Well here we are, at the onset of a new decade. The twenties have arrived and what better way to start the year, than with an overnight stay at The Balmoral Edinburgh. Nothing says hello to the roaring twenties quite like indulging in a little five-star luxury Jay Gatsby style.
A much-loved Edinburgh institution
The Balmoral is a much-loved Edinburgh institution. Since 1902 it’s occupied the prestigious address of No 1 Princes Street. The hotel started life as The North British Station Hotel – a railway hotel located next to the city’s Waverley Station. The building’s elegant clock tower always runs three minutes fast (except on Hogmanay when it brings in the New Year). It may seem a strange custom, but it’s a good way to stop people missing trains.
In 1991 The Balmoral was acquired by Sir Rocco Forte. It became the first property in his luxury hotel chain, Rocco Forte Hotels.
The hotel is where us Edinburgh folk like to celebrate special occasions. Graduations, weddings, Burns Night, Hogmanay – you name it, we’ll have celebrated it at The Balmoral. It’s where I first went to a ball (many moons ago) and wore a cocktail dress. A purple taffeta number with a tulle underskirt – I felt, oh so grown up and sophisticated.
It’s not just the locals who have a soft spot for the hotel, as it’s been attracting visitors from around the world for over a century now. The guest book reads like a who’s who of the rich and famous. Elizabeth Taylor, the Queen Mother, Laurel and Hardy, Paul McCartney, J Lo, Beyonce and Sophia Loren have all visited. It’s where JK Rowling finished writing ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows’ – the final book in her Harry Potter series. Fans of the boy wizard can stay in the room where she wrote – now known as the JK Rowling Suite.
And after all of those famous names, along came The Wee White Dug.
Check in at The Balmoral Edinburgh
As soon as you set foot inside The Balmoral, it’s obvious why it’s recognised as one of the UK’s best hotels. From the grand interior, to the statement blooms in the lobby and the wonderful staff, who can’t do enough for you – it’s like stepping into a palace.
The boy was wowed too – but by a pretty little lady, as much as his opulent surroundings. Lucy, is an adorable Border Terrier with the sweetest wee face. She belongs to The Balmoral’s General Manager Richard Cooke and can often be found welcoming guests in reception.
We’d popped in to drop off our bags before heading out to lunch but discovered our room was free, so had a quick peek first.
The Balmoral Suite – home for the night
We’ve stayed in many beautiful hotel rooms on our travels, but our room at The Balmoral took things to a whole new level. It was stunning. The Balmoral Suite is one of the hotel’s signature suites. There are 20 suites in the 187 room hotel, where bed and breakfast costs from £229 per night. A night in the Balmoral Suite costs upwards of £1,500.
The suite had period feature throughout, including ornate cornicing, high ceilings and large windows with spectacular views of Arthur’s Seat and the Old Town.
The interior design by Olga Polizzi (Sir Rocco Forte’s sister) was traditional and stylish. It showcased the gorgeous colours of the Scottish landscape perfectly.
A fire, tea and coffee making facilities, comfy seating, books, magazines and a smart TV in the lounge, plus fluffy robes and slippers to snuggle in, made the Balmoral Suite the ultimate relaxation space.
The boy had been catered for too. A bed, bowls and treats were waiting in the room for him. He tried out the bed straight away.
It was hard to leave our gorgeous room but hunger had struck. It was also Mr G’s birthday, which called for a toast.
Lunch – The Devil’s Advocate
At check-in we’d been given a list of dog friendly places where we could eat and shop near the hotel – a really nice touch. Our focus was food (and wine), so we decided to pay the Devil’s Advocate in Advocate’s Close a visit.
There were a few other diners in the bar – enough to give the place atmosphere, but not so many that we’d have to shout to be heard.
We ordered a sharing platter with garlic and maple chicken wings, pigs in blankets, fried brie, black haggis and house pickles. And to toast the birthday boy, a glass of champagne.
The platter hit the spot nicely and our drinks slipped down a treat. It had been an excellent recommendation by The Balmoral.
Afternoon cocktails at Bar Prince
After leaving The Devil’s Advocate we pottered around the Old Town for a while, before heading back to the hotel. It seemed silly to be wandering the streets of Edinburgh when we could be enjoying five star luxury. And better still, five star luxury and cocktails.
Dogs aren’t permitted inside The Balmoral’s bars or restaurants, but we were allowed to sit at a table in the foyer of Bar Prince for an afternoon cocktail.
We’d celebrated Mr G’s last birthday at L’Hotel in Paris. Many delicious cocktails were consumed during our three night stay there. I thought they’d be impossible to beat, but oh my goodness – Bar Prince make the best cocktails EVER.
Watching an Edinburgh sunset
It’d been a crisp, clear day and crisp, clear days in Edinburgh often end with a sunset. As luck would have it, the best sunset watching viewpoint in the city was on our doorstep. So, once we’d finished our fab cocktails, we took a wander up Calton Hill.
Straddling the point where Edinburgh’s Old Town and New Town meet, the view of the city skyline from Calton Hill is stunning.
A group of sunset watchers had already gathered when we arrived fifteen minutes before the sun was due to set.
We escaped the crowd and found a people free space behind the Dugald Stewart Monument, where we waited for the magic to happen.
It was a subtle sunset when it arrived, but beautiful nonetheless.
A tour of The Balmoral Edinburgh
Back at the hotel, we were treated to a tour that took in the hotel’s well-equipped gym, pool and spa, the whisky bar where you can choose from over 500 whiskies, and the whimsical Palm Court with its towering palm trees and frescoes depicting Edinburgh scenes. If there’s anywhere more fabulous to have afternoon tea, I’ve yet to discover it.
