The Balmoral, Edinburgh – An Honest Review

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The Balmoral Hotel is one of Edinburgh’s most established lodgings dating back to 1902. This historic building stands proudly at number one Princes Street and its clock tower is instantly recognisable in the city’s skyline, but what is it really like to sleep in “Scotland’s finest hotel”? 

This guide shares our personal experience staying in a Deluxe Castle View Room at the 5* Balmoral Hotel, details about the hotel and what to do during your trip. 

The Balmoral Overview

The prestigious Balmoral Hotel is part of the Rocco Forte Hotels Group and according to the official website the name means ‘majestic dwelling’.

The first designs date back to 1895 when competition winners outlined plans for the then North British Station Hotel (The N.B.) which was owned by the North British Railway Company.

Opening on 15 October 1902, The N.B was crowned one of the best railway hotels and the clock was set three minutes fast which is still the case today.

Why?

Well, Waverley Train Station is next door so commuters and travellers using the clock to check the time are given an extra three minutes to get to their platform!

The clock is only set to correct time for the world’s biggest street party on Hogmanay (New Year’s Eve) which takes place at Princes Street, Prince Street Gardens and the Royal Mile.

Find out more about Edinburgh at Christmas here.

Fireworks over Edinburgh City at Night

Over the years, politics altered the running of the hotel while famous guests such as Laurel and Hardy, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, The Queen Mother, Paul and Linda McCartney visited.

In 1988, The Balmoral closed for refurbishment after changing hands in 1983.

It opened again in 1991 and six years later Sir Rocco Forte purchased the hotel.

Edinburgh is blessed with many Harry Potter connections and stories which you can read about in our Potter locations guide.

The Balmoral has its own Potter tale as this is where the author finished the seventh and final book in the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

To celebrate this literary moment, The Balmoral named room 552 the J.K. Rowling Suite.

The suite door is purple and has an owl knocker.

Inside you can see the author’s signature on a bust.

JK Rowling Quote Signature Balmoral Hotel Edinburgh Accommodation Harry Potter

The Area – City Centre 

Aside from the building, history, food, and views, another alluring aspect of staying at The Balmoral is the location.

It’s next door to Waverley Train Station which is handy if arriving by train or airport bus as there is a stop outside the station. 

There’s also a taxi rank in front of the hotel. 

If arriving by car, The Balmoral has a valet service and features in our guide to hotels with parking in Edinburgh.

A recommended viewpoint to see the city skyline is from Calton Hill which is five minutes from The Balmoral.

The hike itself is just five minutes too so it’s an easy walk for rewarding views over the city, Arthur’s Seat and over to The Kingdom of Fife.

This is a great way to get your bearings so consider a visit at the start of your trip.

View of Edinburgh city centre from Calton Hill

Princes Street Gardens is close to The Balmoral as is Rose Street for pubs and George Street for upmarket shops, restaurants and bars.

If you like to shop, you are just across the road from St James Quarter which also has bars, restaurants and food trucks.

The Edinburgh Playhouse is also close by if you fancy booking a show. 

To the back of The Balmoral is the Old Town.

Market Street and Cockburn Street lead up to the famous Royal Mile where many of Edinburgh’s museums and tours are located.  

From here you can walk to the inspiration for Diagon Alley, Victoria Street and the infamous Cowgate and Grassmarket where some of our favourite pubs are

The Check-In Process 

Walking up to The Balmoral you’ll be greeted by the cheery door staff and seasonal floral decor next to the iconic pillars.

The front door is a historic swing door, a rarity in Edinburgh now. 

There’s also a side door for large luggage. 

To the right is the concierge desk where you can ask for tips and left luggage. 

If you visit in winter, you’ll see the towering Balmoral Christmas tree in the foyer!

To the left of the hotel foyer is the check-in desk and French inspired Brassiere Prince, the stylish space where breakfast is served. 

Palm Court, home to The Balmoral afternoon tea, is located at the back of the hotel foyer. 

The Balmoral Hotel Rooms 

The Balmoral has 188 rooms ranging from the Classic to Suites.

The Classic is 19 square metres and features a queen size bed, TV, kettle and courtyard views.

The Executive averages at 25 square metres and includes the Classic amenities. An additional bed can be set up for children..

The Deluxe measures between 27-30 square metres and includes the above features.

The Executive View Room and Old Town View averages at 25 square metres and offers spectacular views of Princes Street and Edinburgh Castle or the Old Town.

The Deluxe Old Town View Room is slightly bigger at 27-30 square metres.

The Deluxe Castle View Room averages at 18-30 square metres and guarantees castle views. 2 additional beds can set up for children. This is the room we stayed in, number 314.

The Junior Suite and Castle View Junior Suite average between 28-47 square metres. Additional beds can be set up for children.

Bathrooms are made with the finest of marble.

Robes and slippers are supplied in every room.

There is an elevator which goes to all floors.

The Balmoral is dog friendly and features in our dog-friendly hotels guide!

The Balmoral Deluxe Castle View Room 314 Review

While some of the traditional accommodation in Scotland can fall down the tartan carpet trap, The Balmoral Deluxe Castle View Room is modern with a tasteful touch of Scottish decor.

The Balmoral Hotel junior suite champagne bucket

Room 314 has lots of light and the windows open up on to views over to Edinburgh Castle, The Mound and Princes Street Gardens – stunning both day and night. 

The room has a long bathroom which features a marble bath with shower, a sink and a make up mirror with three mirrors, ideal for doing your hair.

There’s also a desk with a mirror in front of the room window which provides lots of natural light for doing your make up. 

Bath robes and slippers are provided so if you plan to spend time at the spa, you just need to pop down in your hotel dressing gown and Balmoral baffies. 

There is wardrobe/closet space, a small fridge, armchairs, TV and a huge, comfortable bed. 

Unfortunately, we had a two toddler sized alarm clocks staying above us and while we did ask reception, twice, to politely let the family know that we could hear the mini olympics from 05:45, we know the message wasn’t passed on because we had to awkwardly go up the second morning at 06:30 after 45 minutes of thuds and drum noises. 

If you are looking for a child-free stay, add to your booking that you’d prefer a room away from wee ones. 

Or alternatively consider the adults only House of Gods which has rooms and suites. Here’s our suite review.

The Balmoral Hotel junior suite views mimosa

The Balmoral Bars & Restaurants

The Balmoral has three restaurants; Michelin-starred Number One, the chic Brasserie Prince and The Palm Room for afternoon teas.

The SCOTCH Whisky Room has over 500 whiskies for guests to enjoy neat or as part of a cocktail.

The Balmoral Hotel Palm Court restaurant

Breakfast is served in the Brassier Prince which resembles a French cafe.

The breakfast menu starts with morning baked pastries and bread, coffee and Balmoral tea and fruit juice.

You can then choose from fruits, grains, and Balmoral classics such as the full Scottish, corned beef (below) or eggs Benedict. 

The Balmoral Spa 

The Balmoral Spa is a small, calm space tucked away from the hustle of the hotel’s public spaces.

You will smell it before you see it. Glorious.

Spa services such as massages are also available.

Pre-book your swim and treatments before you arrive to avoid disappointment. 

Final Words

If you are looking for a centrally located 5* hotel in Edinburgh, you can check availability for The Balmoral here.

If you found this guide useful, please share with your friends.

Have you stayed at The Balmoral or would you like to? Leave us a comment below.

Essential Edinburgh Information 

Plan your trip, tips & advice
Where to stay in Edinburgh
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Best time to visit Edinburgh
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How much does a Edinburgh cost?
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