The Balmoral, 1 Princes Street, Edinburgh launches a glamorous Season of Celebration for the 120th anniversary of this grand hotel.

The Edinburgh city skyline with the Clock Tower of the Balmoral Hotel

The ‘Balmoral Hotel’ is one of the most iconic, luxury hotels in the world – timeless, elegantly sophisticated and, quite literally, majestic.  

In 1895, an open competition to design the new ‘North British Railway Hotel’ was won by W. Hamilton Beattie and A.R. Scott, their Victorian Baronial design linking the old Scottish architecture of the Old Town with the neo-classical style of the New Town. The hotel opened on 15th October 1902 with the prestigious address, Number 1 Princes Street, featuring its landmark clock tower, began the tradition of setting the time three minutes fast so that people would not miss their train at the adjoining station. 

From Royal families and heads of state to media celebrities, lavish weddings, wining and dining and all manner of private and corporate events, gracious hospitality has always been the hallmark of this famous, 5 star world class hotel.

This is a brief look through the timeline of its history and heritage:

July 1919, HRH The Prince of Wales (later Edward VIII and Duke of Windsor) stayed here while in Edinburgh to receive the Freedom of the City. 

Hollywood silent comedy legends Laurel & Hardy were guests in 1932 whilst on a promotional tour, where they were mobbed by cheering crowds at the North British Station and then arriving at the Hotel.

This is captured in a marvellous vintage film from 1932.

Many other stars of film, sports and music too through the decades – Elizabeth Taylor, Paul and Linda McCartney, David Beckham, Tom Hanks, Vanessa Hudgens et al. The Queen Mother was a regular visitor during the 1970s.

In 1983, the Gleneagles Hotel Company acquired the famous hotel and five years later it closed for a major £23 million refurbishment programme, the building wrapped in scaffolding and a giant protective cover. As part of the Balmoral International Hotels, it reopened in February 1991 under the new name, The Balmoral Hotel – a plaque commemorates the major event, officiated by Sir Sean Connery.  For Edinburgh residents, it took quite some time not to refer to the former and much loved ‘N.B.’  The name Balmoral means “majestic dwelling” in Gaelic  – hence the British Royal residence, Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire.

Rocco Forte established a distinctive brand of luxury hotels in 1997, handpicking ‘The Balmoral’ as the first in the international collection, now with 14 properties in Italy, Germany, Brussels, London, and two more properties opening in Milan next year.  ‘Honour the past, embrace the future’ is the motto for 25 years of Rocco Forte Hotels.

Watch this delightful video!

Family doube act: Rocco Forte and his sister Olga Polizzi,Director of Design, Rocco Forte Hotels

In January, 2003, the then Executive Chef, Jeff Bland, was awarded a coveted Michelin Star for culinary excellence in the hotel’s Number One restaurant which is retained to this day.

And in 2007, J.K. Rowling completed the last novel in her phenominally successful Harry Potter series while residing at the hotel – a writer’s retreat – for a few months. Now the J.K. Rowling Suite, room 552, is a truly magical place to stay especially for diehard Potter fans who can see a signed statement by the author on a marble bust of Hermes: “J.K. Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room on 11th Jan 2007″.

The J.K. Rowlng Suite where the author completed her final Harry Potter novel

Inside the Balmoral: Scotland’s Finest Hotel was a four-part Channel 5 TV series screened in 2021, capturing the behind-the-scenes story during a year in the life of the historic Hotel.  

27 September, 2022: Most timely, in this the 120th anniversary year, ‘The Balmoral’ has recently been awarded the special accolade of the 2022-23 AA Hotel of The Year Scotland, at the AA Hospitality Awards in London. 

It is an honour for The Balmoral to receive this award, it reflects the dedication and hard work of the team .. providing our guests with an incredible and unforgettable experience. We have so many exciting plans for the future of the hotel to ensure our guests leave with their expectations exceeded. We are truly humbled to receive such recognition.” Richard Cooke, General Manager, The Balmoral Hotel

So step inside for a tour around – greeted with a warm smile from the smart doormen and concierge team wearing the bespoke Balmoral tartan trousers and kilts, produced by the prestigious family firm, Kinloch Anderson, Tailors and Kiltmakers.

A warm welcome from the Concierges and Doormen in the uniform of the Balmoral Tartan

This grand hotel has 167 rooms and 20 suites, many with prime views of Edinburgh Castle, Arthur’s Seat and the Old Town. The interior décor is personally curated by Olga Polizzi, Director of Design for Rocco Forte hotels.  Juxtaposing Edwardian architectural features with an artistic, contemporary style, the soft, painterly palette evokes the heather-clad hills, lochs and woodland of the wild natural Scottish landscape.  Beautiful bedrooms are draped in velvet, leather and tweeds and marble bathrooms (which may feature vintage photographs of Sean Connery as James Bond) – expect all homely comforts with a lavish feel of luxury and romance. 

The Scone & Crombie Suite, named after Scone Palace, Perthshire and Crombie Castle, Aberdeenshire, is decorated with co-ordinated, custom-made wallpaper, opulent fabrics, furnishings and fine art collection.

