At the east end of Princes Street, just a few meters away from the Scott Monument, there is a Victorian Building that has been one of the landmarks of Edinburgh: The Balmoral, a luxury five-star hotel which opened more than 100 years ago.
If you enter the hotel, pass the hall and turn right into the elevator, go to the fifth floor, exit the elevator and walk through the corridor to the right, you will find the door of Room 552 in the corner, decorated with an owl and a small golden sign: The J.K. Rowling Suite.
We were very lucky to have visited the famous room of the Scottish hotel where J.K. Rowling finished Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in 2007. Thanks to Katy Reilly, PR of The Balmoral who allowed us to set foot in one of the Mecca for the Harry Potter fans, we were able to see in first person the room where J.K. Rowling wrote some chapters of the seventh book of the Harry Potter series.
Although this is called “a room”, The J.K. Rowling Suite looks like an apartment, and not a small one. The first thing you see when you enter is a large living room, with a sofa and a TV, and windows facing Princes Street and North Bridge, the corner where The Balmoral stands. The walls now painted with a light blue, were yellowish when Rowling stayed there.
Two corners of the room have a marble bust each, one of them was signed by Rowling when she finished the book on January 11th, 2007. The signature is in the back of the sculpt, which originally faced the room and was unseen. Right now, the marble bust is protected in a glass case and has been turned to look at the window – in fact, the marble bust is in the window that looks into the corner of Princes Street and North Bridge.
At the opposite side of the room door, on the wall of North Bridge, there is a small desk holding the seven Harry Potter books, and just a meter away, facing south, the chair and desk where J.K. Rowling wrote, with her notebook, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
That chair and desk is where we see Jo writing in the James Runcie’s movie, J.K. Rowling: A Year in the Life. A bedroom and bathroom complete the comfort of the suite.
J.K. Rowling chose The Balmoral when she was finishing the final Harry Potter book. “[…] there came a day where the window cleaner came, the kids were at home, the dogs were barking and I could not work and this light bulb went on over my head and I thought, I can throw money at this problem. I can now solve this problem. […] I thought I can go to a quiet place so I came to this hotel because it’s a beautiful hotel, […] and I ended up finishing the last of the Harry Potter books in this hotel.”
Revealed to us by Katie, J.K. Rowling moved secretly to The Balmoral in August 2006, writing for six months in Room 552. Rowling had been visiting visited the hotel sporadically before, until she chose to definitely move in there for the final stage of her writing process.
Only the staff involved in the room knew about Rowling living there, and they kept the secret professionally. In fact, no one knew that Jo was there until she left – something that sounds impossible giving that she was there for half a year.
The room also has a frame including the cover of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and a photo of the signature Rowling left in the marble bust, in case you are there and you do not know why all the references to the book of the wizard boy.
The photo of the signature is good to remember how it looked at the start, since the real signature in the statue seems to be fading away – something natural given the conditions in which it was written.
Four years after her arrival, in October 2010, Rowling went back to The Balmoral with Oprah Winfrey to film an one-hour interview, this time in room 230, the Scone & Crombie Royal Suite.
If you ever visit Edinburgh, and find yourself at North Bridge and Princes Street, look up and search for the highest window in the corner, and you may cross looks with a marble bust that was witness to how J.K. Rowling put her ideas into words, in a room in the city center of the Scottish capital.
We also took a panoramic photo of the Suite. Download it here (1.05mb):