Onlookers outside the Balmoral Hotel today could be forgiven for thinking that Rocco Forte had introduced a new, SAS-inspired initiative to speed-up room-service. 

In fact, the daring workers, in day-glo, Guantanamo Bay orange overalls, were either cleaning windows, preparing window frames, touching up render, reattaching loose stonework, or removing the Christmas lights. 

We put all five suggestions to various Balmoral staff this lunchtime, all of whom replied with an enigmatic smile and the catch-all explanation ‘refurbishment’.

‘Quadrangular in plan, aggressive in bulk, C16 Franco-German in detail, [the hotel] was designed by W. Hamilton Beattie in a competition of 1895 whose result is said to have been influenced by Charles Jenner, Beattie’s client on the other side of Princes Street’, write Gifford et al. in The Buildings of Scotland: Edinburgh.

The mostly fireproof structure opened in 1902, its original name derived from the North British Railway Company who paid for it.

1 Princes Street
55° 57' 9.5652" N, 3° 11' 22.6068" W