 16-year-old Ardmore sourced and bottled by the Adelphi Distillery. The hotel was limited to just 24 bottles so if you're a whisky drinker you're in for an exclusive treat.
Nira Caledonia is a thoroughly Scots experience but with a modern twist. And Edinburgh is a great weekend getaway destination whether or not you're shopping.
Very few hotels are located in the middle of a major shopping street. Even fewer are as glamorous as the Chester Grosevenor. A hotel has stood on this site since 1784 when it opened as the Royal Hotel. In 1815 the Grosvenor family bought and renamed it, and then in 1865 they rebuilt it entirely in splendid mock-Tudor style.
Immediately outside the hotel you'll find the usual chains but also an exciting range of independent retailers: Toycraft, a family-run traditional toy shop, Chateau de Sable, a boutique for traditional French children's clothing, Pyramid (glassware), Eva Chester (women's clothing) and The Hat Place (speaks for itself).
To make the prospect of hitting the stores even more palatable, the hotel offers ‘mid-week Christmas shopping breaks' every Thursday from 17 November to 22 December. This allows guests to take advantage of Chester's late-night shopping on Thursday evenings and throws in a traditional Grosvenor Afternoon Tea and a 45-minute spa treatment to make the experience even more painless.
The centre of this walled city is so pretty all you really need is some snow and a few carol-singers in mufflers for Christmas shopping to be truly transformed from duty to total delight.
The Birmingham & Midland Eye Hospital was built in 1883 behind opulent Colmore Row which the Victorians had made Birmingham's premier banking street. The building cost £20,000 and could process 70 in-patients at a time. It was – and still is - a splendid red brick structure in the French style with little stone turrets on each corner. Not surprisingly in 2001 this characterful structure became the fourth Hotel du Vin in that company's splendid, ever so slightly eccentric, portfolio.
Today you can leave Hotel du Vin after breakfast and cross the churchyard of St Philip's Cathedral and walk through half a mile of pedestrianised shopping streets until you reach the twenty-first century splendours of the new Bullring Shopping Centre. These days, avocado on toast is as popular as the full English at Hotel du Vin Birmingham but either will set you up for attacking the Bullring with your credit card. Opened in 2003 and attracting 36.5 million visitors in its first year alone, this is Birmingham's High Temple of consumerism. If you can't find everything you want here, something is probably wrong with your shopping list!
If there are any gaps in your shopping, next time you leave the hotel turn left to the Great Western Arcade for some lovely boutique shops or right down Colmore Row to Victoria Square where the Frankfurt Market is held every year.
After a busy day you will probably want to dine well, and wine well too. If you can't see what you want to drink on the back of the standard Hotel du Vin menu, ask for the Sommelier's List which comes leather-bound and, at 400 vintages offers an uncommonly wide selection.
The first time I ever took a weekend away to do Christmas shopping it was to Bath and that proved such a success that I've advocated shopping weekends ever since. The important thing to remember about Georgian Bath is that more than any other British city –even more than Brighton- it was built for pleasure. While the number of balls in the Pump Room and Assembly Rooms has reduced drastically since the eighteenth century, Bath as a place to eat, sleep , drink and shop remains unrivalled.
But where to stay?
Bailbrook House stands just outside the city in 20 acres of grounds on a hill above the London Road. Mr Eveleigh, a wealthy lawyer, began work on his family seat here in the 1790s but the Napoleonic Wars intervened and the mansion was not completed until after Congress of Vienna in 1815. In 1817 Queen Charlotte, wife of George III, visited Bailbrook and here she met local philanthropist Lady Isabella King, commending her work saving street beggars “from the dangers attendant on idleness and poverty” In the twentieth century –less glamorously – the house became a training college for the General Post Office but in 2013 it emerged from scaffolding to become one of only two Grade II listed hotels in Bath.
Here is where you can relax after a hard day's shopping in the Cloisters Restaurant, located in the basement of the hotel where modern archways have been opened up to provide views of the hotel grounds and over the Christmas city of Bath beyond.
The famous “Lanes” is the loveliest area for shopping in Brighton at any time of year. This labyrinth of alleyways and courtyards was part of the old fishing village of Brighton before George IV made it fashionable. At the bottom The Lanes, where Ship Street meets the promenade, stands Hotel du Vin, hugely popular as a dining venue and one of Brighton's best hotels. Actually this hotel used to be known as the Ship Inn, which is why the older hotel opposite became known as the Old Shippe Inn. Today as Hotel du Vin it has a mock Tudor facade, an inviting courtyard and a big bar beyond. Every Christmas there's a tree erected in the courtyard and an even bigger one in the bar with the smell of mulled wine emanating from a kettle on the counter.
Among the shops in easy walking distance of the hotel is the Steamer Trading Cookshop, which offers everything for your kitchen from coffee machines to lunchboxes and designer tableware. Allegedly there are 7000 products covering three floors but who's counting? Then there's House of Hoye, run by the doyen of contemporary jewellery design, Jeremy Hoye. And Loula and Deer who sell “divine yet practical toys” for babies and toddlers and the best maternity wear ever. And Choccywoccydoodah, my all time favourite, who claim “We will find the perfect sugar high for you.” Shopping is frivolous and fun down The Lanes and when you've had enough of being far too impulsive to Hotel du Vin's new look brasserie, then fall happily asleep surrounded by piles of presents.
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