Angela Beitz checks into Edinburgh’s most famous hotel, The Balmoral to discover old world charm in the heart of the city…
The grand Balmoral Hotel is a prominent landmark in Edinburgh located right in the heart of the city on Princes St. The impressive hotel offers some of the best accommodation in Edinburgh, including suites with 18th century decor and breathtaking views over the city. The iconic hotel opened in 1902 and has since been renovated and updated to blend old school glamour with modern amenities. Original features include ornate plasterwork in the reception, an elegant well staircase and the dome-ceilinged Palm Court tearoom and bar in the centre of the hotel. Most rooms have views towards Edinburgh Castle and the Old Town making it the perfect hotel to see the sights without having to leave the comfort of your room.
The Balmoral was originally built as a railway hotel and its clock tower, which dominates the Edinburgh skyline, runs three minutes fast so that you never miss your train which we think is a lovely touch. Over the years it’s accommodated movie stars, royalty and prime ministers and houses the suite where JK Rowling finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
The hotel’s burly doormen are decked out in traditional kilts and will warmly welcome you into the hotel. The lobby has an original fire place and is filled with fresh blooms and deer wallhangings representing the Scottish countryside. The whole hotel feels quintessentially Scottish and has a lovely feel about it. The Balmoral boasts 188 rooms of which 20 are suites. The most expensive rooms overlook Princes Street, the Castle and Arthur’s Seat. Inside-facing rooms have views onto the inner courtyard. Earthy coloured tones of cream, brown, purple and green mimic Scottish landscapes and heathers.
We are booked into a Junior Suite with a castle view and it’s simply breath-taking. The large windows showcase what we think is the best view in the city. The room is spacious with a lounge, huge TV and sophisticated décor. The spacious bathrooms are really something special with heated towel racks and stunning white and black marble throughout. Some of the bathrooms have large black and white iconic pictures of Sean Connery.
The property also boasts a large number of excellent dining options. Number One, the hotel’s Michelin-starred eatery, is one of Edinburgh’s top restaurants and focuses on local Scottish ingredients. The restaurant is located in an intimate space in the hotel’s basement, with red-lacquered walls, velvet banquettes and well-spaced tables. In 1930s Art Deco style, Hadrian’s brasserie (also used for breakfast) serves traditional Scottish dishes and exudes an old school bistro feel. We enjoyed a tremendous breakfast at Hadrian’s including everything from a full Scottish breakfast to more light and super healthy options.
The jewel in the crown of this hotel though is the Palm Court. It has a Champagne bar and serves a fabulous afternoon tea which is an absolute must-do whether you are staying at the hotel or simply just visiting Edinburgh. The space is painfully chic and feels like you’ve stepped back in time. The hotel has been awarded ‘The Tea Guild special Award of Excellence 2013’ in recognition of its outstanding quality and consistently high standards in Afternoon Tea service and it’s easy to see why.
Afternoon tea comes as a decadent portion of yummy selection of sandwiches with different fillings including egg, ham and mustard, salmon and cream cheese and cucumber with traditional fresh scones with jam and clotted cream. There are also lots of sweet treats such as berry tartlets and lemon meringue pie on the top tier of the cake stand. Wash this all down with a strong black Balmoral tea or a glass of champagne and you’ve pretty much got the perfect afternoon tea. The service is excellent and doesn’t feel stiff or snobby which was a nice surprise.
Another must do while at the Balmoral is to visit the spa. This is a Rocce Forte hotel after all and their spa and spa products are second to none. The spa offers five treatment rooms, a 15 metre swimming pool, sauna, steam room, gymnasium and exercise studio. The spa offers a wide choice of treatments to impress even the fussiest spa goer including massages, facials, manicures and pedicures and detoxifying body wraps. If you’re not sure which to choose, the helpful spa attendants will guide you through the options to provide the best recommendation based on your needs. We indulged in a Spiezia Deep and Meaningful massage which uses firm and deep pressure to help boost circulation and to help alleviate muscular tension by stretching and lengthening the muscles and soothing tendons and ligaments. We felt utterly soothed and deeply relaxed after this beautiful massage.
You won’t find a hotel more iconic or steeped in tradition in Edinburgh and we highly recommend a stay or a visit.
The Balmoral Hotel, 1 Princes St, Edinburgh +44 131 556 2414