Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh to stage £375-a-head 'Festival Nights Experiences'

For anyone missing their fix of the Edinburgh Festival, it is shaping up to be the only show in town – and one of the most expensive in its 73-year history.

Wednesday, 12th August 2020, 9:06 am
Fred MacAulay will be hosting the festival events at The Balmoral.
Fred MacAulay will be hosting the festival events at The Balmoral.

But there is just one catch with the new last-minute series of events which have been announced - it will cost nearly £400 to experience them.

One of Edinburgh’s most exclusive hotels has unveiled details to celebrate the city’s “much-loved” festivals by staging its own socially-distanced cabaret night.

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The Balmoral’s famous Palm Court, which is best known for its afternoon tea experience, will be playing host to a series of Saturday night chat-shows hosted by one of the best-known Fringe comics, Fred MacAulay.

Special guests confirmed so far include fellow comics Janey Godley and Jo Caulfield, best-selling crime witer Val McDermid and tennis coach Judy Murray.

However the events are part of an “exclusive accommodation” package for guests who book for an overnight stay which will cost £375 each, based on two people sharing a room in the 118-year-old hotel, which reopened to the public on 1 August after being forced to close at the end of March due to the UK-wide lockdown restrictions.

The Festival Nights Experiences, which have been launched on The Balmoral’s social media channels, are planned to be staged on 15, 22 and 29 August.

The hotel’s shows are expected to be some of the few live entertainment events staged in the city this month, due to the current Scottish Government restrictions.

Outdoor events may be allowed to resume during the last week of the city’s festival season in August, however indoor venues, including comedy clubs, are not expected to reopen until mid-September.

The Balmoral’s website states: “Internationally renowned for its world-famous festivals, Edinburgh is a city famed for comedy, culture and theatre in the month of August.

“As Edinburgh’s much-loved festivals are postponed this summer, our Festival Nights Experience offers guests an exclusive and intimate after dinner of light hearted conversation and humour in the elegant and socially distanced surroundings of Palm Court.

“Check in to your room for the night and receive a two category upgrade on arrival with our compliments. Start your evening in the relaxed surroundings of Brasserie Prince with a 2-course dinner featuring classic French cuisine married with the finest Scottish produce, served with a glass of champagne.

Janey Godley will be in conversation with Fred MacAulay at The Balmoral.

“After dinner, the privacy of the suitably socially distanced Palm Court awaits. Enjoy 90 minutes ‘In conversation with Fred MacAulay’, one of Scotland’s best loved comedians and a regular at the world-famous Fringe for over 25 years. Joining Fred on each evening will be personalities from the worlds of sport, literature and entertainment - colourful characters that he has encountered over his 30 year career.

“After an evening of stimulating conversation and humour, wake up to a Balmoral breakfast in the comfort of your room or the surroundings of Brasserie Prince before exploring Edinburgh and all it has to offer.”

A spokeswoman for The Balmoral said: “Our Festival Nights Experience is an accommodation package which includes an overnight stay, dinner in Brasserie Prince followed by a table in our Palm Court lounge where Fred MacAulay will be in a socially distanced conversation with two guests. The talk is exclusive to our in-house guests.

“Social distancing is observed throughout the hotel, including the Palm Court. We have reduced our capacity in all our restaurants and bars to ensure that social distancing is adhered to in line with the guidelines.”

MacAulay has been staging chat shows in collaboration with Edinburgh-based promoters Gilded Balloon in recent years and is hosting three online incarnations this month. Guests include Still Game star Greg Hemphill and the comics Jo Brand, Shappi Khorsandi and Justin Moorhouse.

Karen Koren, artistic director of Gilded Balloon, had previously announced plans to have performers appearing in the garden of its long-time home at Teviot Row House, but shelved the idea due to the ongoing restrictions.

She said: “Fred asked us a few months ago if he could do the In Conversation with the Balmoral, without Gilded Balloon, as he was approached directly by the hotel. He didn’t specify when, however, so we saw no reason for him not to do it. We had no idea that it was during the Festival - or instead of the Festival.”

London-based stand-up Arthur Smith, one of the most popular Fringe comics since the 1980s, had announced plans to do a twice-daily walking tour around the city this month.

However the show was called off last week by Smith who said: “We could not be certain to comply with Scottish health guidelines.”

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