Besides the excellent location, beautiful rooms and stunning building, the best thing about The Balmoral is its team of friendly and dedicated staff, who effortlessly give the impression that anything is possible. The hotel was first opened 15 October 1902, but didn't become The Balmoral until 1991. Expect Victorian splendor and classic elegance with a modern twist - the hotel completed a £7 million refurbishment program in March 2004, and the results are still fresh. The Balmoral is home to Edinburgh's only Michelin-starred hotel restaurant, but there are three more eateries to choose from if formal dining's not your cup of tea! Relax in the spa, lunch at Hadrian's Brasserie, or enjoy a champagne tea at the stunning Bollinger Bar. If you have time after all that, pop outside and explore Edinburgh's numerous attractions, which seem to be conveniently clustered right at The Balmoral's doorstep.
The Balmoral is sitting on one of Edinburgh's most desirable addresses, pretty much as central as they come. Perched on the corner of Princes Street (the city's busiest shopping street) and North Bridge (which links the New Town to the Old Town), the hotel is just minutes away from most of Edinburgh's prime attractions. It only takes a couple of minutes to cross the bridge and land on the celebrated Royal Mile at the heart of the Old Town, which leads up to Edinburgh Castle. Standing alone above the station, the almighty Balmoral has views in all directions, really giving you a sense of just how central you are! Transport couldn't be easier to and from the Balmoral. A direct airport shuttle stops just a couple of hundred meters away, and Waverly Station is just next door. Buses to practically anywhere in or out of Edinburgh run along Princes Street, and a new tram line is planned to link the nearby Waverly Station directly to the airport. For those traveling by car, a car valley service is available, although the hotel doesn't have its own car park. Alternatively, a stream of taxis serves the hotel day and night outside the main entrance. If you have any doubts or queries, the hotel's friendly team of concierges will be happy to provide a map and point you in the right direction.
The Balmoral was the founding member of the acclaimed Rocco Forte collection, which now includes a select group of luxury hotels around the world. The building that now accommodates The Balmoral was originally Edinburgh's North British Station Hotel, owned by the North British Railway Company. Although the hotel has moved up in life (balmoral means "majestic dwelling" in Gaelic), it hasn't forgotten its roots, and continues to set its clock tower two minutes early to hurry on belated commuters! While the hotel may well still be popular with train spotters, it has also hosted a more glamorous crowd of very important people including The Queen Mother, who would apparently dine on plain roast lamb for lunch in her suite. But if there's one fact you really should know it's this: JK Rowling not only stayed at the Balmoral, but completed the last part of the world-famous Harry Potter chronicles there. As a result, the hotel now receives a fair amount of wizarding tourism, and the JK Rowling suite (a casual £2,100 per night), has become a veritable pilgrimage amongst fans of Harry and his magic band of brothers...
The Balmoral's distinctive Victorian architecture with its red bricks and high clock tower is a landmark in its own right in Edinburgh. The building's elegant original features are counterbalanced by the fact that the rooms have been renovated to feel fresh and modern. The hotel has 160 rooms of varying levels including 8 suites and 8 easily accessible rooms. The overall feel inside is distinctly five star and classic, and the grand, high-ceilinged entrance hall is a good taster for what's to come! The Balmoral has a spa, which is popular with hotel guests as well as day-trippers. A lift gives direct access to the spa, and guests are encouraged to head to the spa in the large bathrobes provided in the rooms, adding to the home-away-from-home feel of the hotel! The 15-metre swimming pool is open daily 6am-10pm, and numbers are capped to ensure that the pool remains tranquil. Several loungers are tucked between the columns around the pool, providing cosy corners to relax in. Alternatively a refreshment bar overlooks the pool, where you can relax with a coffee and a selection of glossies. The spa has a spacious steam room, sauna, and of course a well-equipped gym for those who can find the energy to stop relaxing and start working out! 5 treatment rooms offer a range of treatments, after which clients are invited to relax in the candle-lit relaxation suite.
