By Scott McGlashan / Editing by Feraz Ahmed
Edinburgh, Scotland – Standing proud in the heart of Edinburgh, where old town meets new, is the iconic Balmoral hotel by the renowned Rocco Forte group. Its prominent clock tower, which forms part of Edinburgh’s historic skyline, is a well-loved landmark, casting its elegant shadow on the bustling Princes Street below. Opened in 1902, The Balmoral began life as a grand railway hotel with its famous clock set three minutes fast, ensuring residents and guests were never late for their train from nearby Waverly station. Still, to this day, the notorious clock runs early except on the 31st of December for Edinburgh’s world-famous New Year celebrations. Over the past 115 years, the building has undergone numerous changes, including its transformation into the prestigious hotel that it is today, but always maintaining its original splendor.
A traditional Scottish charm is immediately felt from the moment you step towards the entrance as a tartan-clad doorman welcomes you. Guided through the hotel’s revolving doors, you are greeted by an atmosphere of opulence – from the elegant central table adorned with fresh flowers, to the grand fireplace and the impressive marble lobby. It is here where you get to experience the hotel’s renowned customer service; its staff exuding a level of knowledge and professionalism that perfectly reflects the hotel’s stunning surroundings.
The hotel boasts 188 rooms that have been meticulously designed by Olga Polizzi, director of building and design at Rocco Forte Hotels. In 2017, the castle view rooms were refurbished to mark the Rocco Forte Hotels 20th Anniversary, and which the Guild Magazine team had the pleasure of experiencing during our weekend stay. The deluxe castle view rooms are incredibly spacious and include a king-sized bed, sitting area, and all modern amenities. Our room was complemented by a spacious marble bathroom adorned with striking black and white photography of Scottish actor Sir Sean Connery, who officially reopened the hotel in 1991. The color palette of the room reflects the rich earthy tones of the Scottish landscape, and it is this clever use of color that provides a calm and soothing refuge from the bustle of the city outside. Undoubtedly, a highlight offered by this room is the fantastic city views of the iconic Edinburgh Castle and the Victorian Gothic splendor of The Scott Monument in Princes Street Gardens.
The Balmoral houses a few of Scotland’s most luxurious suites, the grandest being The Scone and Crombie suite, named after the iconic Scone Palace in Perthshire. This suite is the epitome of luxury, boasting an impressive 198 square meters and respectively designed to accentuate the hotel’s original features. The high ceilings of the suite provide a palatial feel, and its space is decorated with intricate cornices, carefully selected furniture, and a color scheme that creates a calming and serene space. The floor-to-ceiling windows bathe the suite in natural light and allow the guest to take in the awe-inspiring view of Edinburgh’s Old Town, while the master bedroom provides a perfect balance between modern and traditional luxury. A design highlight is the exquisite dining area, adorned with a bespoke tapestry paper that was custom made for the hotel. Not only does this create a unique and significant statement feature, but it also provides a nod to both the city’s royal connections and the grandeur of the suite.
As part of Rocco Forte Hotels’ new suite experience, The Balmoral launched its exclusive cashmere butler service in partnership with the renowned brand, Hawico Scotland. This leading cashmere manufacturer, based in the town of Hawick, supplies the world with a quality range of products such as tartan, tweed, and of course, their well-known cashmere. Derek Umpherston, store manager at Hawico’s flagship store in Edinburgh, has taken on the prestigious role as the hotel’s dedicated cashmere butler. With an abundance of luxurious accessories to choose from, including wraps, hats, and gloves, guests can have the finest cashmere delivered directly to their room or choose to enjoy a private shopping experience with the cashmere butler himself. Derek has considerately produced a bespoke cashmere’ paint box,’ showcasing 25 shades from the seasons, and which allows guests to see and feel the cashmere that is used in the manufacturing process of their products in the scenic Scottish Borders.
The Scottish Borders is not only renowned for its cashmere but also the manufacturing of traditional textiles, including tartan and tweed, used by leading fashion houses all over the world. Guests who want to learn more about this process can book the exclusive Balmoral’s Tartan and Cashmere Trail. This full-day, chauffeur-driven tour takes you from the hotel to the picturesque Scottish Borders. Here you can visit Scotland’s most prestigious cashmere and tartan mills, including Johnstons of Elgin Weavers by Royal Appointment to HRH Prince Charles. The tour allows guests to spend the day meeting highly skilled craftspeople, all led by the knowledgeable textile guide, Kitty MacKenzie. This highly informative and unique experience not only provides a glimpse of this intricate industry but also allows guests to immerse themselves in another part of this beautiful country.
From the moment they walk through its doors to the time of departure, The Balmoral showers its guests with a truly enriching experience that is often lost in today’s busy world. Its impressive façade and interior may exude an extravagant vibe, but the hotel also contains a nurturing charm that envelops you as soon as you arrive. Its knowledgeable and eloquent staff, its calming design, and its abundance of bespoke touches, all combine to create a wonderful and unique stay. The Balmoral continues to be a genuine treasure in the heart of Edinburgh. A renowned hotel and landmark that has truly stood the test of time. – GM