Over the years I must have walked passed The Royal Scots Club hundreds of times, but until recently I’d never been through the door. Being perfectly honest I – like many of you, I would bet – had unconsciously written it off as old, stuffy and just not relevant to me; a throwback to British society of old. When we were invited to join the club chairman and some other bloggers for a breakfast in the club I was a little sceptical, but of course in the interest of finding out more about our wonderful city I agreed to go along. If nothing else, who says no to breakfast?
The Royal Scots Club
29-31 Abercromby Place, EH3
I am very happy to say that I was wrong. I made a few assumptions that were about right, but most were wide of the mark. Yes, The Royal Scots Club has a very traditional background and is very steeped in the tradition of the regiment it memorialises; but there’s also a very conscious effort being made to ensure the club is relevant to the 21st century and ensure it doesn’t resemble a somewhat Victorian version of British culture. In fact I can think of no better an example of this that the building itself; wood paneled in part and making full use of the period features which are indicative of buildings in the New Town, but with luxurious bedrooms and contemporary function rooms suitable for any occasion. Perhaps it is best summarised by one of the traditional dining rooms which has a big mirror above the mantelpiece which if you look closely you will realise it actually doubles up as a screen – traditional elegance, but with a very 21st century twist.
Our host and guide for our breakfast was the club’s chairman, John Lloyd. A charming and verbose man who whilst having the traditional pedigree to run such an establishment (a former journalist and editor who helped set up a school for butlers and has been a press secretary to members of the Royal Family for sporting events) is also clearly keen to keep the club relevant in an age where many of its kind are, to be polite, in a state of decaying elegance.
Lunches, dinners, a place to stay, reciprocal arrangements with clubs around the world – it all sounds rather old hat, but today’s members aren’t all ex-army officers (in fact the club has never been exclusively for officers) with many using the club’s brilliant rooms as a place for business meetings or taking clients for lunch or dinner.
With lots of wonderful quirks – such as a totem pole in the lounge, a gift from a Canadian regiment – this is a building full of stories and characters. And one which is using its history to its advantage today – you can book the venue for weddings and other events, where you will be guaranteed some beautiful backdrops for the photos.
Already several times I’ve mentioned food and dining, and here you will have delicious food whether you’re having breakfast for two or a dinner for 150. Served on traditional branded tableware (crest at the top, naturally, standards to uphold and all that) – they also get the regimental silverware out for formal club dinners – our breakfast was elegant and delicious. Those there for lunch and dinner are treated to everything from soup and sandwich to three course meals, all at a reasonable price as well from the sounds of it.
I am not saying that The Royal Scots Club is going to be to everyone’s taste – far from it in fact – but with a diverse international membership, it’s not the ‘Old Boys’ Club’ I had imagined (apparently upwards of 35% and growing of the membership is woman, which was a pleasant surprise).
If one aspect of the morning stayed in my head more prominently it was not the delicious smoked salmon and scrambled eggs, the TV/mirror, or the surprising contrast in traditional and contemporary style of different parts of the building (although they are all worthy contenders), it was a remark made by our host fairly early on.
Talking about the origins of the club back in 1919 after the Great War, I was a little surprised to hear that uniforms were not worn in the club. “We’re all Gentlemen here” was the quote from the founder, Colonel the Lord Henry Scott. It did not matter whether you were a private or a Brigadier, everyone who had fought with the regiment was considered an equal in the club.
In many ways that mirrors The Royal Scots Club today; it is not a stuffy room focused fully on a bygone age – it values its history and tradition, but like so many other institutions of the city it is also focused on not excluding the modern world. They are treated as equals, if you like – even humble bloggers such as yours truly who make somewhat unfair assumptions are welcome.
If you would like to find out more about The Royal Scots Club and what they offer, you can do so on their website.