Where is Balmoral Castle, who lives at the Scottish home the Queen loved so much and what's it like?

Balmoral Castle was the Queen's Scottish holiday home that she visited every summer and where she passed away aged 96

Balmoral Castle
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Balmoral Castle was known to be one of the Queen's favorite royal residences and was where she passed away, with King Charles and Princess Anne by her side.  

  • Her Majesty loved spending her annual summer break at Balmoral Castle and had known the residence since she was a little girl. 
  • The Queen was spending the summer at the Aberdeenshire castle when it was announced that she had been placed under 'medical supervision' amid concerns for her health, just hours before she passed away on September 8, 2022. 
  • Balmoral Castle holds decades of royal history within its walls and sprawling grounds, with Her Majesty spending her final weeks there and even breaking royal tradition to appoint Liz Truss as Prime Minister days before she died. 

While the Queen had various royal residences during her time on the throne, Balmoral Castle was a firm favorite and was a place of tradition and special memories for the late monarch. 

From the Royal Family typically enjoying the festive season at Sandringham House in Norfolk before the pandemic changed things in 2020 and 2021, to spending Holyrood Week at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, there are certain times of year where a particular residence was Queen Elizabeth II's home of choice. 

It was at Balmoral that the Queen made herself at home for her annual summer getaway in Scotland. The Queen traditionally spent the time away from Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle from August-October each year, traveling to Aberdeenshire for a relaxing break in the Scottish Highlands. 

Balmoral Castle - The Queen meets with Prime Minister Liz Truss

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Balmoral has been in the British Royal Family since 1852 and is set amongst acres of lush countryside.

As part of her final royal engagement, the Queen welcomed Liz Truss as the new Prime Minister as she took over from Boris Johnson after winning the Tory leadership race against Rishi Sunak. 

The Queen was said to be 'resting more' at Balmoral in light of her ongoing mobility issues and was unable to travel all the way from Scotland to London for the event.

Just days after Her Majesty was pictured meeting with Liz Truss, it was announced by Buckingham Palace that her health was of great concern to her doctors with the news that she had died at Balmoral coming just hours later.

But where is Balmoral Castle, who owns it, and who lived at the residence that was so close to the Queen's heart?

Where is Balmoral Castle?

As you might expect from a royal country residence, Balmoral Castle is far away from any noisy neighbors and is located in the picturesque countryside of Aberdeenshire. Though it's not completely isolated, the village of Crathie is just six miles away, and Inverness is just under two hours away. 

Balmoral Castle - A stream flows through the Queen's Balmoral Estate on September 7, 2008 in Ballater, Scotland

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Balmoral is located mid-way between Ballater and Braemar and the nearest train station and airport are in Aberdeen.

Aberdeen airport is where the Queen would fly to when traveling to Balmoral for her trips to the castle. It is also where key members of The Firm arrived via RAF jet when the news broke that Her Majesty was unwell on the last day of her life. 

Prince William, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward, and Sophie Wessex arrived on the airport tarmac to be transferred to Balmoral just before it was announced that Her Majesty had passed away, with Prince Harry also arriving on a flight to be with the family at the time. 

Who lives in Balmoral Castle now?

No one permanently lives in Balmoral Castle, though it was one of the Queen's royal residences and is often reported to be her favorite. Throughout the many years that the Queen and Prince Philip were married before his sad passing in April 2021, the couple famously spent the summer and early autumn months there each year. It's a well-established royal tradition though sadly last year marked the first Balmoral getaway without Prince Philip by her side. 

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It's understood that Prince William, as well as Kate Middleton and their three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, and Prince Louis, spent time with the Queen at Balmoral earlier this year, enjoying quality time with the monarch during her final summer break at the estate. 

King Charles and Camilla also spent plenty of time at Balmoral with the Queen during her final summer break there, with the couple having their own Scottish holiday home, Dumfries House, nearby. 

Having plenty of royal guests wasn't an unusual occurrence for Her Majesty, who often hosted her nearest and dearest during her time at Balmoral over the years.

Princess Eugenie and her sister Princess Beatrice have also often spent summers there. Princess Eugenie once reportedly said of the home, in an ITV documentary, "It's the most beautiful place on earth. I think Granny is the most happy there. I think she really, really loves the Highlands."

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She also revealed that the great outdoors is very much on the agenda during the family visits as she explained, "Walks, picnics, dogs – a lot of dogs, there's always dogs – and people coming in and out all the time. It's a lovely base for Granny and Grandpa, for us to come and see them up there; where you just have room to breathe and run."

A Brief History of Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle was originally bought by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband. Deeside was reportedly recommended to the Royal Family for more pleasant weather. However, the castle was thought to be too small to suit their needs, so they brought in architect William Smith, to redesign the property.

After the deaths of both Prince Albert and Queen Victoria, the Royal Family continued to use the home.

Balmoral Castle - Queen Elizabeth and Duke of Edinburgh with their three sons at Balmoral Castle

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According to the Royal Family website (opens in new tab), Queen Mary took a particular interest in the gardens there. She created the flower garden below the south lawn and the castle was modernised with electricity introduced. 

During his life, the Duke of Edinburgh was actively involved in managing Balmoral's estate and created a vegetable garden that adjoins the flower garden, as well as a water garden and a flowered paved walk along the terrace. 

Who owns Balmoral Castle?

