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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Hotel Insider: The Balmoral, Edinburgh

This historic grande dame in the Scottish capital has a brilliant structure and unbeatable location, but disappoints on service

The Balmoral Hotel is located at the end of Princes Street. Courtesy The Balmoral Hotel
The Balmoral Hotel is located at the end of Princes Street. Courtesy The Balmoral Hotel

The welcome

The hotel’s grand, hulking facade, dating from 1902 and complete with an enormous clock tower, is impressive enough, but there is also a team of kilt-clad doormen, one of whom seems to be at least seven feet tall, who help us in with our bags. The lobby is lofty, though somewhat muted with a striped carpet and neutral wall colourings.

The neighbourhood

The hotel is brilliantly situated at the end of Princes Street, next to and above Waverley train station. Edinburgh Old Town, New Town and the main shopping areas are all very close. Arthur’s Seat is also within walking distance.

The scene

A mix of business and leisure guests; in the mornings, business people can be seen having informal meetings in Palm Court, a gorgeous drawing room behind the lobby; later in the day, it is popular for afternoon tea. Tourists tend to be from elsewhere in the UK, Europe and North America. The recently refurbished Number One restaurant is slick, with red lacquered walls and an exclusive, snug feel to it.

The room

My room, No 420, was a junior suite with a fabulous view of Edinburgh Castle and Princes Street, and it was set back far enough from Princes Street to be quiet. From one of the windows, I could also see Arthur’s Seat. The historic rooms have high ceilings, but the green-and-white-checked curtains and headboard, and brown carpet were strangely ordinary. There was a small three-piece-suite and glass coffee table. The bed and bedding were comfortable and it was nice to be able to open the windows; the marble bathroom was also attractive and had underfloor heating.

An executive room. Courtesy The Balmoral Hotel
An executive room. Courtesy The Balmoral Hotel

The service

Rather complacent. After being asked what newspaper I wanted, this was not delivered; it was also difficult to attract the attention of staff at breakfast. When my room was cleaned, my bikini, which was drying on the towel rail, was swept up with the towels and I had to nag housekeeping to return it. Some train tickets that I had left in an envelope on the table were also discarded by housekeeping. Reception failed to confirm whether or not my airport transfer had been booked, even the night before departure. In contrast and as you would expect, service in the hotel’s signature restaurant, Number One, one of Edinburgh’s four one-Michelin-star restaurants, is faultless.

The food

The breakfast buffet in Hadrian’s brasserie is extensive and of high quality, with a good choice of hot and cold items. The full buffet is £27 (Dh127), or you can order a la carte. In Number One, a three-course menu is good value at £75 (Dh353) per person. Starters include house-smoked salmon theatrically presented under a hood of smoke, and juicy, perfectly browned scallops, while mains range from partridge with puy lentils and truffle to wild seabass and lemon sole. The cheese trolley was generously administered at dessert.

Loved

The basement has a great indoor swimming pool with a small gym and spa attached. Scottish therapist Nicola does a great massage.

The hotel's indoor swimming pool. Courtesy The Balmoral Hotel
The hotel's indoor swimming pool. Courtesy The Balmoral Hotel

Hated

The service issues.

The verdict

A beautiful hotel in a great location, offering true relaxation. Only the staff need to wake up.

The bottom line

Double rooms at The Balmoral Hotel (www.roccofortehotels.com) cost from £175 (Dh823) a night including taxes and excluding breakfast.

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