For frequent travelers, the name Rocco Forte sounds like music to the ears. And for good reason: the small, fine group offers the finest hotel services. The Balmoral Edinburgh is no exception to the rule. Here you reside in Victorian splendor. Our chief author Frieda Hintze was there – and spent a night in the glamour of days gone by.
There are countless landmarks in Edinburgh. And one of them is without question The Balmoral, perched directly above Waverley Station. The five-star hotel was opened in 1902 as The North British Station Hotel and is a real beauty. The impressive Victorian architecture undoubtedly exudes something somber – but no less sublime. The interior is all the more cozy.
The 187 rooms and suites are magnificently furnished – and clearly bear the signature of Olga Polizzi, the sister of Sir Rocco Forte. Like all hotels of the chain, it was responsible for the interior and design of The Balmoral. Her exquisite and distinctive taste manifests itself in every detail: artful stucco on the ceilings, gigantic (!) Marble bathrooms, fine antiques, sculptural decor, patterned wallpaper, heavy drapes, soft rugs, pillows with embroidered animal motifs.
The ambience is truly royal, but anything but plush or dusty. The suites, in particular, skilfully combine modernity, history and art. Like, for example, the elegant Glamis Suite. But unfortunately it is occupied during our visit. Like almost every other room in the house. The Balmoral is a busy place. It hardly surprises us.
Letting hours pass – at The Balmoral Edinburgh
If the city of Edinburgh weren't so beautiful, you'd want to cozy up with a cup of tea on the soft sofas and let the hours pass by. Or take a few laps in the grandpa's remarkably large pool and then snuggle back in again.
It's hardly surprising that the J. K. Rowling wrote – and completed – her seventh and final installment of the Harry Potter series at the hotel. One suite bears the name of the famous author for good reason.
Rowling, of course, has not been the only celebrity guest at The Balmoral. It was Sir Sean Connery, for example, who reopened the five-star hotel under the Rocco Forte banner in 1997. In his honor, black-and-white photographs of the James Bond actor hang in the hotel's bathrooms.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Sophia Lauren and Liz Taylor again preferred to stay at The Balmoral, while Queen Mum regularly dropped in on Sundays to enjoy roast beef.
Exploring Edinburgh on foot
If you are in the mood for experiences and luxurious adventures, you can book activities directly through the hotel: whether golf experience, gin and scotch tastings or a jeep tour through the rolling landscapes. As a guest at The Balmoral, you experience Edinburgh and Scotland from its most exclusive side.
The venerable address 1 Princess Street gives it away: The location of The Balmoral Edinburgh is wonderfully central, so that you can easily explore the city on foot. To put this in perspective: The National Gallery of Scotland is just around the corner, the Scotts Monument in sight. The Palace of Holyroodhouse, the Queen's official residence in Scotland, is a 10-minute walk away. A truly regal location.
Royal culinary delights at The Balmoral Edinburgh
And speaking of royal. This is also the culinary offer at The Balmoral Edinburgh, as you would expect from a Rocco Forte hotel.
At Number One, we offer Michelin-starred, Scottish cuisine (yes, there is such a thing!). However, chef Mark Donald doesn't want to rely on his Scottish roots alone. The international stops of the entire team are incorporated into the creations, Marketing Communications Executive Austin Shields tells us during a tour of the hotel. For example, Donald himself was previously in Sidney for a long time, and before that in London and Copenhagen.
A bit more casual is the Brasserie Prince by Alain Rouxe. The renowned French Michelin-starred chef created, along with his father Michel, the exceptional dining concept. The Brasserie Prince serves classic French bistro cuisine made from Scottish produce. Regional classics, such as haggis (sheep's stomach and sheep's innards), are also on the menu. It's the best haggis you can taste, the experienced restaurant manager tells us. So while the "Prince Haggis" dish is served, as tradition would have it, with "neeps and tatties" – that is, mashed turnips and potatoes. However, as boulangère gratin, familiar from French cuisine, and on a mirror of fine whisky sauce.
And speaking of whisky: Bar SCOTCH has the largest collection of Scotland's national drink in all of Edinburgh, with more than 500 varieties. The in-house Whisky-Ambassador stands with advice and knowledge to the guests aside. Thereby the most expensive glass costs over 300,00 British pounds.
Especially nice on rainy days – and Scotland has its share of those – is again the award-winning Afternoon Tea in the Palm Court at The Balmoral. Here you take a seat under palm leaves and Venetian chandeliers and, for whatever reason, feel a little transported to the atmosphere of TITANIC. And it's no less stylish here either. Only with the difference that The Balmoral is not doomed to ruin.
On the contrary, after our visit to the fine five-star hotel, we rather wonder how we could ever live any other way. It's with heavy hearts that we leave The Balmoral Edinburgh early on a Saturday morning to catch our plane back to Germany – and swear we'll be back for more. Oh what: Have to!