A History of Prestonfield
The mansion of Prestonfield was built in 1687 for Sir James Dick, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, after an earlier property had been burnt down by students rioting against his friend the Duke of York (later King James II). Designed by architect-royal Sir William Bruce, who had just completed remodelling nearby Holyrood Palace for King Charles II, the new Prestonfield was a spectacular statement of his family’s considerable wealth and power. Throughout Sir James’s lifetime and that of the Dick-Cunyngham dynasty that followed, Prestonfield developed its reputation for exceptional hospitality.
Lavishly filled with baroque plasterwork, panelling, tapestries, paintings and furniture, many of these splendid original contents commissioned for the house remain to be enjoyed by guests today, including an imposing portrait of King Charles II which gazes down over diners in the restaurant.
During the 18th century, the leading figures of the Scottish enlightenment were frequent guests. Dr Samuel Johnson visited, as did his biographer James Boswell, who picked apricots in the grounds with his friend Sir Alexander Dick. Dick was later to receive a medal from the Royal Society of Edinburgh for successfully introducing rhubarb from China, an achievement commemorated today in the name of Prestonfield’s spectacular restaurant – Rhubarb.
In 1759 Benjamin Franklin stayed at Prestonfield, thanking his hosts with a poem “Joys of Prestonfield adieu, Cheerful meals, balmy rest, beds that never bugs molest.” Prestonfield was inherited by Sir Robert Keith Dick whose initials and crest still crown the entrance of the stables. Returning from years of service with the East India Company, he immediately set upon an ambitious programme of enhancement. Grand reception rooms (now our restaurant, Rhubarb) were added to the house, as was the entrance porte cochére, whilst Dutch formal gardens were swept away to be replaced with a romantic landscape of sweeping parkland. Ever a keen horseman, he commissioned the leading architect of his day,
James Gillespie Graham, to build the unique circular stable building which today is one of the grandest events venues in Scotland and which has been home to the World Famous Taste of Scotland for the past 41 years.
Now celebrating half a century as an iconic hotel, Prestonfield has been patronised by Presidents and Princes as well as stars of every age. Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher dined under the watchful eyes of the Dick-Cunyngham portraits, whilst guests including Grace Kelly, Sean Connery, Elton John, Jessye Norman, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Oliver Reed have all enjoyed Prestonfield’s charms.
James Thomson, Prestonfield’s owner, has overseen a lavish restoration that sees the hotel revitalised and restored. Prestonfield is one of the world’s most sumptuous and unique places to stay - just as you would expect from the owner and creator of Edinburgh’s famous Witchery by the Castle and rooftop Tower Restaurants. Named as one of the Best 101 Hotels in the World by style-bible Tatler. Prestonfield is described by Conde Nast Traveller Magazine as so extravagant it’s like walking onto the set of some flamboyant costume drama. Hotel of the Year 2015, Prestonfield holds the rare distinction of holding both the AA’s ultimate accolade of 5 red stars along with 5 gold ones from VisitScotland. Welcome to Scotland, welcome to Prestonfield!