Hotel review

Waldorf Astoria, Edinburgh – The Caledonian Hotel Review


Set the scene

Seconds from the pipers of Princes Street and the beauty of New Town, Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian is part furniture, the cultural heart of great and valiant Edinburgh, host to more reels and banquets than you can only shake a sporran at. It takes up a lot of space — those 241 rooms and suites have to be crammed in somewhere. The Waldorf Astoria brand attracts an international crowd, with many American visitors, in evidence in the check-in area (which I wish was part of the nicer main lobby, for added impact) but during the pandemic, staycationers have increased in number, as well as restaurants and event halls teeming with locals hosting parties, wakes, weddings and get-togethers, as they always have. As you would expect from this quantity of rooms, there is an array of room categories, from a single bedded Eagle’s Nest with castle views to a range of suites, all of different sizes and decor. different, but all of classic-contemporary style. Rooms on the Lothian Road side have the silver view of the smoking black outline of the castle on its rock.

There are connecting rooms for families and pet-friendly rooms. We stayed in the aubergine-accented Alexander Graham Bell Suite, which has stunning views of Castlehill and the spire of St Cuthbert’s Parish Church from its bedroom, living room and bathroom (and a hallway full of black-and-white prints of the inventor and the busy manual telephone exchanges of the 1930s, full of well-dressed women with identical haircuts: a cute touch).

Sir Walter Scott Suite at Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh – The Caledonian

The backstory

Opened in December 1903 as The Caledonian Hotel, the hotel is a classic example of the grand old railway hotel adored by rising Victorians. It was a rival to the North British Railway’s North British Railway hotels (now Balmoral), which opened at the other end of the long stretch of Princes Street in exactly the same year. The 105 rooms were decorated in a Louis XV style, and guests could zip straight through the hotel’s arches to Princes Street station below. At its height in the mid-twentieth century, Marlene Dietrich, Elizabeth Taylor and Judy Garland recorded; Roy Rogers rode his horse Trigger up the stairs; and Stan Laurel spilled black coffee on a white tablecloth, prompting his sidekick Hardy to comment, “Now look what a mess you put me in Stanley,” — for the first time. After the demolition of the station in 1970, the hotel grew; then Hilton acquired the Caledonian in 2000. In 2011, after a £24m makeover, it reopened as part of the Waldorf Astoria brand.

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