By the end of the 19th century, Scotland had become the land of artists and poets, engineers and inventors. The Caledonian Railway had brought a new pace of life to the capital South of the Firth of Forth. In 1903 Princes Street Station was to become the base for a grand hotel. The Caledonian Hotel helped to consolidate Scotland’s position on the international stage by heralding a new era of luxury and travel in Scotland.
‘Of course this is a book about the Caledonian Hotel, but it is also a social study and a well cut synopsis of the history of Edinburgh.’
Its most famous patrons, its managers, the staff of yesterday and today: in this book they all parade proudly through the pages and tell their stories, which, like many raindrops swelling to a stream, come together to form the story of The Caley, as this wonderful old hotel is affectionately known.
'After checking-in at the Caledonian, I take a moment to enjoy the marvellous view over the valley across Princes Street Gardens; the old city to the right, the new city to the left. Through my window, in room 236, I can see the castle. I quickly sneak out of the ‘Caley’, as the hotel is affectionately known in Edinburgh, and cross the road. I walk down the steps into St Cuthbert’s churchyard. Suddenly the hustle and bustle of the city are far away, and I find myself steeped in the serene atmosphere of this historic graveyard. Buried here are the remains of George Meikle Kemp, who designed the Scott Monument on Princes Street, commemorating novelist Sir Walter Scott. Here, too, lies John Napier, the great mathematician, astronomer, poet and prodigious inventor. It is also the final resting place of Alexander Nasmyth (one of his paintings is shown on previous pages), artist, architect, bridge designer and inventor, and Thomas De Quincey, author and essayist. My target lies a bit further into Princes Street Gardens. I am meeting Roddy Martine, my Scottish co-author, at Ross Fountain. Architect John Dick Peddie had originally intended the fountain for the forecourt of the Caledonian Railway station. The fountain, originally designed as a centrepiece for the Paris Exhibition of 1867, still carries the maker’s name – A Durenne, Maitre des Forges, Sommevocle, Haute Marne. After the exhibition, the statue was purchased by Daniel Ross, an Edinburgh gunsmith, who intended to present it to his native city. At considerable personal cost, Ross had it shipped in 122 pieces to Leith, but when the towering montage of scantily-clad and naked young women was unveiled before the members of Edinburgh Town Council, they were horrified. It was all too suggestive and French; the sight of naked women in a railway station was too much for their prudish Victorian worthies. So the fountain ended up here, at a safe distance from the hotel. A perfect vantage point to tell the story of Edinburgh’s famous landmark.'