Bespoke Edinburgh
Edinburgh, Scotland


Sunlight pours in through the large windows of the double-height workrooms of the Araminta Campbell studio in Leith, north Edinburgh. Imposing, wooden Victorian-era looms fill the space like giant harps, intricately (and, clearly, painstakingly) laid with mathematical precision, with vibrantly coloured wool – the blues of the Scottish summer-twilight sky and the moss greens of Aberdeenshire’s breathtaking landscapes – soon to be fashioned into a limited-edition collection of weaver Araminta Birse-Stewart’s new signature design. Stacked on shelves are spools of premium British alpaca wool, each naturally dyed colour coming with its own story, and each reel labelled with the name of the animal it comes from. For Araminta, weaving is personal.

Personalisation is also the name of the game when it comes to luxury travel these days and, on this trip to Edinburgh, I call on exceptional travel concierge Scott Dunn Private to help me discover a unique and by-invitation-only side to the city – which is why I’m on my way to meet the celebrated weaver herself, to discuss the design of a sustainable bespoke tartan for Clan Jong.

Araminta uses skills honed from generations of Scottish weavers to design customised tweeds and one-of-a-kind tartans for individuals and brands alike, made by her own hands, those of her team and, where needed, small Scottish mills. She combines meticulous craftsmanship with history and know-how, not just of Scotland’s textile heritage, but also of Scottish engineering – trades that were once of significant national pride, but because of industrialisation can now only be executed by a handful of very skilled people.

This story first appeared in The Spellbinding Scotland Issue, available in print and digital.

This story first appeared in The Spellbinding Scotland Issue, available in print and digital.

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Anyone who knows me will tell you that my go-to colour is black, so Araminta may have her work cut out for her. But she revels in the challenge of getting to know me, trying to read into my personality, backstory and style. Our time together starts with a tour of her studio, giving me insight into the intensive skill involved in her work. Many clients come here for private shopping, so attached is a comfortable showroom where they can touch, feel and interact with each hand-made piece. But the ultimate experience is having something created from scratch.

“Most people come knowing a little about what they want me to capture, usually a life story, milestone event or bit of family history,” says Araminta. “The art comes in the design. Each line of colour must have meaning. There is so much thought put into each step, from the materials we use, to the way we choose to weave it.”

The process of creating my bespoke tartan will take months, starting with a series of consultations and digital designs to produce an outcome that I’ll be happy with. Then, Araminta will prepare the design for weaving, based on the sort of pieces I want – a throw, blanket or scarf – or a kilt perhaps, but maybe that’s just a culturally appropriated step too far. In either case, I’m excited, as much for the outcome as because I’ll get to see Araminta again, in her soon-to-open new studio, along with the beautiful city of Edinburgh itself.

Outside, a dapperly dressed gent is waiting for me. He’s here to escort me to a private lunch on The Royal Yacht Britannia, retired from Her Majesty the Queen’s service in 1997 after serving her since her coronation in 1953. The floating palace is now permanently moored as a museum for general admission, but today, just for me, they’ve closed off the Officers’ Wardroom, where the ship’s top-ranking officers once withdrew to to get merry after long days at sea.

The room’s decorated with the Royal Family’s personal photographs and, after a private tour of the Royal Deck with a drink, I poke my nose into the State Drawing Room, then settle down to a stunningly prepared Scottish meal fit for a queen – Orkney scallops caviar, fillet of Highland beef with Bordelaise sauce, topped off with a platter of Scottish cheeses. In the kitchen, and joining me between courses, is internationally renowned private chef Mark Heirs, who worked with Heston Blumenthal at his three-Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant. Mark regales me with awesome tales of travelling the globe and cooking for an exclusive client base that includes some of the biggest Hollywood stars.

All eyes are on me as I disembark from the Royal Yacht to step into a gunmetal-grey Aston Martin, my favourite classic car, handpicked by the Scott Dunn team. I’m whisked off to Broomhall House, an hour’s drive over the Forth Bridge, to the home of the descendants of King Robert the Bruce, built in the time of the Stuart dynasty. The journey gives me time to recuperate from a food coma, enjoy being in this amazing car and drink in the views.

The Bruce family is synonymous with Scotland, a nearly millennia-old story still so topical among the Scottish today. It was Robert the Bruce who led Scotland during the First War of Scottish Independence in the early 14th century.

Broomhall contains an internationally important collection of fine art and artefacts, including the king’s sword of state. The cabinet of curiosities are brought to life on a specially arranged private tour with a curator and art historian from Sotheby’s, as well as in a short audience with the current Lord Bruce, who welcomed me with great warmth to his family home and its 2,500 acres of land.

With opulence at the front of my mind, I’m driven back to Edinburgh to arrive at Hamilton & Inches – the city’s foremost jewellers – just as they are ushering out the last of their customers for the day, for a personal shopping experience. It’s different from how I remember it: the company has embarked on an incredible transformation, with elegant upgrades throughout its showrooms and workshops, creating a space that celebrates heritage while innovating with contemporary design. I ogle the world’s only collection of 22-carat Scottish gold from Cononish, Scotland’s one gold mine, at Tyndrum, on the edge of The Trossachs National Park. I’m captivated by a cabochon star sapphire ring – like something out of Game of Thrones. I think it’ll go rather well with my black-on-black bespoke tartan.

Uwern’s tailor-made adventure in Edinburgh was arranged by Scott Dunn Private, which offers exclusive experiences and highly curated adventures around the world, to give guests access to extraordinary people and places. Membership for Scott Dunn Private is limited and on application.

Photography by Leo Morgan, Ciara Menzies, Marc Millar, Thibaut Nagorny, Gerardo Jaconelli and courtesy of Araminta Campbell, Broomhall House and Hamilton & Inches