Sir Richard Branson has said "being three-quarters Scottish" motivated him to open his first hotel outside the USA in Edinburgh.

The billionaire entrepreneur was in Scotland’s capital city for the official launch of the new hotel, which has already scooped a design award and features an exclusive rooftop terrace with unobstructed Edinburgh Castle views. 

It opened last year in the India Buildings in the heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town, a Unesco world heritage site.

A second, larger hotel, is due to open in Glasgow shortly on the Broomielaw.

“My roots are Scottish, my grandmother was from Edinburgh, my wife is from Glasgow and technically I'm  about three quarters Scottish," said Sir Richard, who had dressed for the occasion in a bright, tartan suit jacket.


"I’ve been coming up for many, many years. Two of the first record shops I opened were in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

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"My wife used to live in a caretaker's flat on Sauchiehall Street. I think she was about the only resident in those days and spend more of the time playing on the street as a young girl.

"It's going to be very soon that I'll be coming back [for the opening of the Glasgow hotel] and hopefully I'll be able to bring Joan.

"Virgin normally goes where we feel there is need for us and I know the team looked at quite a lot of other hotels.


"There are some great hotels in these cities but we just felt we could create something different."

Sir Richard said it was a “pinch me” moment when he saw the hotel for the first time.

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Ica Studio’s design allows for the three listed buildings to be linked both to each other and to the new build part of the hotel with unexpected views out into both the bustling local streets and closes and towards the grander views of Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town roofscape.

The project included the restoration of the former medieval church to create Greyfriars Hall, which hosted free entertainment for Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations and has been "exquisitely done" said Sir Richard.

"The last time I was here, this was an empty shell and I must admit I did not think the team could do the magic they have done.

"Every single little detail is fantastic.
"From the second you walk in, it's got the warmth, it's still got a touch of Scotland about it. 

"The people who originally built this as a registrar's office many many years ago. If they came alive today, they would be bowled over."

Virgin Hotels CEO, James Bermingham said he wanted the hotel to become part of the community and used by locals as much as tourists.

He said: “We really want to become a community centre, we want to be hyper-local.

"Edinburgh is one of the most important cities in Europe and one of the most important for European travel. International travellers want an authentic experience and feel like they are mixing with locals.

"We want every hotel to reflect the history [of the city] and the culture of its people."


He said the Glasgow hotel will be larger and more in keeping with the city’s “edgier culture” and inspired by the city’s shipbuilding heritage.

"Edinburgh and Glasgow are very proud of their differences," he said.

"It will be very much inspired by the shipbuilding and the river frontage and the edgier cultural vibe."

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Asked whether he believed Edinburgh's new £2 'tourist tax' would damage the city's tourist trade, he said the levy would be included in room prices.

He said: "It's not unusual in most major markets and those resources will go back to Visit Scotland to continue this great destination, not just in Edinburgh but across the country."

Edinburgh City Council has suggested the money raised by the tax will go towards waste collections and improvements in public areas and green spaces in the city.

Sir Richard declined to answer questions about Virgin Orbit, which is seeking  $200,000 of investment to stay afloat.

Ica Studio, which is regarded as one of the world’s leading hotel architecture and design practices won the Architectural Excellence Award at the 2023 Scottish Property Awards, for the Virgin Hotels Edinburgh project.