The Edinburgh clock that never tells the right time

Here in Scotland, the clocks moved forward by an hour overnight. We are now operating under British Summer Time. This annual change heralds lighter evenings as we head towards the long daylight hours of mid-summer in the Scottish Highlands.

Go on, admit who of my followers in Britain forgot to put the clocks forward? Were you confused when you discovered you were an hour behind this morning? Are you sat there looking at the clock on the wall thinking I will change it later? One clock that still isn’t telling the correct time is the iconic tower clock above the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh.

Edinburgh Balmoral Hotel
The Balmoral Hotel sits at the top of Princes Street in Edinburgh

Why is the clock wrong?

This isn’t a mishap or an oversight by the hotel management. It is deliberate as the clock has not told the correct time since 1902 when the grand Edwardian building opened as the North British Station Hotel. The clock is always set three minutes fast to assist those Edinburgh travellers heading to the glass-vaulted Waverley Station adjacent to the hotel. It’s an aid for those who are somewhat tardy and might miss their departing train. A glance up and a quickened pace down to the station below, a fumbled look for tickets and a jump on to the train.

Phew! You made it just in time. Out-of-puff, slumping into your seat and you look at your watch or smartphone and realise your train still has another three-minutes before it leaves. Thanks to the Balmoral clock you didn’t miss it after all.

It’s not entirely true that the clock is always wrong. Just once a year on Hogmanay (or New Year’s Eve) an engineer will climb the steps of the tower. Their task is to delay the clock so that the crowds that gather for Edinburgh’s Hogmanay party welcome in the New Year at exactly the right time.