Hotel review: A room with a view of Edinburgh’s historic delights
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Hannah enjoys personable service, top-notch dining and views of the Scottish capital’s iconic sights during a luxurious break at The Balmoral
“Your suite has wonderful views of the castle”, the receptionist tells me after I’m welcomed into a grand lobby by a kilted doorman.
After months cooped up in the confines of my London flat staring at a laptop screen, the words sound like music to my ears.
My visit to The Balmoral in Edinburgh is my first weekend away since pre-corona times – and to say I’m looking forward to a change of scenery is an understatement.
With its imposing Victorian architecture and clock tower (which runs three minutes fast to help travellers catch their trains), the luxury hotel has been a prominent landmark on the city’s skyline since 1902.
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I’m staying in the Bothwell suite, which enjoys a prime position overlooking the Old and New Towns. The views are breathtaking, stretching all the way from the craggy outcrop of Arthur’s Seat to Edinburgh Castle and across Princess Street Gardens to the gothic Scott Monument. Surely there can’t be many windows that boast such an spectacular checklist of sights.
Mirroring the hotel’s location between past and present, the interiors blend traditional style with contemporary comforts. Lofty ceilings, handcrafted furniture and a working fireplace nod to the property’s historic bones, while the colourful artwork, Espresso machine and smart TVs add a touch of the 21st century.
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All the trappings you’d expect from a five-star hotel are here – king-sized bed, walk-in dressing room and marble bathroom with a generous tub.
But it’s the views that really steal the show. After all, it’s not every day you get to admire one of the world’s most beautiful cityscapes from the comfort of your bed or leather-topped writing desk. There’s even a pair of binoculars for a closer look at the sights, or for people watching along the bustling shopping street below.
With a full dose of culture on display and coronavirus concerns ever present, there’s not much incentive to leave.
The hotel has done an excellent job of taking precautions against Covid-19. Staff wear face masks, rooms are deep cleaned and advance bookings are required for the restaurants and spa. It feels like a perfectly safe sanctuary, but it’s the glorious autumn sunshine that eventually lures me outside for an afternoon wander (and the convenience of Edinburgh’s main attractions within walking distance).
The streets are remarkably crowd-free for a weekend – even tourist hotspots such as the Royal Mile are eerily quiet – but I guess that’s not always a bad thing.
One place that still has a Saturday night buzz is the hotel’s French-Scottish bistro, Brasserie Prince. Though more casual than the Michelin-starred restaurant Number One, the Parisian-style dining room feels like a place to see-and-be-seen.
The rib eye steak is the tour de force, but luckily for me vegetarians are also well catered for. I enjoy a melt-in-your-mouth burrata starter followed by a beautifully presented celeriac tart with truffle leeks and grilled Jerusalem artichokes. The lemon curd beignets sprinkled with vanilla sugar are a fittingly French finish.
Cocktails and wine are served in the restaurant’s adjoining Bar Prince, or if you’re a whiskey fan you can choose from 500 unique malts at the sophisticated SCOTCH bar.
After a peaceful night’s sleep, I feel a wave of excitement pulling back the drapes to see the morning light creeping up the castle’s battlements.
With the chance to gaze out of the window a little longer, I opt to have breakfast in the suite. At £29 per person, it’s not cheap, but with highlights including a vegetarian cooked breakfast, kefir bircher muesli, freshly baked pastries and a fruit boost shoot, it’s an impressive spread.
I spend the rest of the morning exploring the hotel’s sweeping staircases and interesting nooks. Arguably the most visually stunning spot is the Palm Court tearoom, which feels fit for high society with its domed ceiling, hand-painted murals and resident harpist.
The spa and wellness area, accessed by its own lift, is a tranquil haven. To my delight I’m the only one there, and although the sauna and steam rooms are off limits, having the 15-metre lap pool to myself is blissful.
Now back to reality, I’ll treasure the memory of my first post-lockdown weekend away – filled with fantastic food and drink, exceptional service and a suite that takes ‘a room with a view’ to a whole new level.
Deluxe castle view rooms start from £500. For information visit roccofortehotels.com/hotels-and-resorts/the-balmoral-hotel.