The fascinating history of Edinburgh’s hundred year old hotel

The Balmoral Edinburgh’s history: Why its clock is wrong and where JK Rowling stayed The Balmoral is one of Edinburgh’s oldest hotels

Edinburgh is home to plenty of quirky hotels – from a floating ‘boatel’ barge to a converted shipping container.

In terms of history, though, one of the most interesting hotels of all has to be the Balmoral – the grand building on the busy corner of Princes Street and North Bridge that locals will know well. The passing of time Originally known as the North British Station Hotel (owned by the North British Railway Company) the building opened in 1902.

It was – and still remains – the only residential building erected on the south side of Princes Street. Due to its location right next to Waverley Station, the hotel’s iconic clock was set three minutes fast so that passing travellers wouldn’t miss their trains, and it’s been that way ever since.

The only exception comes on Hogmanay for the city’s New Year celebrations. The exterior of the Balmoral has remained virtually untouched for over a century (Photo: The Balmoral Hotel) In 1988, the North British closed for a major refurbishment and became the Balmoral – a name which means ‘majestic dwelling’ in Gaelic. Following the £23 million redevelopment, the hotel was reopened on 12 June 1991 by Sir Sean Connery, and a plaque to commemorate the occasion can still be seen in the lobby.

Famous faces James Bond isn’t the only well known figure to have visited the Balmoral. Some of the most notable celebrity guests over the years have included Laurel and Hardy, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul and Linda McCartney, Prime Minister Harold Wilson, and the Queen Mother – who liked to dine on plain roast lamb for lunch in the hotel’s restaurant. JK Rowling’s signature can still be seen on a bust in a Balmoral suite (Photo: The Balmoral Hotel) In more recent years, author JK Rowling famously used the hotel as a base when writing her final Harry Potter novels.

Andy Fraser – Assistant Concierge Manager at the Balmoral and a staff member for 15 years – has a tip for any die hard Harry Potter fans. “Stay in Suite 552. JK Rowling completed her last Harry Potter novel (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows) in this room in 2007 and there are a few hidden gems.”

In fact, to mark the completion of the book, Rowling spontaneously signed and dated an antique marble bust in the room. Anyone visiting the suite – which has now been renamed after the author – will be able to see this still on display. The Balmoral Hotel is now an iconic part of Edinburgh’s skyline

An iconic part of the skyline with its many quirks, unusual stories and famous visitors from over the years, working at the Balmoral has been a memorable and rewarding experience for Fraser. One of his favourite facts about the Balmoral is that the hotel actually has its very own tartan, inspired by the natural landscape of Edinburgh.

Officially named ‘The Balmoral Hotel Edinburgh Tartan’, it was unveiled earlier this year after 18 months of work with Kinloch Anderson – tailors and kilt makers to the royal family. With 114 years of history under its belt, the Balmoral is a building full of character, and has become an Edinburgh character in its own right. “It’s unique because it’s not just a hotel – it is also a famous landmark, thanks to its majestic clock tower which plays an important role in the city’s skyline,” says Fraser. (Tourexpi)

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