The Balmoral is the height of luxury. So how did they deal with lockdown?


The Balmoral, the grande dame of Edinburgh hotels, has dominated Princes Street for over a century and has acted as a magnet for the great and good. But luxury doesn’t come cheap – a stay in the five-star hotel’s Glamis Suite costs around £ 3,000 a night, while a cocktail made with vintage whiskey can cost £ 700.

Like every other British hotel in the pandemic, The Balmoral has suffered, as revealed in the new Channel 5 show The Balmoral: An Extraordinary Year.

When filming began in early March 2020, it was normal business for staff and guests in the hotel’s 167 rooms, 20 suites and three dining options, including a Michelin-starred restaurant.

In the months that followed, however, the lockdown forced staff to close its doors and staff were on leave, then reopened to their relief before closing again, and the four-part series follows the staff through the tumultuous year.

A new Channel 5 series explores how The Balmoral hotel (pictured) in Edinburgh handled during its lockdown in 2020

Owned by Sir Rocco Forte, The Balmoral’s emphasis on luxury has lured everyone from Paul McCartney to Elizabeth Taylor.

JK Rowling booked herself for six months in 2006 to finish writing Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, and Room 552 has been renamed The JK Rowling Suite in her honor. Serving the elite, resident manager Rob Van Eyck is always alert and willing to make extraordinary requests.

“A few years ago, we had a famous artist in the hotel who asked us to ask the council to stop the daily one-hour gun salute at Edinburgh Castle because he wanted to take a nap,” Rob, 38, recalled. laid off. the past 150 years, so unfortunately we were not able to do that. ‘

But the reception staff regularly do everything they can to meet the wishes of the guests. In the first episode, the concierge is tasked with searching for special shoe studs for one of the French national rugby union team, which occupied 110 rooms in the hotel for a match with Scotland during the Six Nations Championship.

“Whether it’s finding a unique snack for guests or buying tickets to a sold-out sporting event, we can do it,” says Rob.

Getting everything out of the box is a hallmark of The Balmoral. Executive housekeeper Vicky Simpson explains that remembering guests’ peccadilloes is what sets the hotel apart.

The Balmoral was renamed in 1991 after a £ 23 million refurbishment. Pictured: The Scotch bar has over 500 whiskeys

“We’ve had guests ask for eight mattress protectors because they need their beds really soft,” says Vicky, 37. “We’ll remember the next time they come so they don’t have to ask twice.”

They offer a pillow menu in case guests want to daydream on a pillow sprayed with soothing lavender, as well as a turn-down service timed to perfection.

“We also prepare the rooms for marriage proposals, so we can write very long sentences in rose petals.”

And the red carpet isn’t just being rolled out for human guests. While making the series, Rob welcomed a dog-A-lister into the hotel – Instagram star Mildred the sausage dog, who has 60,000 followers.

“I have a French bulldog, so I love it when we have dog guests,” says Rob. “With more British guests, we now get a lot more people who bring dogs.”

Resident manager Rob Van Eyck said the hotel has had more people bringing dogs with the increase in the number of British guests. Pictured: The hotel lobby

The Balmoral, which opened in 1895 as the North British Station Hotel but changed its name in 1991 after a £ 23 million refurbishment, highlights its Scottish heritage. The Scotch bar stocks over 500 whiskeys, and chefs source the best of Scottish food, from seaweed to cheese.

It is also famous for the afternoon tea at the Palm Court, a heavenly glass-domed room in which guests are serenaded by harp as they enjoy sumptuous cakes and teas, including the strangely named Emperor’s Golden Eyebrow.

The first lockdown last March hit the hotel hard. Rob was part of a team of four who moved with his wife (and French bulldog) to The Balmoral to guard the building. “It was very strange to watch TV during the day at the reception,” he says.

Vicky used the extra time to get the dusters out. “We gave the hotel the spring cleaning of its life,” she says. “We started at the top and worked our way down to the basement.”

Chef Gary Robinson, said the staff at The Balmoral have been battered and bruised, but they are lucky enough to be the hotel’s custodians. Pictured: The Palm Court set for afternoon tea

The hotel was allowed to reopen last summer under strict Covid protocols. Staff were appalled when a new lockdown started on Boxing Day in Scotland last year.

The series ends on Christmas Day with Chef Mark Donald tidying the fridges. ‘To prevent food from being lost, we squeezed everything; we made it into vinegar and kombuchas, ”he says.

The hotel reopened last month, but the staff will not forget the special year 2020.

“We came out battered and bruised, but we are lucky to be the custodians of this beautiful hotel,” said Chef Gary Robinson.

“So many of us went on that journey together, so many of us stuck to it, and I’m so proud of everyone who has.”

The Balmoral: An Extraordinary Year is coming to Channel 5 soon.