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Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh - The Caledonian Hotel


(Caledonian Hotel; The Caley)

A massive triangular edifice located between Lothian Road and Rutland Street at the west end of Princes Street in the centre of Edinburgh, the Caledonian Hotel (or simply the Caley) offers fine views over Edinburgh Castle. One of the last grand railway hotels to be built in Britain, it opened in 1903, only a year after its great competitor the North British Hotel at the opposite end of Princes Street. It comprises five storeys, with further floors in the attic, and was constructed in the Dutch Baroque style using red sandstone from Locharbriggs and Corncockle quarries in Dumfriesshire, the work of J. M. Dick Peddie (1853 - 1921) and George Washington Browne (1853 - 1939). Red sandstone is unusual in Edinburgh, and local legend suggests the hotel was built in Glasgow and dragged across the country by the railway company.

Today, the hotel offers 235 guest rooms and six suites, together with two fine-dining restaurants. The exclusive Pompadour opened in 1925 and has long been regarded as one of the grandest dining rooms in Scotland. Its Louis XV-style décor forms part of the listed fabric of the building.

Frequented by stars such as Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, Shirley Bassey, Sean Connery, The Great Lafayette and Cliff Richard, this has also been the hotel of choice for Heads of State such as Nelson Mandela and Queen Elizabeth II (as Princess Elizabeth) is known to have dined here as the guest of the Duchess of Buccleuch, the evening before she was awarded the Freedom of the City of Edinburgh in 1947.

The Caledonian was nationalised with the railways in 1948 and remained part of the state-owned British Transport Hotels group until 1981, when it was sold off. The building was A-listed in 1985 and bought by the Hilton group in 2000. Now part of their elite Waldorf Astoria brand, it underwent a £24 million renovation programme between 2011-13.

The hotel was built around the former Princes Street Railway Station, the seven-platform terminus of the Caledonian Railway in Edinburgh which was once the largest station in Scotland, extending to include goods sheds a quarter-mile (0.4 km) south. This had opened in 1893, replacing an earlier more modest station which had burned down in 1890.

The lower part of the façade comprises three archways, flanked by Corinthian columns, which represent the original frontage of the station. After the hotel was built above, the left arch became the hotel entrance, while the right took rail passengers directly through to the station, with a window below the central arch. The central triangular pediment has classical male and female figures on either side of a plaque containing a Lion Rampant, the emblem of the Caledonian Railway Company. A steam locomotive has been placed at the feet of the male figure. Above are four statues of women representing art, commerce, science and agriculture, while high above these are the crests of the City of Edinburgh (to the left) and the Caledonian Railway Company (to the right).

Princes Street Station closed in 1965, was demolished and partially replaced by an extension to the hotel and car park 1970-1. Fine cast iron gates on Rutland Street, which once allowed goods to enter the station, now lead to this car park and parts of the former station concourse and ticket office survive within the hotel as Peacock Alley, now noted for its afternoon teas. The original station clock by Hamilton & Inches of George Street survived the fire of 1890 and is still set five minutes fast to help passengers catch trains that no longer call here.

On the stair landings, are stained glass windows featuring the arms of Scotland and the other nations of the UK, together with the coats of arms of the major towns and cities served by the Caledonian railway network.


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