Balmoral Castle is a privately owned property and so unlike other royal homes like Windsor Castle, it's not part of the Crown Estate. This is because it was originally bought by Prince Albert, rather than the monarch at the time, Queen Victoria. This means that the property will pass down through this current Royal Family, and will remain their private property. In contrast, Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace are available for the current reigning monarch to live in but do not personally belong to them. 

Inside Balmoral Castle: What does the Queen's Scottish residence look like?

From pictures taken inside the royal residence, Balmoral is decorated rather traditionally. There's plenty of wooden furniture, as well as the iconic green carpet and green couches that have appeared in plenty of official and personal snaps over the years. 

Canadian Governor General Designate Julie Payette meets Queen Elizabeth during a private audience at Balmoral Castle

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There are reportedly a whopping 52 bedrooms inside Balmoral, as well as a large number of reception rooms, including the one where the monarch often receives guests for official visits. She has also been pictured in her study before, and in the castle's various living rooms, which are decorated in a similarly majestic style.

When spending time inside Balmoral, it's said that the Queen would enjoy a relaxed, laidback existence. So much so that once tourists walking nearby apparently failed to recognize her looking a little more casual than at public engagements, leading to the Queen's hilarious response.

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip in the study at Balmoral Castle

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The Queen even did her own washing up at Balmoral, according to royal experts. Prior to Her Majesty's death, Juliet Rieden told Nine News, “This is where she loves to be, this is holiday time for the Queen. She always said this is where she feels most herself and feels most free."

"When they are out having their barbecues, which they love to do out in the grounds of Balmoral – it’s a massive estate, the most beautiful grounds – where they literally set up a barbecue. And afterward, the Queen does the washing up."

What are the Balmoral Castle grounds like?

The castle is set on the Balmoral Estate, which covers a staggering 50,000 acres and is located within the Cairngorms National Park. The estate is made up of a combination of formal gardens, green spaces, and a working estate, which includes forestry land, farmland, and an array of animals, including deer, Highland cattle, and ponies.

Cattle stand in a field on the Queen's Balmoral Estate on September 7, 2008 in Ballater, Scotland

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The formal gardens cover three acres, and this is where you're supposedly most likely to find the Royal Family relaxing on a pleasant day. There is an array of glasshouses within the grounds, as well as a water garden, and of course, the front lawn up to the castle itself. 

Also located on the grounds is Craigowan Lodge, a mile away from the main house. It is a seven-bedroom home, and was often used during King Charles and Princess Diana's relationship when the pair visited Balmoral.

Balmoral Estate Greenhouse And Vegetable Garden

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Is Balmoral open to the public and when can you visit?

For any royal fans looking to see the historic home for themselves, that's completely possible as Balmoral Castle is open to the public each year. The open season typically begins in April and in 2022 it came to an end on Tuesday, August 2. The Balmoral Castle website (opens in new tab) advises visitors to book in advance. With an Admission Ticket, you can enjoy access to the grounds, gardens, and exhibitions at the castle. 

But if you'd like a hot drink and cake during your visit then why not book the Coffee & Cake Ticket? This includes morning coffee and cake in The Pipers Hall coffee shop and if you want an extra special treat, then the Afternoon Tea Ticket offers a scrumptious afternoon tea too. 

View of the Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire

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Visitors are only allowed inside one room of the Castle itself, however. Members of the public can go inside the Castle Ballroom, where different exhibitions are held throughout the year. The ballroom is the largest room in the castle and is actually used by the Royal Family for gatherings and dances that the Queen holds during the summer. 

The dances are known as the Ghillies Ball and have been an annual tradition since Queen Victoria's reign, with 2020 and 2021 exceptions due to the pandemic. Unfortunately, though, the rest of the rooms in Balmoral Castle are the monarch's private rooms, and so are not permitted for public viewing.

How much is Balmoral Castle worth?

Unfortunately, it's not actually known how much Balmoral Castle is actually worth, though Tatler (opens in new tab) have previously reported that it was bought for £32,000 back in 1852, suggesting that in today's money that would be around £4 million. Centuries have passed since then and given the number of rooms it would likely have only increased in value, with British Heritage Travel (opens in new tab) previously alleging that the Balmoral Castle is estimated to cost around $140 million. 

What happens to Balmoral now the queen has died?

Now that the Queen has passed, it is rumored that King Charles will be turning Balmoral Castle into a museum. A source told the Daily Mail (opens in new tab), "Looking at the number of properties and the number of working members of the Royal family, the King will be looking at the properties and asking: 'What value does this give to the public?'"

The source added that it was likely that the Scottish Castle would be adapted to include an exhibition dedicated to Queen Elizabeth II and her incredible 70-year reign. It was also suggested that pieces of her jewelry and iconic outfits worn by Her Majesty at pivotal points in her career would also be put on display in this property. 

At this stage, the future of Balmoral Castle is most certainly still up in the air and it remains unclear if the new King will decide instead to begin using the property himself. Although some royal commentators think that this is also unlikely seeing as Prince Charles owns his own property called Birkhall on the Balmoral Estate. 

Amy Hunt is an experienced digital journalist specialising in homes, interiors and hobbies. She began her career working as the features assistant at woman&home magazine, before moving over to the digital side of the brand where she eventually became the Lifestyle Editor up until January 2022. Amy won the Digital Journalist of the Year award at the AOP Awards in 2019 for her work on womanandhome.com.