Balmoral Hotel

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The Balmoral Hotel
Balmoral Hotel.jpg
Balmoral Hotel is located in Edinburgh city centre
Balmoral Hotel
Location within Edinburgh city centre
General information
Location1 Princes Street, Edinburgh, Scotland
Coordinates55°57′10.33″N 3°11′22.23″W / 55.9528694°N 3.1895083°W / 55.9528694; -3.1895083
OwnerRocco Forte Hotels
ManagementRocco Forte Hotels
Other information
Number of rooms188
Number of suites20
Number of restaurants2
Number of bars2
ParkingValet parking
The Balmoral
North elevation, seen across Princes Street past the Iron Duke of Wellington in bronze by John Steell

The Balmoral (originally built as the North British Station Hotel) is a luxury five-star property and landmark in Edinburgh, Scotland. It is located in the heart of the city at the east end of Princes Street, the main shopping street beneath the Edinburgh Castle rock, and the southern edge of the New Town.


Resulting from a competition in 1895,[1] the hotel originally opened as the North British Station Hotel on 15 October 1902. The building's architecture is Victorian, influenced by the traditional Scottish baronial style. It was designed by architect William Hamilton Beattie and for most of the twentieth century was known as the North British Hotel or simply the N.B., a traditional railway hotel built for the North British Railway Company adjacent to their newly rebuilt Waverley station. While under railway ownership, the hotel had porters in red jackets who would take passengers and their luggage directly into the hotel via a lift.[2] Ownership passed into the hands of the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1923.

After nationalisation of the railways in 1948, the hotel became part of British Transport Hotels until it was privatised and purchased by The Gleneagles Hotel Company in 1983.[3]

In 1988, the hotel closed for a major refurbishment and the building was purchased in 1990 by Balmoral International Hotels. On 12 June 1991, Edinburgh-born actor Sean Connery officially re-opened the hotel as The Balmoral, Gaelic for 'majestic dwelling', following a £23,000,000 refurbishment. A plaque to commemorate the occasion appears in the hotel lobby beside the lifts. The hotel then became part of the Forte Group forming part of their "Forte Grand" collection of international high-end hotels.

Following a hostile takeover of Forte Group in 1996 by Granada plc, The Balmoral was put up for sale by its new owners and in a twist of irony, became the first hotel purchased by the newly formed Rocco Forte Hotels created by Sir Rocco Forte in 1997, following the takeover of their former business by Granada plc, effectively repurchasing one of Forte Group's hotels.[4]

It's traditional rival has always been The Caledonian Hotel at the west end of Princes Street; this was once the station hotel for the now-demolished Princes Street station of the Caledonian Railway, which was North British Railway's principal rival railway company.

The Balmoral Clock[edit]

Balmoral Clock Tower

Since 1902, the hotel's clock has been set three minutes fast to ensure that the people of Edinburgh wouldn't miss their trains. This is still the case today. The only day that the clock runs on time is on 31 December (Hogmanay) for the city's New Year celebrations.[5] The clock tower, at 190 feet (58 m) high, forms a prominent landmark in Edinburgh's city centre.[6]


Laurel and Hardy (1932)[edit]

In July 1932, American comedy duo Laurel and Hardy visited the North British Station Hotel as part of their visit to Edinburgh. Crowds gathered outside the hotel to catch a glimpse of the famous pair. Their visit was one of the earliest videos of the hotel captured on film.[7]

Michael Palin (1980)[edit]

Michael Palin stayed at the hotel in 1980, as part of his "Confessions of a Trainspotter" journey from London Euston to Kyle of Lochalsh for the BBC show Great Railway Journeys of the World. At this time the hotel was known as the North British.

J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter (2007)[edit]

In February 2007 it was confirmed that author J. K. Rowling finished the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at this hotel. Rowling left a signed statement written on a marble bust of Hermes in her room saying; "JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007".[8] The room has since been renamed the "J.K. Rowling Suite," and the marble bust has been placed in a glass display case to protect it. The suite, priced at nearly £1,000 per night, is a pilgrimage site for Harry Potter fans.[9]

Oprah (2010)[edit]

In October 2010, Oprah Winfrey filmed a one-hour episode of Oprah at The Balmoral. She interviewed J. K. Rowling from room 230, the Scone & Crombie Royal Suite.[10] Oprah asked Rowling: "Is there anything particularly here at this hotel where we are, that you thought would be particularly stimulating to your creative process?", to which Rowling replied:

It turned out to be stimulating. As I was finishing Deathly Hallows there came a day where the window cleaner came, the kids were at home, the dogs were barking and I could not work and this light bulb went on over my head and I thought, I can throw money at this problem. I can now solve this problem. For years and years and years I would just go to a cafe and sit in a different kind of noise and work. I thought I can go to a quiet place so I came to this hotel because it's a beautiful hotel but I didn't intend to stay here but they were so nice to me here and, I think writers can be a little bit superstitious and the first day of writing went well so I kept coming back to this hotel and I ended up finishing the last of the Harry Potter books in this hotel.[11]

Hallam Foe (2007)[edit]

The hotel is the fictional setting for a large portion of the 2007 Scottish film Hallam Foe, where the principal character beds down in the clock tower, and spies on his love interest in Cockburn Street.

Top Gear (2009)[edit]

In May 2009, The Balmoral Bar was the finishing point for the Top Gear 1949 themed race from London King's Cross to Edinburgh Waverley. Jeremy Clarkson travelled on LNER Peppercorn Class A1 60163 Tornado steam train, James May in a Jaguar XK120 and Richard Hammond on a Vincent Black Shadow motorbike. May won the race, with Clarkson coming second.


  1. ^ Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh by Colin McWilliam
  2. ^ "The History of The Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh - Rocco Forte". Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Iconic Balmoral hotel has hosted the great, the good and the glamorous for 110 years". Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  5. ^ Scotland's clock that's (almost) never on time, Mike MacEacheran, BBC 14 September 2018
  6. ^ "Iconic Balmoral hotel has hosted the great, the good and the glamorous for 110 years". Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  7. ^ "LAUREL AND HARDY VISIT EDINBURGH". National Library of Scotland. Retrieved 27 October 2015.
  8. ^ "BOOK 7 completed". The Scotsman. Edinburgh. Archived from the original on 5 February 2007. Retrieved 3 February 2007.
  9. ^ Johnson, Simon (20 July 2008). "Harry Potter fans pay £1,000 a night to stay in hotel room where JK Rowling finished series". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  10. ^ "YouTube". Retrieved 25 February 2018.
  11. ^ "J.K. Rowling on the Oprah Winfrey Show in Edinburgh, ABC: US TV review". Retrieved 27 October 2015.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 55°57′10.33″N 3°11′22.23″W / 55.9528694°N 3.1895083°W / 55.9528694; -3.1895083