The Balmoral’s newly refurbished Scone & Crombie suite is the hotel’s largest and most opulent, more like an elegant private apartment than a traditional suite. Its interiors merge period features with contemporary comforts, and the views across Edinburgh Old Town are mesmerising.
To elevate guests’ experience even further, the hotel has partnered with luxury brands to offer unexpected treats throughout their stay.
The ‘Scone’ in Scone & Crombie refers to Scone Palace in Perthshire, while ‘Crombie’ comes from Crombie Castle in Moray, and there’s certainly a palatial feel to the suite, newly refurbished by interior designer Olga Polizzi, the sister of Rocco Forte, whose eponymous hotel group took over the historic Edinburgh hotel in 1997.
The door to the suite, adorned with a brass knocker, wouldn’t look out of place on one of the city’s smart Georgian townhouses, and is a clue to what lies behind: an impressively grand residence that all too quickly feels like home.
The suite’s reception room, complete with six-seater dining table and bespoke wallpaper
The airy entrance hall opens onto a dining area with six-seater dining table, walls decorated with bespoke wallpaper by British fabric house Watts of Westminster.
Colours and moods change as guests move from one room to the next: a pistachio-hued living room with working fireplace gives way to marigold yellow in the bedroom, and a bright symphony of off-whites adds brightness in the bathroom, which comes complete with a Greek-style wall mosaic.
The suite’s bathroom features a freestanding bathtub, dual sinks and a spacious rainfall shower
Adjoining doors to two executive bedrooms at either end of the suite can make it a three-bedroom affair, but even without those additions it’s colossal. At 220 square metres, it’s one of the biggest hotel suites in Scotland, with proportions that make you feel as though you’ve been ever so slightly miniaturised.
Throughout the suite, Polizzi has merged eras as expertly as she has the various tones and textures of the furnishings. Vintage writing desks, aged mirrors and original period features sit alongside smartly reupholstered velvet armchairs, brass-accented side tables and colourful artwork. The result is a deft balance between historic grandeur and modern comforts.
A marigold-yellow bedroom features tartan armchairs and an embroidered bed frame
A sense of place is a given thanks to double-height windows which provide expansive views over Edinburgh Old Town and Arthur’s Seat beyond, and Polizzi has resisted any sort of dominant Scottish theme. Instead, there are subtle nods to the surroundings, with tartan armchairs and a recurring thistle motif that’s most spectacular in the William Morris-style embroidered bed frame.
Opened in 1902 as the North British Railway Hotel, The Balmoral is an Edinburgh landmark, renowned for its three-minutes-fast clock tower, all the better to get passengers to their trains on time.
Its splendid Baronial architecture is matched inside by a degree of pomp and ceremony: a harpist presides over traditional afternoon tea taken beneath the domed roof of the Palm Court, while Michelin-starred restaurant Number One dishes up Scottish haute cuisine.
The Balmoral, built in 1902, is an Edinburgh landmark
But the city’s grande dame is in the midst of a multi-million pound makeover, of which the remodelled Scone & Crombie suite is the latest stage.
Rooms in the hotel’s south wing have been refurbished in Polizzi’s colourfully contemporary style, while the addition of stylish smart-casual restaurant Brasserie Prince, designed by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio and with Alain Roux at the helm, has injected an extra buzz.
As is to be expected with a staggered hotel-wide upgrade, certain areas show their age in comparison (public-area toilets, for example, must surely be next on Polizzi’s hit-list).
Bar Prince, within the new Brasserie Prince, designed by Martin Brudnizki Design Studio
A labyrinthine spa, added in the 1990s, offers a choice of treatments from natural Cornish brand Made For Life Organics and Scottish skincare company Ishga alongside Rocco Forte Rituals, and there’s a 15m indoor pool, sauna and steam room, a fitness room and group exercise classes.
Service is slick and cheerful, which makes retreating from the chaos of Princes Street into the fire-lit lobby all the more enjoyable.
What to expect
Guests staying in the Scone & Crombie suite check in at the suite’s dining table (where breakfast can be served the next day), laden with fresh fruit and artisan chocolates alongside a hamper of snacks. The mini-bar is stocked with complimentary soft drinks and beer and it would be rude not to take a sip from one of the three full decanters (whisky, gin and vodka) in the lounge.
At 220sq m, the Scone & Crombie suite is one of the largest hotel suites in Scotland
In the bathroom, guests enjoy full-sized Acqua di Parma toiletries, including a leather-bound, travel-sized bottle of fragrance each, while turndown treats include homemade shortbread and chocolates.
Other perks are less expected: guests might arrive back after a day’s sightseeing to discover cashmere bed socks alongside a moth-deterring cedarwood block thanks to the suite’s partnership with premium Scottish cashmere brand Hawico (a cashmere ‘paint box’ on display in the lounge showcases the brand’s entire colour palette, and guests can book in for a personal shopping appointment at the flagship store, or have pieces couriered to the suite).
The hotel’s Scotch bar, where suite guests can enjoy a complimentary whisky tasting session
Before arrival, guests are invited to choose from a private tour of the workshop of Scottish silversmith Hamilton and Inches, fast-track tickets to visit Edinburgh Castle, or a whisky-tasting session at Scotch, the hotel’s cosy whisky bar, which stocks over 500 varieties of the spirit.
The jolly concierge is on hand to take care of any other arrangements: from dinner reservations to a private walking tour of the city, which is highly recommended. Those who sign up for this shouldn’t let their spirits be dampened by a rainy forecast: the hotel has also partnered with Hunter to provide suite guests with a pair of wellies each, ideal for marching along the Royal Mile.
With interiors by Olga Polizzi, the suite strikes a balance between grandeur and comfort
The oh-so-elegant lounge, with its magnificent fireplace and ever-changing city views, will make inclement weather a blessing — the perfect excuse to curl up by the fire with one of the Everyman’s Library Classics that are liberally dotted throughout the suite.
Not so keen
The ‘healthy’ snack hamper we chose turned out to include calorific fruity flapjacks and gluten-free but sugar-filled cookies: tasty, but far from nutritious. Another small niggle was that those enormous windows only open a fraction, and even then with difficulty.
At the junction of Princes Street and North Bridge, the shops and restaurants of the New Town are five minutes’ walk away, and it’s less than 15 minutes to Edinburgh Castle and Old Town.
The Balmoral was built directly above Waverley train station so it’s one of the first landmarks guests arriving by train will see. On departure, a bellboy will wheel his brass luggage cart right through the station to deliver suitcases to the train doors — how’s that for service?
The Scone & Crombie suite starts at £4,000 per night including breakfast. Classic doubles at The Balmoral start at £200, room only.
1 Princes Street, Edinburgh, EH2 2EQ; roccofortehotels.com