With 188 bedrooms, The Balmoral is one of Edinburgh's largest hotels. Being an old building, the rooms come in many shapes and sizes, but all are light, airy and very spacious. The hotel stands alone at the end of Princes Street, meaning there are views over many of Edinburgh's key attractions including Edinburgh Castle, Arthur's Seat and Waverly Station (for train spotters!). While some rooms have large bay windows offering ample light and a relaxing cove to sit and watch the hustle and bustle of the streets below, those higher up have quirky turret areas complete with bronze statues or busts on plinths. The decoration is simple: not overly grand but subtly Scottish, with a mixture of antique and modern furnishings. Natural fabrics and earthy colours chosen by designer Olga Plizzi reflect the surroundings, and handmade glass works by local artist Jo Vincent add a touch of creativity. Suites play up a little more to the traditional Scottish stereotype, with portraits and cosy fireplaces. Many rooms have walk-in closets, or at least ample space to store your clothes, and the marble bathrooms come equipped with large baths with monsoon showers, huge mirrors, and even make up/ hair drying seated areas, making this one a winner with the ladies! Expect to receive a turndown service unless you specifically request not to. Alternatively you can ask for a Rose Petal Turndown or a Whisky Turndown at an extra charge. Rooms are fully equipped with large flat screen TVs, two telephones, a fully-stocked mini-bar, bath robes and slippers, a selection of magazines and complementary bath products and water at turndown. Call room service to request a complementary tea and coffee tray ? which arrives a few minutes later with a generous serving of Scottish shortbread and freshly boiled water. Ironing equipment can also be obtained from room service. In fact, there's not much that isn't obtainable from The Balmoral's friendly and dedicated team. Ask at reception for i-pod docks, hair straighteners, adaptors, or anything else you might need? Children are welcome at The Balmoral, and the hotel offers a number of extras to make sure they stay entertained and enjoy their ?Balmoral Experience?. Wooden cots are provided for babies free of charge, along with toy boxes, bottle warmers and complementary milk at turndown? Children can expect teddies and kid-sized bath robes with a special gift on arrival, and teens can make the most of a Play Station II, a selection of DVDs, books or board games, or a complimentary "mocktail".
The Balmoral has two restaurants and two bars, all four of which have their own distinct character. Both The Number One and Hadrian's have direct street access, making them as popular with locals as with guests. The Number One is Edinburgh's only Michelin-starred hotel restaurant, and the quality of food and service is flawless. Staff will seat you first in the low-lit, ambient waiting area, where you can enjoy an apéro with a pre-amuse bouche (bar nibbles at their best). The bar is cosy and classy, with leather-clad sofas and an art-deco theme. The best thing about Number One is undoubtedly the expertise of its staff, who are not only experts in their own fields (wines, cheeses? even a bread expert!), but are also multi-lingual and exceptionally friendly. Whether you're accustomed to high-dining, or treating yourself for the first time, you will be made to feel welcome and at home. While a formal dress code isn't necessary, aim to look well-turned-out as the restaurant is rather dapper and most of the guests look as if they've just swept in from Monaco. Children are welcome in the restaurant, but it's probably a good idea to avoid bringing those too young to know how to behave. Executive chef Jeff Bland's creations are anything but bland. The food is inventive without being allusive, and dishes are drawn around showing off the best of what Scotland has to offer. With a long history of working closely with local Scottish suppliers, Jeff offers seasonal menus à la carte (dishes from £13), or a tasting menu of 6 courses (£69 without wine pairing). Breakfast at the Balmoral (served in Hadrian's brasserie) is equally impressive, if tinted with a hint of sadness at having to leave. Choose from a continental buffet breakfast (£16.50) or a cooked Scottish breakfast (£20.50). Fresh coffee or tea is served directly at the table. Take your afternoon tea in the stunning art deco style Palm Court, whose renovations last year were sponsored by Tanqueray Gin (hence the large selection of gin now on offer in the beautiful room). Look out for The Balmoral's harpist, who plays from the balcony of Palm Court several times a week. The classic afternoon tea includes a range of sandwiches, cakes, and champagne or gin cocktails! Finally, the stylish Balmoral Bar is the most recent addition to the hotel. The bar is chic and lively, and very popular for mid-week, post-work apéros. The bar sells high-end champagnes, specialist whiskeys and seasonal cocktails as well as the classics!
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