In January we enjoyed a stay at The Balmoral, Edinburgh. The 5 star hotel is one of the best-loved icons of Edinburgh. Our visit coincided with Mr G’s birthday. We toasted his special day (and the dawn of the roaring twenties) with good food and fine wine in the lap of luxury. We were kicking off the twenties as we meant to go on, however 2020 had other ideas.
Four months of lockdown followed and Auld Reekie slumbered. Then, gradually our much-loved icons of Edinburgh began reawakening and the city sprang back to life. Edinburgh Zoo, The Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh Castle, The Balmoral all threw open their doors to welcome visitors again. It was lovely to have them back, along with the many shops, bars, eateries and attractions that make Edinburgh such a vibrant city.
They say you crave what you can’t have. Well, throughout lockdown I craved a cocktail from Bar Prince at The Balmoral. Intent on having one (or two) as soon as possible, I kept a close eye on the hotel’s social media feeds for news of a reopening date. Eventually it came – along with a surprise invite to return to the hotel for dinner, bed and breakfast to celebrate its reawakening.
Icons of Edinburgh – The Balmoral
It’s safe to say we were excited when we pulled up outside The Balmoral for our stay. It was lovely to see the hotel open again. The wooden boards were gone from the windows and doors and the hotel entrance had been decorated with a riot of colourful flowers.
Inside, the floral display continued to wow us. ‘Hello’ by Oasis was playing on a loop in my head. ‘Hello, hello, it’s good to be back.’ Actually, it was GREAT to be back.
Any concerns we might’ve had about staying in a large, city hotel after spending months in lockdown were quickly put to rest. The Balmoral have done everything possible to ensure guests feel safe. There are hand sanitiser stations located in all public areas. Luggage and car keys (if valet parking is used) are sanitised on arrival and rooms are deep cleaned then sealed, between guest visits. Staff all wear masks and maintain a safe social distance from guests. The hotel lifts can only be used by one guest/family group at a time – a perfect excuse to sashay around on the grand staircase like a Hollywood legend of old.
An updated room service menu has also been created, for guests who’d prefer not to dine with others.
What hasn’t changed, is the warm welcome you receive on arrival at The Balmoral and the impeccable, professionalism of each and every member of the team you encounter during your stay.
Our room – The Dunrobin Suite
After catching up with some familiar faces at reception, we were ready check out our room, before heading out for lunch and a wander.
Our room (The Dunrobin Suite) was one of the hotel’s stunning Grand Suites. It had a bedroom, lounge, bathroom and hall with a built-in wardrobe. We had views of Calton Hill and Princes Street from several large windows.
Traditional decor in the bedroom and lounge, complimented the suite’s elegant period features. While sumptuous fabrics and luxury wall coverings, in tweedy tones gave a feeling of understated opulence. A tartan check couch and prints of Scottish landscapes, left you in no doubt that The Balmoral was a proud Scottish establishment.
The boy’s happy face told us he was delighted to be back too. Probably something to do with the comfy bed and Michel Roux dog treats he found waiting in the room for him.
Our bathroom was decorated in white marble, but the design was classic and unfussy, rather than ostentatious. We had a bath tub and separate shower cubicle and a plentiful supply of quality toiletries from Asprey. There were fluffy robes too – great for loafing. My favourite thing about the bathroom, was a nod to another of the great icons of Edinburgh – THE best James Bond.
We’d love to have hung out in the suite all afternoon, but lunch was calling and the boy needed a walk.
Edinburgh is open for business
Lunch – The Rose Street Garden
There are plenty of dog friendly places to eat in and around Edinburgh city centre. Not far from the hotel, we decided to give the Rose Street Garden a try. The outdoor venue sits behind The Dome (famous for their Christmas decorations). Being in Edinburgh, the garden is covered so you can eat and drink al fresco without getting soaked to the bone.
The menu featured street food favourites like loaded fries, tacos, pizza and burgers. Street food nibbles suited us fine – we wanted to save our appetites for dinner at The Balmoral later.
The place was busy with groups of friends, couples and families (all socially distanced from each other) enjoying food, drinks and conversation.
A spot of shopping
After lunch we popped into the Barbour shop to see if we could nab ourselves any bargains in their sale.
Barbour are one of a number of shops in the city centre that welcome dogs. Just as well, considering the boy once modelled for them.
We left clutching a bag containing two blouses for me and a shirt for Mr G. The boy got nothing, as he has an impressive hoard of Barbour Dogs wear at home.
Watching the world go by
Shopping done, we crossed Princes Street, stopping at the foot of The Mound to take in an iconic view of the city – Princes Street Gardens, The Scott Monument and The Balmoral with its instantly recognisable clock tower.
When we reached the top of The Mound, it felt like a good time to stop and watch the world go by. We grabbed a table outside The Whiski Rooms and ordered some drinks.
It was nice to do normal things again. A steady stream of people passed as we enjoyed our wine and beer. The boy took great delight in barking at each passing cyclist. As soon as he spotted one he emerged from under our table to make his feelings known.
A potter in the Old Town
Thirst quenched, we left our people watching pew outside The Whiski Rooms and headed towards the High Street. Passing the statue of another of the icons of Edinburgh – David Hume, I couldn’t help thinking the enlightened Scot would’ve enjoyed some respite from toe rubbing tourists. Greyfriars Bobby and his shiny nose too, no doubt. Hopefully, when the tourists return en masse to post Covid Edinburgh, they’ll think twice about touching (and damaging) our statues.
