By Amy Hunt
The Queen headed to her famous Scottish holiday home, Balmoral Castle, this week, ready for her annual summer getaway to the countryside retreat.
- Balmoral Castle, in Scotland, has been in the royal family since 1852, after being bought by Prince Albert.
- The Queen and Prince Philip famously visited the residence every year—and this year Her Majesty is holidaying at Balmoral as a widow for the first time, having lost Philip in April.
- In other royal news, the Queen had a hilarious response when Balmoral tourists failed to recognize her on a walk.
While we mere mortals might head to the internet, or our local travel agent, to book a summer holiday, the Queen needn't bother, with Balmoral Castle at her disposal for her annual getaway.
Balmoral Castle has been in the British Royal Family for over 150 years now, since 1852.
The majestic estate house is located in Royal Deeside, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and is set amongst acres of lush green countryside, and the nearby River Dee.
As you'd expect from a royal country residence, it's pretty isolated from any noisy neighbours, but has the village of Crathie a convenient six miles away, and is located just under two hours away from Inverness.
So what else do we know about the historic Balmoral Castle?
A brief history of Balmoral Castle
The royal family residence 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.
The new castle was completed in 1856, and the old castle as it was, was demolished a short while after.
After the deaths of Albert and Victoria, the royal family continued to use the home, with King George V making his own changes and improvements in the early 20th century. The royal stopped using the home temporarily during the Second World War, however.
Who lives in Balmoral Castle now?
The Queen is Balmoral's main residence, but she doesn't live there permanently.
Her Majesty and her late husband, Prince Philip, famously spent the summer and early autumn months there each year throughout their marriage, normally residing there for 12 weeks.
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It's a well-established royal tradition, with the monarch and her husband having visited every summer of her six-decade reign.
This year marks the first time the Queen will be holidaying at Balmoral without Philip by her side.
But of course, many other members of the royal family visit the royal couple throughout the summer too, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children regular visitors.
Prince William, Kate Middleton, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis reside at Kensington Palace while in London and have their own country home at Amner Hall in Norfolk—but they, of course, make time to visit the Queen at Balmoral.
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Princess Eugenie and her sister Princess Beatrice have also often spent summers there with their grandparents. Eugenie once said of the home, in a 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."
She also explained that a lot of time is spent outside when the family are there. "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."
Princess Eugenie is predicted to be taking her baby son August Philip Hawke Brooksbank on his first visit to Balmoral this year, where he will send some summer time with his great-granny, the Queen.
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Who owns Balmoral Castle?
Balmoral Castle is a privately owned property, and so is 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.
Inside Balmoral Castle: What does the residence look like?
From pictures taken inside the royal residence, the Queen's home is decorated traditionally, with wooden furniture, and in some traditional Scottish colours - including a stand-out green carpet and green sofa.
Reportedly, there are a whopping 52 bedrooms inside Balmoral, alongside plenty of reception rooms, including the one the monarch is pictured in below, where she 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 equally traditionally.
The Queen and the other royals apparently enjoy a relaxed, laidback existence at Balmoral, with no need for the airs and graces of their normal lives.
Royal author Juliet Rieden explained that at Balmoral, the Queen even does the washing up herself, sometimes.
She said, “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 whopping 50,000 acres, and is located within the Cairngorms National Park - so the royals aren't short on outside space when they are there!
It 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.
The formal gardens cover three acres, and this is where you're most likely to find the royal family relaxing on a pleasant day. The Duke of Edinburgh himself extended the gardens to include a large kitchen garden, which is harvested during the family's stay there over the summer.
There is also 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 as Prince Charles and Princess Diana's residence when they visited Balmoral.
Nowadays, it is mostly used as a residence for important guests who are coming to visit the Queen. And during the first few days of their break, the monarch and Prince Philip sometimes stay there themselves, if the tourist visiting season isn't yet over.
How much is Balmoral Castle worth?
According to Business Insider, the royal residence is worth a whopping £115 million. It was bought for just £32,000 back in 1852.
There are very few properties in the area nearby, but one 11-bedroom home within a few miles of the castle is on the market for £585,000, a fraction of the price of the castle, showing just how vast it really is.
Is Balmoral open to the public? When can you visit Balmoral?
Yes - but the home is only open to visits from the public from April until the end of July, as the Queen comes to stay there shortly after.
You can book tickets here.
When you visit Balmoral, you can peruse the extensive grounds, shop at the gift shop, visit the Pipers Hall Cafe (selling a variety of traditional Scottish fare), and see the outside of the Garden Cottage - which is where Queen Victoria sometimes used to take breakfast, deal with State correspondence and write her diaries.
Visitors are only allowed inside one room of the Castle itself however. Members of the public can go inside the Ballroom, where different exhibitions are held throughout the year. Most recently, there was an exhibition on Queen Victoria.
The ballroom is still actually used by the royal family today, in particular for two big dances that the Queen holds during the summer. But, the rest of the rooms in the house are the monarch's private rooms, and so are not permitted for public viewing.
Amy Hunt is Life Channel Editor at womanandhome.com, having been with the brand since 2015. She began as the magazine's features assistant before moving over to digital as a News and Features Writer, before becoming Senior Writer, and now a Channel Editor. She has worked on either women's lifestyle websites previously too—including Woman's Weekly, Goodto.com, Woman, and Woman's Own. In 2019, Amy won the Digital Journalist of the Year award at the AOP Awards, for her work on womanandhome.com. She is passionate about everything from books, to homes, to food and the latest news on the royal family. When she isn't editing or updating articles on cleaning, homewares, the newest home gadgets, or the latest books releases for the website, she's busy burying her nose in a gripping thriller, practising yoga, or buying new homeware of her own.
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