Text & photos by Capucine Plume
A weekend in Edinburgh at The Balmoral Hotel
In the New Town district, The Balmoral is the ideal hotel to spend a weekend exploring the Scottish capital. The 5-star Balmoral, the flagship of Scottish hospitality, is situated on a hilltop opposite Edinburgh Castle and offers 187 comfortable, British-style rooms and suites. Located just above the train station and the railways, the large round clock has been striking the time 3 minutes early for 117 years.
The Balmoral, imposing and majestic, dominates the city. Designed in a pure Georgian style, the building is one of the most beautiful and iconic in Edinburgh. The former grand railway hotel, North British Hotel, opened in 1902, renamed The Balmoral in 1991, was taken over in 1997 by Sir Rocco Forte, to become the first of the Rocco Forte Hotels group’s collection.
Pure Scottish tradition, luxurious comfort and modern style of the rooms could sum up this five-star hotel, located in the most commercial street of the city, at the end of the North Bridge.
From the front steps, the charm of the hotel is apparent from the moment you arrive. From the Queen Mother who came for her afternoon tea to the actor Sean Connery, to JK Rowling who finished writing the last part of the Harry Potter saga, the Grand Hotel is a must for any visitor to the city of Edinburgh. In over a century, this establishment has become one of the capital’s iconic and unmissable places and is rich in the history created by its prestigious guests. Still today, in communion with the times, it preserves this knowledge to live so typical of the country as a guarantor of the Scottish culture.
The hotel’s restaurants
The choice of restaurants and proposals of the hotel is very large and encourages travelers to try during the time of a weekend the breakfast, lunch, teatime and dinner from the comfort of the hotel. Room service at breakfast to start the weekend with porridge, Scottish smoked salmon, blinis and tea in the room, facing the plunging and dominant view of the city, which can be discovered on the railway side.
Lunch in the new Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux
Opened last year, the brasserie reveals a wooded decor, flowered walls, a library just like at home, a comfortable and soothing atmosphere. Sitting comfortably in leather armchairs, one discovers at the table the best of Scottish products cooked in French sauce. A cuisine with a dual nationality, like its French-British chef Alain Roux, son of Michel Roux and nephew of Albert Roux, both of whom are at the initiative of modern British gastronomy.
Before or after dinner, the brasserie’s bar offers an aperitif by the fire, near the reading room or on its white marble counter to sip homemade cocktails.
Afternoon tea at the Palm Court
The traditional afternoon tea, appreciated and made fashionable by the crown, can be enjoyed in the large winter lounges of the Palm Court, in the heart of the hotel, under a beautiful glass dome and its Venetian chandelier. The maître d’hôtel serves tea in silver teapots, after pouring hot water into the teapot in front of you in a graceful gesture to aerate the tea. A ceremony not to be missed! Teatime is accompanied by a glass of champagne, sandwiches and homemade scones, which must be spread with jam. Time stands still for a perfect Scottish afternoon tea.
Dinner at The Number One, the hotel’s starred restaurant, is a gourmet invitation to the capital. Since this spring, the Scottish chef Mark Donald at the helm of the restaurant offers a new version of Scottish gastronomy. His new menu blends local cuisine with international influences, such as oysters with smoked kipper (fish), scallops with Iberian pork or Highland Wagyu beef. With a team of thirteen chefs, he promotes the best of Scottish produce and works with local producers. The Number One is ranked as one of the top ten restaurants in the UK.
After dinner, the Scotch Bar offers over five hundred single malt whiskies in honour of the national drink, in an intimate club-like atmosphere. Liquid gold preciously guarded by Cameron, the best possible ambassador, who, dressed in a kilt, makes you sample either an Auchentoshan American Oak or a Glenrothes Makers or even a Kilchoman 100% Islay… for those who are connaisseurs….
Since its takeover in 1997, the Rocco Forte Hotels group has been carrying out renovation throughout the hotel, led by Olga Polizzi, Sir Rocco Forte’s sister. Using millions of pounds the group is maintaining, modernising, embellishing and personalising this flagship of the Scottish and international hotel industry. The rooms on floors 5 and 6 in particular, renovated and modernised, feature marble bathrooms and life-size photos of Scottish actor Sean Connery. The Scone & Crombie Suites, the Old Town View Rooms, the Presidential Suite, the Princes Street Rooms and the Royal Suite, the Glamis Suite are the latest renovations completed in 2018 and 2019.
Today, the 167 rooms and 20 suites all have the same style, chic, comfortable, in shades of blue, grey and beige in harmony with the colours of the surrounding landscape, decorated with flowery wallpaper, antique furniture, most of them overlooking the Old Town, Edinburgh Castle or Arthur’s Seat Hill in Holyrood Park … Simple luxury without ostentation is everywhere in the rooms and in the hotel in general.
The JK Rowling suite dedicated to the author of Harry Potter is waiting for you and your children. Scone & Crombie’s chic 120 m2 suite offers not only a cashmere gift on arrival, but also the services of a specialist butler who will guide you on a private shopping trip in the Hawico Scotland boutique. All you need to dress up for the winter.
The special offers:
Throughout the year, the hotel offers seasonal offers to discover the city. The “A Great British Journey” offer offers a combined trip with Brown’s in London, the second property of the Rocco Forte Hotels group in the United Kingdom, located in Mayfair. Included in the offer are two consecutive nights in each of the hotels, breakfasts, train tickets from London to Edinburgh, experiences in each of the cities organized by the respective concierge of the two hotels. Accompanied by a Bentley Mulsanne in London, welcomed by the concierge of the hotel, on the train platform in Edinburgh, is to experience Scottish charm and London chic in one trip.
The “Discover Edinburgh with The Balmoral” offer includes a two-night stay, breakfast, the possibility to discover the city on foot with a guide, a tasting of the Scotch Bar’s single malts chosen by the hotel’s whisky ambassador from among the five hundred references, or a visit to Edinburgh Castle, the apartments of the Queen who usually stays at Holyrood Palace, her main residence during her visits to Scotland. You have to ask for Andrew, one of the guides at Holyrood Palace, who is dressed in tartan and proudly wears his hat and knows the history and secrets of this castle like the back of his hand. He will tell you about the life of Mary Stuart, the customs of the country such as the order of the thistle which is the most prestigious decoration in Scotland, the thistle being the emblem of Scotland.
Address recommended by the Balmoral concierge
Visit the Hamilton & Inches manufacturing facility, located just above the boutique at 87 George Street. By Royal Appointment, the brand that is a supplier to the Crown, has been making jewellery, watches, chandeliers, trophies and other silver and copper objects since 1866 in an almost family atmosphere. In its workshops we can observe thirteen craftsmen faithful to the house, such as Rully, a master engraver who has been working there for twenty years, or David who has been hammering and chiselling silver for twelve years, or Anita, the only woman craftswoman in the workshop, of Hungarian origin, who creates jewellery and works with gold, such as the Lily II collection. Another vision of Edinburgh and its riches.