Macdonald Holyrood Hotel review

The MF search for the UK’s best spa hotels for fitness fans continues as Ben Ince visits the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel in Edinburgh

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Situated in the city’s historic and beautiful old town, the Macdonald Holyrood Hotel offers majestic views of Arthur’s Seat, the highest peak of Holyrood Park. Described by Robert Louis Stevenson as ‘a hill for magnitude, a mountain in virtue of its bold design’, it’s a stunning slab of rock and one of the most iconic landmarks in a city filled with them. The hotel is also just a few minutes walk from the Royal Mile, a series of streets that form the main thoroughfare through the old town, climbing steadily uphill past the Scottish Parliament Building to the spectacular Edinburgh Castle overlooking the rest of city. If – like my wife Holly and I – you’re new to Edinburgh and keen to explore the main tourist spots, it’s an ideal location.

Macdonald Holyrood Hotel

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All the Macdonald Holyrood’s rooms and suites boast marble en-suite bathrooms, large comfortable beds and cosy armchairs, plus large flat-screen TVs. We’re staying in a honeymoon suite, with added benefits such as a king-sized bed, a balcony overlooking Arthur’s Seat, floor-to-ceiling mirrors and – much to our mutual amusement – a sound system in the bathroom linked up to the TV to enable music channel shower karaoke. After dumping our bags and necking a quick espresso from the complimentary machine, Holly heads down to the spa and I make my way to the gym.


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The first thing you notice is how quiet and calm it is in the gym, which makes for a welcome break from the sweaty, hectic confines of most commercial gyms. In addition to a wide array of cardio machines – including treadmills, cross trainers and exercise bikes with built-in TV screens – it also has a well-stocked weights area containing all the essential kit you’d expect, including a bench, a full set of dumbbells and a variety of kettlebells plus a ViPR, a set of sandbags and a gym ball. After warming up on the matted floor area with some dynamic lower back stretches, I crack on with a circuit-based conditioning workout, safe in the knowledge that for once I’ll have most, if not all, of the kit I need to myself for the duration of the session.


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After a quick shower I head to the Spa and Health Club to meet Holly, who’s spent the past hour flitting between the 14m heated swimming pool and the adjoining steam room and sauna. The club’s spa treatments range from soothing massages to purifying facials and I’ve booked myself in for the former, in a bid to relieve some lifting-induced tightness around my shoulders and lower back. It’s a mostly pleasant but occasionally painful experience – I struggle not to wince when the masseuse runs her elbows down the length of my shoulder blades – but the increased range of motion I can feel through my shoulder joints afterwards is amazing. Meanwhile, Holly opts for a Modern Skin Facial, which uses antioxidant-rich vitamins and minerals to remove damaging toxins and regenerate skin cells. The results, she says, are fantastic.


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A stay wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Rocca, the hotel’s recently opened restaurant, which serves classic Scottish dishes with an Italian twist using fresh, locally sourced ingredients. On our waiter’s recommendation, my wife and I both opt for scallops with pancetta – one of a number of seasonal specials on offer – and we aren’t disappointed. The pancetta cubes provide a crunchy texture that perfectly complements the soft, tender scallops, offering a delicious, salty flavour that’s neither too rich nor overpowering. For the main course we both choose the pork belly with red cabbage compote. Like the starter, it’s an indulgent dish, but one that still offers plenty of nutritional benefits, including a large serving of muscle-building protein. The pork itself is cooked to perfection, with its crisp skin covering a delicate hunk of meat that dissolves effortlessly in your mouth. Fine dining really doesn’t get any better than this, and the fact that Rocca’s menu caters to fitness enthusiasts looking to refuel after a tough training session is a definite bonus.

The Macdonald Holyrood Hotel is one of Edinburgh’s premier locations to relax, recover, train or indulge. Highly recommended. 

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