A warm Scottish welcome: General Manager Richard Cooke on coming back to The Balmoral
As the world begins to travel once again, we’re delighted to announce the re-opening of our Edinburgh icon on 1st August 2020. No one is more pleased than its General Manager, Richard Cooke; we spoke to him about his experiences during lockdown, what’s new at the hotel and to get his recommendations for making the most of its inimitable location during a stay this very special of summers.
How have the last few months been for you personally?
“It’s really been a time of reflection and of contemplation, for setting up goals and re-understanding the way we communicate. My time at home has been wonderful: I have two beautiful dogs who I walk each morning, and I’ve made a lot of new friends amongst other dog walkers, but I’m also missing a big part of my life. There’s been a mix of emotions and I’ve learned to count my blessings.”
Can you tell us what you and your team have worked on during the lockdown?
“We’re just completing the final renovations of all our external facing rooms and suites, which is a lovely thing to have accomplished: they look beautiful.
We’ve also done a lot of work at our Palm Court, which is really the heart of the hotel. We’ve taken things apart and had a lot of hard-to-reach bits shined up, such as the huge skylights. Since the lockdown began, I’ve had a team of staff taking care of the building and really paying extra attention to all the little things whilst we’ve had time we usually wouldn’t have.”
What do you feel has been learned from this whole experience?
“Across the world, people have kept away from each other for a period of time and everyone will come back with a different idea of what the world is. I think the important thing is that we all come back together and be more understanding, more caring towards each other, more receptive of each other’s views and opinions.”
How does it feel to finally have a date set for re-opening and what are you most looking forward to?
“It’s a real relief. I’m lucky to have an amazing job, but I usually have two lives: my home life and my work life. As mentioned before, my home life has been wonderful, but my work life is built around delighting guests and providing incredible experiences, so for me, a massive part of what I do has just been missing. I can’t wait to have my staff and my guests back – my enjoyment in life comes from making people happy, so I want to be able to do that again.”
What can guests expect health and safety measures to look like at The Balmoral?
“Tasteful! We’re following the protocols set out by Rocco Forte Hotels so that, along with some really good guidance from the Scottish government, means we’re really clear about what we need to do. Our measures have been embraced and combined with Scottish hospitality by the fantastic group of people who work at The Balmoral. You will see some physical changes, but you’ll feel the warm welcome in equal measure.”
What is it that makes Edinburgh a special destination, in your own words?
“Truly, I can say I’ve never lived anywhere like it and I’ve lived in some of the greatest cities in the world. It’s an incredible, fascinating city, with its architecture, cobbled streets, incredible bars and restaurants – yet it’s surrounded by amazing countryside which you can reach in just ten minutes. It’s a very easy city to navigate on foot, too; you can step out of The Balmoral’s front doors and be in wide open green spaces in just minutes. There are so many vantage points around the city where you can see it in a different light – I’d recommend our Instagram walking tours for that, they really take in some hidden gems and offer insider insight as well as the chance to capture the city in its best lights.”
With so much to explore on the doorstep, what do you personally recommend in the area?
“There’s so much to see in the city proper, but hundreds of excursions too. If you’re interested in fashion, we can arrange for you to see tweeds being made, down on the borders. We can tailor trips to distilleries in the lowlands, followed by private tastings at SCOTCH with our Whisky Ambassador. You can explore beautiful, rugged beaches; take traditional afternoon tea at some of the country’s best golf courses, visit towns like St. Andrew’s – in terms of location, Edinburgh is the gateway to the rest of the country.
I personally like the villages on the borders, they’re incredibly picturesque and feel like they’ve been stuck in time. They have the most elaborate floral decorations which are always a delight for visitors, but are just the norm for them – this area really is the garden of Britain.”
Rediscover Scotland this summer with a stay at The Balmoral. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 131 556 2414.