Why does a football club want to run an upmarket hotel?
'Queen of Hearts' Ann Budge talks tourists, top footballers and Gorgie Road takeaways
The first thing that hits you as you turn into McLeod Street is that distinctive malty smell in the air. A lingering relic of part of Gorgie’s industrial past.
If you keep your eyes to the left as you turn past the Tynecastle Arms and the flats nextdoor, you can imagine nothing has much changed since the 1980s, or even the 1950s. The modern Tynecastle High School on the right spoils the illusion a little.
If Haymarket and its emerging glass-fronted office blocks and cool coffee shops are an over-powering symbol of the new Edinburgh, then less than a mile away this is definitely the old school city.
In these days of out-of-town sports arenas and leisure complexes, there is a romance to visiting a football ground first built in Victorian times. There is the stadium somehow crowbarred in between rows of tenement homes, the stands so close to the pitch the crowd almost breathe down the players’ necks, the newsagents, takeaways and traditional boozers on the doorstep.
This is Tynecastle Park, home to Heart of Midlothian FC - the UK’s biggest fan-owned football club - and also home to Edinburgh’s latest upmarket hotel.
Walk across the maroon paving of Foundation Plaza into the smart tiled main reception and everything speaks of high quality, from the genuinely warm greeting at the door to the award-winning Skyline Restaurant on the second floor. No corners have been cut or detail missed you would wager. This is a slice of tourist-tempting Princes Street and George Street delivered straight to Gorgie.
Tourists to Gorgie
The breweries which gave this area much of its identity and employment for generations - as well as that distinctive malty smell - have all but gone. The nostalgia-inducing aroma only lingers now thanks to the NB Distillery which uses a similar malting process to the breweries of old.
Since the Scottish & Newcastle-owned Caledonian Brewery closed in 2022, there has been no institution to rival Hearts of Midlothian FC in this part of town.
The changing face of Edinburgh is not lost on Ann Budge. The self-made millionaire businesswoman who helped save Hearts when it faced bankruptcy, and some felt it had lost its moral compass, is determined the football club will change with the times. She is equally committed to the idea that change does not, and should not, stop at the stadium door.