Review: The Balmoral, Edinburgh
We were warmly greeted by every member of staff, while the soothing sound of a harp filled the air
Location: The Balmoral has the prestigious address of 1 Princes Street and is the city’s grande dame, overlooking Edinburgh’s main shopping street. It’s situated where the Old Town stops and the New Town starts, which makes it a great base for exploring the main sights. It can be reached in 20 minutes by car from the airport, and Waverley Station is next door.
First impressions: The hotel’s majestic 190ft-tall clocktower is a prominent landmark on the city’s skyline. The clock is three minutes fast (except on Hogmanay), so travellers don’t miss their trains.
On passing the huge floral display of heathers, thistles and irises in the lobby entrance, we were warmly greeted by every member of staff, while the soothing sound of a harp filled the air, the perfect accompaniment for guests enjoying afternoon tea.
We made our way to The Bothwell Suite in lifts made out of old train carriages – a nod to its heritage – and found stunning views from every window: Arthur’s Seat to the east, and Edinburgh Castle, Scott Monument and Princes Street to the west. The spacious suite had high ceilings and a large living area and was decorated in calming hues of blue and grey and rich tartan upholstery. The large Italian marble bathroom provided the best walk-in shower I’d ever had, as well as a bath and luxury Asprey toiletries for adults and CO Bigelow toiletries for children. The Balmoral is a great choice for families. We stayed with our five-year-old son, who was ecstatic to have his own mini robe and Rocco Forte slippers. He was also super-excited one night when he was given a book about baby owl Bonnie and her adventures around the hotel and Edinburgh Zoo, which we had visited that day. Bonnie is the mascot for the Families R Forte programme, which offers a huge range of extras for babies, kids and teens from high-chairs and bottle warmers for babies to spa treatments, movies and games for the older ones.
The facts: The hotel has 167 rooms and 20 suites. Harry Potter fans will clamour to book the JK Rowling Suite where the author finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and signed a marble bust of Hermes. Fine dining is available at Michelin-starred Number One, while The Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux offers breakfast, lunch and dinner. There is also a spa with a pool, gym, steam room and sauna, plus Bar Prince and Scotch, home to 500 varieties of Scottish whisky.
Explore: Edinburgh Castle is just a 15-minute walk away. Take the scenic route via Princes Street Gardens on the way there, and the main street or George Street for some high-end shopping on the way back. Also don’t miss the National Museum of Scotland, Royal Yacht Britannia and Camera Obscura & World of Illusions, and for unparalleled views of the city, climb to the summit of Arthur’s Seat. The charming narrow alleys and centuries-old buildings of the Old Town, where you will find the bustling Royal Mile, packed with shops, bars and restaurants, are a must-visit too. Gin lovers will not want to miss the Edinburgh Gin Distillery, which offers daily tours.
Wow: The hotel’s Palm Court is something of an Edinburgh institution and is as dazzling as its Venetian chandelier, glass-domed ceiling and hand-painted walls. While away an afternoon soaking in the serene atmosphere among the palm trees and enjoy loose-leaf teas, sandwiches, fresh pastries and scones with clotted cream and homemade Balmoral jam from the award-winning afternoon tea menu.
Book it: One night for two adults and one child in a Castle View Suite in October costs £1,173 per night.