Iconic Balmoral hotel has hosted the great, the good and the glamorous for 110 years

HAPPY birthday ma’am – the grand dame of Princes Street is 110 years old.

And as our incredible main image shows, it was one city centre building project which seemed to have caused little disruption to everyday life.

The Balmoral officially opened its doors on October 15, 1902, as the North British Station Hotel, described by the architects as “a free rendering of the Renaissance period”, linking the Scottish architecture of the Old Town with the classical architecture of the New Town.

Sign up to our History and Heritage newsletter

Sign up to our History and Heritage newsletter

The hotel’s roots were quite literally in the railway, with a dedicated entrance from Waverley Station to the hotel. The iconic clock tower is famously set three minutes fast to allow travellers to catch their trains – a tradition which has remained to this day with the exception of Hogmanay for the city’s New Year street party.

Over the years, a regular stream of royalty, film stars, sports and music personalities, politicians and literary
figures has visited, including the Queen Mother, Stan
Laurel and Oliver Hardy, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul and Linda McCartney, and Tom Hanks.

In 1997, Sir Rocco Forte purchased the Balmoral as the first in his new collection of five-star hotels.

The 110th anniversary celebrations will begin with a glittering cocktail reception for 250 guests on November 1, with a series of special events throughout the year.

The Balmoral’s general manager, Franck Arnold, said: “As custodians of the Balmoral, we will continue to offer memorable experiences for our guests and uphold the legacy that has been created to this day by the staff who work here, the guests who visit us and the people of Edinburgh who have embraced the hotel as their own.”


1895: W Hamilton Beattie and AR Scott won a competition to build the North British Station Hotel, owned by the North British Railway Company.

1902: The hotel, the only residential building on the south side of Princes Street, was completed.

1932: Laurel and Hardy are guests during their visit to Edinburgh. Crowds gathered outside to catch a glimpse of the famous pair.

1983: British Rail sold the North British Station Hotel to the Gleneagles Hotel Company.

1990: Balmoral International Hotels, an Edinburgh-based company, bought the hotel and in the following year reopened its doors to the public as the Balmoral Hotel.

1997: Sir Rocco Forte purchased the Balmoral.

2003: Executive chef Jeff Bland was awarded a coveted Michelin Star for culinary excellence in the hotel’s Number One restaurant.

2007: JK Rowling finished writing Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at the hotel. To mark the occasion, the author signed an antique bust in her room.