The artistically and graciously designed Scone & Crombie Suite

First class personal service and hospitality for leisure and corporate guests can be enjoyed across a wide choice of bars and restaurants; traditional Afternoon tea served in the glamorous Palm Court, sip champagne and cocktails in the smart-casual Prince Bar and at Brasserie Prince (created by Alain Roux and the late Michel Roux), the Parisian theme is authentic French cooking meets Scottish produce. The well-established Michelin-starred restaurant Number One presents fine dining in a warm, romantic setting. 

Take an inspirational journey at SCOTCH to learn a little about the background to the choice of 500 unique varieties of whiskies from across Scotland – the collection is one of the largest in Edinburgh.  The perfect place for a pre dinner drink or leisurely nightcap – one just needs to suggest a flavour, scent, taste or style which you prefer and the knowledgable and passionate whisky Ambassador will climb the ladder to find the perfect dram to suit your palate, or suggest something different, e.g. an 18 year old, Auchentoshan, triple distilled, vanilla and American oak with citrus notes, or a Speyside Benromach rich in peat smoke. 

The charming SCOTCH bar with 500 whiskies

The Spa is a tranquil oasis to embrace Forte Life and take time out for perfect, peaceful relaxation, face and body treatments, as well as keeping fit in the gorgeous swimming pool and the Technogym.   

The Balmoral Spa – an urban oasis of calm

Rocco Forte Kids ensures that children of all ages are most welcome: cots, menus, bedtime milk, teddy turndown, games & a babysitting service are provided, including a magical Balmoral bedtime story of Bonnie the baby owl, who lives high up in the clock tower!. This imaginative, unique programme for families won a Gold Laurel at the Scottish Hotel Awards.

Rocco Forte Kids – bedtime biscuits and stories

The Balmoral is a 5 star City Resort for a relaxing, romantic break, family holiday or business trip in the heart of the city centre. For excellent shopping, Harvey Nichols, Louis Vuitton and other major designer fashion stores are a short stroll away.

Step through the door into the elegant grandeur of the original North British, to experience the leisurely lifestyle creatively and luxuriously re-imagined for the 21st century world traveller.  

A luxury heritage hotel matched by a glamorous, conrtemporary lifestyle

A Season of Celebration has just been launched in October 2022 to commemorate the hotel’s inspirational history and heritage as an iconic city landmark for 120 years. As well as preserving the architectural splendour, the clock is still set three minutes fast to help travellers rushing to catch the train at Waverley Station.

So this Autumn season is the perfect opportunity to plan a visit either for a few days for a cultural break or book a table for drinks or dinner with friends and family. Perhaps you are celebrating your own special occasion.?

The Pastry team has created a special anniversary Afternoon Tea, accompanied by a glass of the finest Champagne in the Art Deco Palm Court, often to the accompaniment of graceful music on the harp.

The elegantly stunning architecture of the Palm Court

Amidst the sumptuous comfort of the Prince Bar, relax over a drink with the sounds of jazz, blues and country music throughout October, with performances by Amy Reader, Hayley McKay and Simon Armitage. The mixologists have created two delicious, limited edition cocktails – the 1902, Balmoral gin stirred with aperol, antica formula and grapefruit bitters and the Forte 25, Bombay Sapphire Premier Cru, orgeat syrup, maraschino liqueur, fresh lemon juice and topped with elderflower water.

The Ambassadors in SCOTCH have created a special birthday cocktail ‘Here’s tae the next 120’,  a potent, sparkling blend of Highland Park whisky, bramble liqueur, meadowsweet cordial and Champagne.

To celebrate the anniversary, the hotel is offering the ‘One Twenty Experience’, where guests will enjoy a memorable two night stay with five star Scottish hospitality which includes all these treats:

  • £120 hotel credit voucher
  • A bottle of house Champagne on arrival
  • Two nights, starting from an Executive View Room
  • Daily breakfast

You may spend the £120 voucher where you wish from Afternoon Tea in the Palm Court, an indulgent afternoon in the Spa, a classy, classic Martini in Bar Prince or a dram at the SCOTCH bar.

To the ‘Balmoral Hotel’ – Happy 120th Birthday. Cheers! Slainte Mhath! Yes, here’s tae the next 120 years.

To make a reservation or to book any of these special experiences, just contact

Or call:  0131 556 2414.

Discover more about The Balmoral’s ‘Season of Celebration:’

Season of Celebration | Rocco Forte Hotels

Competition time:

Win a ‘One Twenty Experience’ as detailed above. The prize is valid Sunday to Thursday from 1st November 2022 to 15th December 2022, subject to availability. T&Cs apply.

To enter, click here:…/


Tags: , , ,

About vivdevlin

I am an international travel writer, specialising in luxury travel, hotels, restaurants, city guides, cruises, islands, train and literary-inspired journeys. I review dance and theatre, Arts Festivals and love the visual arts. I have just experienced an epic voyage, circumnavigating the globe, following in the wake of Captain Cook, Mark Twain and Robert Louis Stevenson.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: