10 Facts About The Balmoral Hotel In Edinburgh

One of the most amazing attractions in the capital of Scotland is a luxury hotel.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at some fun and interesting facts about the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh!

1. It’s located on one of the most famous streets in the city

The Balmoral Hotel is an astonishing landmark situated at the east end of one of the most famous streets in Edinburgh called Princes Street. This street has a length of about 1.2 kilometers (0.75 miles) and is the southernmost street of the city’s New Town.

The south side of the street is mostly bounded by the Princes Street Gardens, two major public parks in the center of Edinburgh so few buildings can be found here. Edinburgh Castle is situated on Castle Rock just south of these parks.

It’s the most popular shopping street in the city and is also home to one of the most iconic structures in the city, the Scott Monument, built in honor of author and historian Sir Walter Scott.

Balmoral hotel clocktower princes street
The hotel’s clocktower and view of Princes Street from Calton Hill / Wiki Commons

2. The hotel is flanked by the most famous staircase in Edinburgh

The hotel is flanked to the east by the North Bridge which provides access to the Waverley Station, the second-busiest railway station in Scotland after Glasgow Central.

To the west side of the hotel, there’s pedestrian access to the railway station referred to as the “Waverley Steps,” an iconic staircase that flanks the hotel as well.

These steps were part of the construction project of the hotel and opened at the same time in the early 20th century so these steps and the hotel are infinitely connected with each other.

Waverley steps
Waverley Steps / David Dixon / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

3. It was opened in the early 20th century with a different name

Even though the building has been transformed into a luxurious hotel today, it originally started out as a regular railway hotel that was constructed by the North British Railway Company, a company that also commissioned the construction of the Forth Bridge in the late 19th century.

The purpose was to serve as an addition to the newly rebuilt Waverley Station so it was named the North British Station Hotel the moment it opened its doors on October 15, 1902.

Balmoral hotel edinburgh facts
The hotel on top of the railway station / Ad Meskens / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

4. A rival hotel opened just a year later not too far away

One of the most remarkable facts about the Balmoral Hotel is that it had some healthy competition on the other end of Princes Street. The other railway company in town called the Caledonian Railway had the same plans and opened a similar hotel to adjoin the Princes Street station.

This station ended up being demolished but the hotel still exists on the west end of Princess Street and has been classified as a category A listed building. Better yet, it still operates successfully and was taken over by the Waldorf Astoria Group.

After a £24 million renovation in 2011 it was renamed as the “Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian.”

Caleidonian hotel
Caleidonian Hotel / Enric / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

5. The building was designed by a renowned local architect

The railway company launched an architectural competition in the year 1895 in order to find a design for their new hotel. The winning design was submitted by a local architect named William Hamilton Beattie (1842-1898).

Some of his most famous works in Edinburgh are the Jenner’s Department Store on Princes Street and the Carlton Hotel just south of the Balmoral, now called the Edinburgh Hilton.

His design features the typical Victorian architectural style of the late 19th century with influences of the Scottish Baronial style which in turn was part of the Gothic Revival movement.

Jenners Princes Street
Jenner’s on Princes Street / Stephencdickson / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en

6. It had multiple owners during the 20th century

Visitors of the hotel were welcomed by porters wearing red jackets who instantly brought them and their luggage to the hotel via an elevator. The hotel was also initially referred to as the “North British Hotel” or the “N.B.

It was only operated by the North British Railway Company for a couple of decades, though, because ownership was transferred to the London & North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1923.

By 1948, the railways nationalized and the hotel ended up becoming part of the British Transport Hotels. It was eventually sold to the Gleneagles Hotel Company in 1983 who saw a great investment opportunity in it.

Balmoral Hotel Waverley Station
View from inside Waverley Station / John Lucas / http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

7. The hotel was completely renovated in the 1980s

In order to cash out on their investment, the hotel had to be completely renovated, something that happened in 1988. Just 2 years later, the hotel was bought by the Balmoral International Hotels group.

This means that it’s only since the early 1990s that the hotel has had its current name. “The Balmoral” is a Gaelic word that translates to “majestic dwelling,” not a bad name for such a fascinating building!

Balmoral Hotel fun facts
View of the hotel / Uggboy / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en

8. The hotel was officially reopened by a famous actor in the early 1990s

The renovations in the late 1980s weren’t enough yet to reopen it as a luxury hotel, though, so the Balmoral Group invested another £23,000,000 to turn this amazing structure into a world-class hotel.

This eventually happened and the hotel was officially re-opened on June 12, 1991, by one of the most famous Scottish actors in history, Edinburgh-born Sir Sean Connery. A plaque to commemorate this event still hangs in the hotel’s lobby today.

Balmoral Hotel at night
The hotel at night / Neil Aitkenhead / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

9. There’s something special about the hotel’s clock

One of the most amazing features of the hotel’s exterior is the amazing clock tower. This tower stands 58 meters tall (190 feet) and overlooks the city majestically.

What’s remarkable about this clock tower is that the time on this clock is set 3 minutes fast since 1902. This has been done on purpose to ensure that nobody would ever miss their train! Or at least, that’s the idea.

A decision was made to keep the clock running at 3 minutes fast on December 21, 2020, with the excuse that nobody wants to lose 3 minutes of the year by resetting the clock.

Balmoral hotel clock tower
The clocktower towers above other buildings in Edinburgh / Pixabay

10. A famous fantasy novels was written in the hotel

The hotel has seen a serious increase in popularity ever since 2007 and has literally become a pilgrimage for Harry Potter fans ever since.

The reason is the confirmed story that J. K. Rowling finished the final episode of the 7-part Harry Potter Series called “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows” in this hotel!

This happened on January 11, 2007, in room 552 of the hotel. This room has now been renamed as the “J.K. Rowling Suite” and features a marble bust of Hermes on which she wrote, “JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in this room (552) on 11th Jan 2007.”

Want to stay a night in this fascinating suite? Then you’ll need to pay £1,000 a night, something that Harry Potter fans are more than willing to do!

Balmoral Hotel edinburgh interesting facts
The amazing landmark / Mike McBey / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/