We were also give a peek inside The Balmoral’s largest suite, the palatial Scone and Crombie Suite. The interior design of the three bedroom suite is exquisite. From the intricate tapestry covering the dining room walls, to the Roman style mosaic in the bathroom and the chic soft furnishings – the suite is an Olga Polizzi work of art.
The highlight of the tour came at the end, when we were taken onto the roof (part of the hotel not open to the public). It was safer than it sounds, as the roof is flat and surrounded by a sturdy stone wall.
It was wonderful to see the hotel’s iconic clock tower up close and watch the hustle and bustle of the city from our quiet vantage point.
Some chill time in the Balmoral Suite
After our tour we headed to our room to relax before dinner. We were chilling in the lounge when there was a knock at the door. It was room service with macarons and handmade whisky fudge for us.
A wee taste (or two) before dinner wouldn’t spoil our appetite.
When it comes to macarons, no one compares to Ladurée. Or, that’s what I thought, but these were every bit as tasty.
The fudge was fantastic too – smooth, creamy and with a nice hint of whisky. It was heaven in bite-sized squares.
Dinner – Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux
If you’re staying at The Balmoral with a four-legged friend, you can dine in your room, or take advantage of the hotel’s dog sitting service. Honestly, they’ve thought of everything to make your stay perfect.
We often eat our evening meal without the boy when we travel, as he’s a persistent and at times noisy beggar.
Free of our hairy-faced child for a couple of hours, we headed downstairs for dinner at Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux.
Brasserie Prince is the less formal of the hotel’s two restaurants. The average cost of dinner there is £44 per person, excluding drinks.
The hotel’s Executive Chef Gary Robinson has over twenty five year’s experience and has cooked for US presidents and royalty alike. He was previously head chef to HRH Prince of Wales. So, when you dine at The Balmoral you can be sure you’ll be feasting like royalty.
Fabulous food and birthday bubbles
The brasserie serves Scottish and French cuisine, with the ingredients predominantly coming from Scotland’s rich natural larder.
Seeing as we were in a beautiful five star hotel and it was Mr G’s birthday, we decided to have champagne with dinner – any excuse.
After studying the menu I chose a couple of my favourite dishes, but much to my surprise the fish loving birthday boy went all experimental.
As far as I’m concerned, there is no finer soup than French onion – I love it. So, my Normandy onion soup starter was always going to be a hit.
Mr G’s starter, sent him into raptures. He raved about it and was delighted he’d tried something new – breaded frogs’ legs with garlic and parsley.
I’ll be honest, delicious or not, I felt squeamish and could barely look at him while he ate them.
On to the main course and I could gaze at my frog eating beloved again. I don’t eat venison, but Mr G’s main course of pan seared loin of venison with kale, chestnut puree, sherry & juniper jus looked delicious. Superb is how he described it.
After my French starter I went all out Scottish with my main – Prince haggis with ‘neeps and tatties’ boulangère gratin and whisky sauce.
I’m glad I ordered it. Not only was it delicious, but it made a theatrical entrance too. It was prepared Burns Supper style next to our table.
For dessert we finished with vanilla mille-feuille with chocolate sauce.
It was a lovely meal and a birthday to remember for Mr G – his best ever apparently.
Relaxing in The Balmoral Suite
Back at our room (and reunited with the boy), we donned robes and slippers to relax in the lounge with a coffee and homemade shortbread.
Before bed, I enjoyed a nice soak in the bath. I couldn’t resist trying the complimentary toiletries by Asprey. Their Purple Water bath salts were luxurious and left me smelling fresh and citrusy.
After my bath I slathered on some night cream by Irene Forte Skincare – delivered by the housekeeping fairies while we were having dinner.
Sleep came easily for Mr G and I that night, in our huge comfy bed. It did for the boy too, in his cosy doggy bed. Although, sleep always comes easily for him.
Breakfast – Brasserie Prince by Alain Roux
All too quickly, our stay at The Balmoral was coming to an end. We had one more meal to enjoy before checking-out.
Brasserie Prince sure knows how to lay on an incredible breakfast spread. We were like children in a sweetie shop, almost overwhelmed with the choices available.
The Continental buffet selection was huge – there were juices, cheeses, meats, breads, fruit, yoghurts, pastries, cereals and honey, fresh from a large honeycomb.
It all looked delicious.
On our tour the day before I’d been told the croissants were to die for. They sure were. I had mine with Scottish raspberry jam from Dumfries and Galloway.
Next, I had a small plate of bread, cheese and salami, followed by bacon, tomato and mushroom.
It was by far the best breakfast I’ve ever had.
After grazing on Continental goodies, Mr G tucked into his favourite eggs royale.
It was the best breakfast he’s ever had too.
A fitting end to a fabulous stay.
The Balmoral Edinburgh – The verdict
The Balmoral may be located at No 1 Princes Street, but despite being on Edinburgh’s main thoroughfare, inside it’s a blissful oasis of calm.
It’s the kind of place you could happily stay for a week without setting foot outside.
We loved every second of our stay at The Balmoral and the fabulous, five star treatment we received there. After twenty four hours of living in luxury, it was hard to return to the ‘real world’.
If you’ve enjoyed this blog and fancy a luxury break in Edinburgh, you can book your Balmoral stay here.
If you enjoyed this blog about The Balmoral, you may also like this one featuring the hotel.
Our dinner, bed and breakfast at The Balmoral Edinburgh were provided on a complimentary basis for the purpose of this blog, however all opinions are entirely my own.
Until next time …