Balmoral Castle: take a look inside the traditional Scottish holiday home of the royals

The family visit every year...
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  • 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, in Scotland, has been in the royal family since 1852, after being bought by Prince Albert.
    • Now, the Queen and Prince Philip visit the residence every year.
    • This follows the royal news that the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have spent lockdown in their country house in Norfolk, Anmer Hall.

    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.

    Credit: Getty Images

    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 and Prince Philip are Balmoral’s main residents, but they don’t live there permanently. The royal couple usually only spend the summer and early autumn months there each year, normally residing there for 12 weeks.

    It’s a well-established royal tradition, with the monarch and her husband having visited every summer of her six-decade reign.

    Credit: Getty Images

    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.

    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.”

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    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.”

    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.

    inside Balmoral

    Credit: Getty Images

    Credit: Getty Images

    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 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!

    Balmoral gardens

    Credit: Getty Images

    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.

    Credit: Getty Images

    Credit: Getty Images

    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.

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    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.

    Balmoral

    Credit: Getty Images

    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.

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