In normal circumstances, festival season would’ve been underway and the Royal Mile would be thronging with visitors from around the globe. The street was quiet for early August, but there were tourists around – taking in the sights and enjoying food and drinks outdoors. Some street vendors, entertainers and walking tours had returned too.
We wandered into the courtyard of the City Chambers, home to Edinburgh’s answer to the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Set in the pavement are gold handprints of well-known icons of Edinburgh, including JK Rowling, Sir Chris Hoy and Doddie Weir (Scottish rugby legend and all round nice guy). I’ve had the pleasure of watching big Doddie play at Murrayfield many times over the years. He once (completely unexpectedly) lifted me up in a bar and I shot towards the ceiling as if I was taking part in a rugby line out.
It was nice to be out and about in town again, but according to The Balmoral’s clock tower it was cocktail o’clock.
Icons of Edinburgh – back at The Balmoral
Back in our fabby suite at The Balmoral, we perused Bar Princes’s cocktail menu. Ooooh, which one to have? Being a Francophile I chose La Vie en Rose – a mix of Bombay Sapphire Gin, fresh lemon juice, Lanique Rose Spirit Liqueur and Champagne. Mr G flew the flag for Scotland and chose the Golden Scottish – Chase Marmalade Vodka, Grand Marnier, Benedictine and Champagne.
Mr G popped down to the bar to collect our drinks. Hotel slippers and robes on for maximum comfort, we were ready to try them.
We’d chosen well. My cocktail was a subtle mix of sweet and sharp and was worth the lengthy, lockdown wait.
Mr G’s was both mesmerising and delicious. It was a rich golden colour and bubbled in the glass like a magical potion.
Cocktail consumed, I decided to have an indulgent soak in the bath – everyone needs a little me time.
I fell in love with Asprey ‘Purple Water’ bath salts during our last stay at The Balmoral.
Dinner – Brasserie Prince
Later, all suited and booted, we headed downstairs to Brasserie Prince for dinner.
Brasserie Prince are taking part in the UK Government’s ‘Eat out to Help Out’ scheme. The scheme offers diners 50% off food (up to a maximum of £10 per person) when they eat out Monday to Wednesday throughout August. It was set up to give a boost to the hospitality industry after a difficult few months.
The scheme has been hugely popular. Staying at the hotel on a Tuesday night, meant Brasserie Prince had a good buzz to it when we arrived for dinner.
Once seated, we picked a bottle of wine to accompany dinner. Mr G doesn’t like red, white or rose wine. The only type of wine he’ll drink is Champagne, or Cava at a push. That’s his story anyway, and he’s sticking to it.
Wine taken care of, we studied the food menu.
For starter I chose haggis, neeps and tatties. It came served in a ramekin filled was haggis and topped with a creamy layer of neeps and tatties. There were haggis bon bons too – you can never have enough haggis.
Mr G had salt cod and roe brandade, pickled mustard seed and toast. As a fish connoisseur, it met with his approval.
For main, I chose lemon, spinach and pine nut pasta with trombetta courgette pistou. It was lovely. The lemon and pine nut flavours went well together.
Mr G had day boat fish, roasted and served with sauce vert, barbecued hisip cabbage. Like his fishy starter, it was a hit.
We almost opted for a baked chocolate tart for dessert, but wavered and had menton lemon curd beignets instead.
What’s not to love about sugar dusted donuts, filled with lemony cream.
There’s a storm brewing
After dinner we took the boy out for his last walk of the day. The forecast had threatened a thunderstorm all day and walking up North Bridge it didn’t look like it was far away. It was hot house at the botanic gardens humid. Thank goodness we’d be sleeping in an air conditioned suite later. Scots don’t have air con in their homes, because air con is rarely needed in Scotland.
Back inside, we stopped to admire the stunning floral displays in the hotel reception and the elegant Palm Court – still and calm, after the afternoon tea visitors had departed for the day.
A nightcap and dramatic storm
Back in our room, robes and slippers on, it was time for a nightcap.
A Golden Scottish each – two magical potions to toast another magical stay at The Balmoral.
We’d made it back indoors, just in the nick of time. Outside, the sky had turned black and the monuments on Calton Hill had disappeared.
Then came the rain – bouncing off the pavement and looking like it would never stop.
And that was the beginning of a storm that raged over Edinburgh for several hours. It was the most dramatic thunder storm the city has seen in my lifetime (possibly ever). Continuous flashes of lightening illuminated the sky, accompanied by the rumble of thunder.
It was incredible to watch.
The storm raged long after we went to bed – but with a double layer of windows, heavy blackout curtains and the air con cranked up high, we all slept soundly.
A perfect start to the day
We woke to a beautiful blue sky the next day.
Keen to sample room service during this stay, we’d requested breakfast in our suite.
When our breakfast trolley arrived, the boy eyed it with delight – his nose telling him it was laden with goodies.
I started with granola and coconut yoghurt, while Mr G devoured a bowl of porridge.
Coffee, freshly-squeezed orange juice and a selection of pastries followed, then, a mini cooked Scottish for me and smoked salmon and scrambled eggs for Mr G.
A delicious breakfast, in a luxurious suite with a view. What a way to start the day.
The boy went all out to attract our attention while we ate. His balancing act earned him a little piece of salmon and scrap of bacon.
After breakfast, it was time to say goodbye to The Balmoral. It’d been lovely to return for that longed for cocktail. As far as icons of Edinburgh go, The Balmoral holds a special place in our hearts. It definitely won’t be long before we return to experience more Balmoral magic.
Our stay at The Balmoral was on a complimentary dinner, bed and breakfast basis, however all opinions are my own.
Until next time …