From the countryside colours of the suites to the ingredients showcased in the 4 AA Rosette restaurant and next-level experiences that champion local businesses, The Balmoral has a sublime sense of place.
While many hotels have landmarks on their doorstep, few can claim to be one. Step forward The Balmoral, an Edinburgh icon with a distinct 190ft clock tower that has been an integral part of the city skyline since 1902.
The neo-Renaissance building began life as a grand railway hotel – the clock was set, and remains, three minutes fast so locals don’t miss their trains – and, over the years, everyone from the late Elizabeth Taylor to The Queen Mother has paid a visit. In 1997, it was bought by Sir Rocco Forte as the first hotel in his collection; now Rocco Forte Hotels, which he established with his sister, interior designer Olga Polizzi, has 13 properties around the world, all occupying magnificent buildings in exceptional locations.
Envisioned by Polizzi, the 187 contemporary rooms and opulent suites at The Balmoral are a love letter to the Scottish landscape with a colour palette of Hebridean blues, heather hues and greys reminiscent of the country’s woodlands, hills and lochs.
Italian marble bathrooms (with skincare products by Irene Forte), classic artworks and sumptuous tartans complete the look. Stand-out suites include those with a view out to the city’s rugged castle, which sits on the 700-million-year-old extinct volcano, Castle Rock.
Equally noteworthy is the 4 AA Rosette Number One restaurant, renowned as much for excellent service as its modern Scottish cuisine. Chef Mathew Sherry (previously at Northcote in Lancashire) serves up a seven-course set menu that champions Scottish fare – perhaps including North Sea squid with lemon, alliums and sea herbs say, or Hoetoun Estate roe deer, spring cabbage and kohlrabi.
There’s also the chic yet relaxed all-day Brasserie Prince. Here, French cooking techniques are used to celebrate seasonal ingredients through deliciously comforting dishes such as French onion soup, steak frites and the Balmoral fish pie. Afternoon Tea is served in the heart of the hotel at Palm Court while whisky bar SCOTCH has a selection of over 500 single malts and blends.
The Balmoral – which celebrated its 120th anniversary last year – nods to its Scottish heritage through the unique experiences on offer too. These include the chance to join the elite Scotch Club, which provides its members access to premium expressions from The Macallan distillery, and a sensory journey with a Scent Butler for those staying in the Bowes Lyon signature suite.
The private scent masterclass is run by founder and owner of Kingdom Scotland fragrance house, Imogen Russon-Taylor, in the restful suite, which has rhododendron print wallpaper, green velvet furnishings and porthole-style windows overlooking bustling Princes Street.
The drama of the Scottish landscape influenced Russon-Taylor’s fragrance collection and guests can learn about the stories behind each expertly crafted scent while sipping The Balmoral’s exclusive Scottish gin, ‘Baile Mhoireil’, with subtle herb and citrus notes, created in partnership with the Secret Garden Distillery. Afterwards, participants are given a scent to take away – a brilliant memento that captures the essence of The Balmoral, and Scotland, in a bottle.
To win a one-night stay for two in a signature suite at The Balmoral, including breakfast and a Scent Butler experience for two, visit roccofortehotels.com/country-life-balmoral-competition