15th October 1902

The Balmoral Hotel opens for business

Edinburgh’s landmark Balmoral Hotel, at the end of Princes Street, was originally opened as the North British Station Hotel. It had taken seven years to build, as part of a general rebuilding and improvement of Waverley Station, to which it granted direct access, and the result was something of a triumph.

“From a chaotic state [the North British Railway Company has] succeeded in evolving the Waverley Station into one of the finest stations in the kingdom, as, indeed, it is the largest, and now they are in possession also of one of the most palatial hotel buildings in Europe,” noted the Edinburgh Evening News on the day of its opening. “From the massive pile of buildings their (sic) rises a solid-looking tower, reaching a height of 190 feet from the street level and commanding a magnificent view of the surrounding country, extending from Ben Lomond on the west to the May Island on the east, and from the Lomond Hulls in the north to the Moorfoot and Lammermoor Hills in the south, an area embracing a charming prospect of land and sea.”

Clocks running fast

The tower above the hotel was designed to accommodate four clock faces – one on each side, and each more than 13ft in diameter – which were set to run a few minutes fast to reduce the likelihood of anyone referring to it missing their train. The entrance hall had a floor of Sicilian marble, there was a grand staircase, and 300 private and public rooms throughout the building.

An advert for the hotel, appearing in the Newcastle Daily Chronicle one day after its opening, led with the fact that “the building is fireproof and there is electric light throughout”. It continued, “there is direct access from the Waverley Station and electric lifts are available on every floor. The appliances otherwise are of the most modern description and every provision has been made to ensure the comfort and convenience of visitors”.

The hotel changed its name upon its reopening – by Sean Connery – in 1991 after a major refurbishment. JK Rowling wrote the final part of the last Harry Potter book while staying at the hotel in 2007. The 55 square metre suite she used, with its view of Calton Hill, is now known as the JK Rowling Suite.



Other events that occured in October

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