The Balmoral (which literally translated in Gaelic means ‘majestic dwelling’) I am proud to say is just a stone throw from my humble abode and although I’ve been there on a number of occasions and sampled a variety of their offerings I’ve never had the pleasure to really get to know it (I’m not proud to say!) That is until very recently when Lauren Robertson (PR and Marketing Manager,) of this truly majestic dwelling, kindly introduced me to the real character behind this landmark hotel.
Standing proud for 111 years this building is steeped with charm and even the construction of the now Grade A building has a tale to tell. Back in 1902 a competition was launched to find the best architect in the land, the prize; the prestige of designing one of Scotland’s most well-known and well-loved hotels.
The design is quite deceptive as from the outside the hotel looks much bigger than it actually is. This is because of the hollow centre which lends itself extremely well to natural light and the wide corridors built around the centre facilitate a very easy-living layout.
The Balmoral was the first hotel in the portfolio of the Forte family’s hotel portfolio and as Lauren explains each property is like a family member; nurtured to display its individual character and show off its geographical roots. After visiting The Balmoral it is clear to see that this is very much the case. The interior décor is reflective of the Scottish countryside; with purples like heather, blues of the sky, and greens of rugged grassland all intertwined amongst a complimentary mix of traditional and modern furniture.
It’s not just the décor that has a truly Scottish feel to it but each of the suites are named after Scottish rivers and castles. This can prove quite a challenge for the reservation team who receive many requests from guests asking to stay in the suites that match their surname!
The Italian heritage of the Forte family is added to the mix through the luxurious use of Italian marble throughout all of the bathrooms.
Displaying heritage is something that is of importance to the Forte family, as Lauren explains to me, there are two key considerations taken into account when the Forte family extend their portfolio. The first being location and there is no doubt that they’ve nailed this with The Balmoral Hotel – undoubtedly boasting the best address in Edinburgh; No. 1 Princes St. Secondly, the local elements both in geographical and people terms. These two elements are brought to life in countless ways throughout The Balmoral with the first encounter being the kilted Concierge welcoming guests in cheery ‘Edinburgh-onian’ tones.
It seems like a silly question to ask, given that as you enter the majestic reception area you immediately feel the wow; chandeliers hang elegantly, tall vases are dressed with beautiful fresh flowers and high decorative ceilings create a sense of grandeur. And of course the afternoon Harpist demonstrates why this is the instrument of angels.
However, I asked Lauren what she thinks gives The Balmoral the wow factor and there was no hesitation in her reply; without doubt it’s the combination of the exceptional service and the warm Scottish welcome. She went on to explain that their service standards are benchmarked against the best hotels around the world, not just those in Scotland or the UK. This makes a lot of sense given that a high proportion of the guests are international, well-travelled and accustomed to six or seven star establishments. The warm Scottish welcome she speaks of ensures that the hotel is not pretentious or precious in its demeanour and guests instantly feel at ease.
Although The Balmoral is first and foremost a hotel there is so much more to this majestic dwelling place. Cleverly designed so that the majority of the restaurant and bar facilities are accessible from the street means that The Balmoral experience is conveniently open to non-residents too. The superb selection of bars and eateries attracts a real mix of frequenters; from ladies enjoying a leisurely lunch or afternoon tea in Palm Court to a younger crowd sampling the delights of the cocktail tasting menu in the Balmoral Bar right through to corporate breakfast meetings in Hadrian’s or family celebrations in Michelin star restaurant Number One.
For those with a penchant for a whisky then, Scotch, the latest addition to the establishment is the place for you. With over 400 different Scottish whiskies this is the largest collection of Scottish whisky available to the public. The bar is intimate, cosy and makes for the ideal snug to warm up in over winter. The Whisky Ambassadors, present on most evenings are more than happy to share their extensive knowledge with you over a dram or two!
No luxury hotel would be complete without a Spa and tucked away in the basement lies The Balmoral spa or rather an ‘urban oasis’ as Lauren so eloquently puts it. Complete with a 15 meter pool, massage suites, sauna and fitness centre this city centre retreat provides a convenient get away for those needing a quick revamp yet is equally suited to those wanting to spend a full day being pampered.
To do full justice to the amenities here I really need to dedicate a write up to each as there is just so much to say (watch this space!)
When asked who would be Lauren’s ideal guest her reply was ‘one that left with a big smile on their face’ and in true Balmoral style I left with something I didn’t enter with – that big Balmoral smile!
Did you know?
- The clock on The Balmoral Tower is set 3 minutes fast so train travellers are never late for their train.
- The only day the clock shows the correct time if on New Year’s Eve for the Hogmanay celebrations.
- This time adjusting tradition goes back to when the hotel first opened in 1902 and the original clockwork company still looks after it today (4 generations on!)
- The Balmoral has secret entrances so high profile guests can stay without any unwanted publicity.
- JK Rowling completed her final Harry Potter book in one of the suites (now named the JK Rowling Suite) and wrote a message to that effect on the Roman bust in the room – it wasn’t until a few days later that a cleaner discovered the graffiti! The bust is now showcased as a thank you to the world renowned writer.
- The Balmoral clock tower is the second most photographed landmark in Edinburgh.
- Golden Keys is a world-wide society for concierges (equivalent of a Michelin star in the restaurant world) and The Balmoral holds the highest number of Golden Keys in the city.
- Pictures of the famous Bond film, Dr No, hang throughout the hotel as a nod to the legendary Scottish actor, Sean Connery, who officially opened The Balmoral in the same year he was made Freeman of the City.
Address: 1 Princes St Edinburgh EH2 2EQ
Phone: 0131 556 2414