City & Country sets new record at the WhatHouse? Awards 2023
In 2021, Edinburgh native Catherine Kennedy had decided that the time was right to get a foothold back in her hometown after a number of years living abroad. An online search led her to The Playfair at Donaldson’s, a 19th century hospital-turned-school which leading heritage specialist City & Country has restored and converted into luxurious apartments. For Cat, the iconic building held a greater connection for her, as her father worked there when she was young.
She explains: “I grew up in Edinburgh, and my 20s saw me become a frequent commuter to London and my 30s begin to live & work abroad. I settled in The States nearly 10 years ago and love it here – and that’s made me really appreciate my culture & my roots, in a way I never did before. Being able to truly come home is important to me.
“I began looking into a property which will be my Edinburgh base when visiting friends and family now, and somewhere I’ll move back to in years to come. I registered for property alerts around the area, and I was taken aback when I saw The Playfair. It was a magical place for me during my childhood – my dad worked there occasionally and sometimes I’d get to accompany him in the evenings. To be able to walk back through those doors as an adult & potentially have the opportunity to lay my roots back down there was a no-brainer for me. I registered my interest right away.”
A stunning quadrangular building designed in the style of an Elizabethan palace, The Playfair was built in the 1840s amidst 16 acres of elegant, private grounds. Famously desired by Queen Victoria, who it is said would have happily swapped it for The Palace of Holyroodhouse, the former school for deaf children is now firmly established as one of Edinburgh’s most prestigious addresses, recently winning Best Apartment Scheme at the What House Awards 2021.
With Cat based in New York and unable to fly to the UK due to travel restrictions at the time, Cat was given a video tour by the sales team. She recalls how emotional she felt seeing the building again which held such fond memories from her childhood: “They started the tour at the front door, and just inside the entrance is a plaque which my dad guilded. All the memories came flooding right back, and I started to tear up.
“After the initial call, the team sent me some videos they had taken of the properties in my price range. I requested one that was east-facing, so I could see the sunrise over the city centre, and I was thrilled to get exactly that.”
Apartments at The Playfair marry the best of the old and the new, with carefully restored internal features such as large windows, fireplaces, and cornices alongside a contemporary specification ideal for modern city lifestyles. Unique living spaces cleverly use the historic fabric of the building, from studios to split-level mezzanines and breath-taking penthouse apartments. Properties benefit from underground parking, full use of the maintained grounds, and a convenient concierge service.
“I had my first virtual tour in November 2020 and signed the contract in the following May, but due to the pandemic wasn’t able to visit in person until October 2021. I was so excited to get the keys. The City & Country team met me off my flight on a Sunday to show me around, having already helped me furnish it remotely, and gave me a tour of the building where we saw multiple examples of my dad’s work still in situ. I was blown away by everything they did for me.”
The Playfair is located less than five minutes’ walk from Haymarket station, which offers direct trams into the city centre and Edinburgh Airport, which fits Catherine’s lifestyle perfectly. She says: “The location is beyond remarkable – we are five minutes from Haymarket station and I can be door to door to my home in America in eight hours.
“Restoration was my dad’s specialism, and the respectful way City & Country has restored this building is second to none. The Playfair is such an iconic part of the area’s history, and their commitment to honouring the craftsmanship of two centuries ago is truly exceptional. I’ve both a living room & a bedroom with coombed ceilings – I got to sleep at night reading the stonemason’s etchings in the brickwork.
“I feel so privileged to be a part of this, and have a brick in the wall which my dad helped to conserve all those years ago. I look forward to living here full time again one day, but in the meantime I’ll enjoy every inch of the experience of owning a piece of Edinburgh’s history.”
A range of one, two- and three-bedroom apartments and penthouses are currently available to purchase at The Playfair at Donaldson’s, priced from £415,000 to £1,525,000
*prices correct at time of publication June 2022