Where do the Royal Family stay in Scotland? From Balmoral Castle to King Charles and Queen Camilla's beloved Highland home

If you’re wondering where the Royal Family stay in Scotland you’re probably not alone as the Queen’s Balmoral break begins…

Where the Royal Family stay in Scotland.
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There are several historic residences where the Royal Family stay in Scotland, especially during the summer and King Charles and Queen Camilla have continued a royal tradition.

Since becoming King and Queen Consort last year King Charles and Queen Camilla have remained based at Clarence House but they’ve also been upholding plenty of royal residence traditions. During the late Queen Elizabeth’s reign it became a pattern to see the Royal Family gather at Sandringham House for Christmas and Windsor Castle for Easter. Many royals also have several residences they spend time in, like the Prince and Princess of Wales who live at Adelaide Cottage in Windsor but also have their Anmer Hall home in Norfolk. 

When it comes to the summer fans are accustomed to the Scottish residences getting plenty of use by the royals. Now King Charles and Queen Camilla are said to be at one of them to start their summer break. With more family members predicted to come to Scotland this year, we’ve got you covered with what you need to know about where the Royal Family stay in Scotland…

King Charles III and Queen Camilla wave as they leave Dunfermline Abbey

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Where do the Royal Family stay in Scotland? 

Balmoral Castle

Perhaps the most iconic and instantly recognisable of the Royal Family’s Scottish homes is Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire. It’s here that Queen Elizabeth traditionally enjoyed her annual summer break from August-October and was often considered to be one of her favorite royal residences. 

The Queen’s grandchildren, great-grandchildren and her four children were often invited to spend time with her during her Balmoral break. Now alongside precious family memories, the royals might find spending time here a poignant experience too as it was at this beloved residence that Queen Elizabeth passed away last year.

Balmoral Castle is pictured near Ballater, on March 30, 2022

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If members of the Royal Family end up staying there this summer this would mark the first time they’ve done so since her death. According to the Daily Mail, it’s been claimed that King Charles and Queen Camilla will “decamp” here for official visits but will make their own Scottish residence their “main base”. However, their nearest and dearest are expected to stay at Balmoral when they come to visit this summer.

Unlike other royal homes like Buckingham Palace, Balmoral Castle is owned privately and isn’t part of the Crown Estate. There are reportedly a staggering 52 bedrooms there and Queen Elizabeth was often pictured in the various living rooms and her study in the castle. 

Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, walk together during a garden party at Balmoral Castle

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Opening up about summers there as a family, Princess Eugenie explained on the 2016 ITV documentary, Our Queen at Ninety, how much the highlands meant to her grandmother. 

Princess Eugenie said, "It's the most beautiful place on earth. I think Granny is the most happy there. I think she really, really loves the Highlands."

"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,” she added, indicating how much being in the great outdoors is factored into royal summer plans in Scotland. 

Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh with their children, Prince Andrew, Princess Anne and Charles, Prince of Wales sitting on a picnic rug outside Balmoral Castle

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When it comes to where the Royal Family stay in Scotland, Balmoral Castle was definitely Queen Elizabeth’s go-to Scottish residence with so many precious memories attached to it of summers spent with her nearest and dearest. It’s likely that King Charles will continue to spend time at Balmoral when he’s in Scotland, even if Birkhall remains his primary base.


It might not be quite as famous as Balmoral Castle, but Birkhall on the Balmoral estate is another magnificent royal residence put to good use when two particular members of the Royal Family stay in Scotland. The property is the Scottish home of King Charles and Queen Camilla and had been their official residence there during their time as Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall. It’s believed that it was at Birkhall that Their Majesties spent much of the UK’s lockdowns during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles at Birkhall in Scotland

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Birkhall once belonged to the Queen Mother, whom King Charles is understood to have had an incredibly close relationship with, and it’s been in the Royal Family for over 150 years. After the Queen Mother passed away in 2002, His Majesty inherited Birkhall and following King Charles and Queen Camilla’s wedding it was here that they spent their honeymoon. 

He also headed for Birkhall after his divorce from the late Princess Diana and has reportedly previously described the residence as "a unique haven of cosiness and character." Whilst Birkhall is his home, King Charles isn’t the only member of the Royal Family to stay at Birkhall when they’re in Scotland. 

Queen Elizabeth II with Prince Charles, Prince of Wales is presented with one of the first copies of 'Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, The Official Biography'

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Prince William, who is first in the royal line of succession, and the Princess of Wales apparently celebrated New Year’s Eve there with him back in 2011. The King typically spends time at Birkhall in the summer and it’s thought that he used his Scottish home as a base when he visited Queen Elizabeth a short distance away at Balmoral. This year reports have alleged that it will remain his base and he could occasionally move over to Balmoral for official visits. 

According to the Prince of Wales’ website, whilst there, King Charles and Queen Camilla enjoy everything from walking in the countryside to fishing. They are known for their love of the great outdoors and Birkhall clearly means a lot to them. In December 2020 it was a photo taken here that King Charles and Queen Camilla chose to share as their annual Christmas card picture. 

Castle of Mey

Avid royal fans might have heard rumours that the Queen Mother once bought a castle in Scotland for £100. Unfortunately, the actual amount she paid isn’t known, whether £100, less or a whole lot more. But according to the official Castle and Gardens of May website, the Queen Mother bought it in 1952 from Captain F.B. Imbert-Terry.

Queen Mother at the Castle of Mey

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This purchase was something Netflix’s The Crown showed in their first season and the Queen Mother was pivotal in ensuring the castle and gardens and parklands were renovated and restored. It was also the Queen Mother who restored the Castle of Mey to its original name, having been renamed Barrogill Castle. 

She opened the gardens three days each year in aid of Scotland’s Gardens Scheme and this has continued to this day. This castle is somewhere the Royal Family stay in Scotland and the Queen Mother used to enjoy an annual summer trip at the Castle of Mey each August. She would also traditionally enjoy another ten days at this Scottish residence in October too.

Thurso, View of Mey Castle, Castle Mey, near John O' Groats

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After her death in March 2002, the Royal Family owned the Castle of Mey as it passed to Queen Elizabeth. However, this all changed in 1996 when Queen Elizabeth gifted it with an endowment to the Trust. 

Now the Royal Family no longer privately own the Castle of Mey, though during his time as Prince of Wales, King Charles used to rent the castle for a few days each August and is President of the Trust. This year, he's understood to have traveled to the Castle of Mey with Queen Camilla to kick off their summer holiday there. It's not known exactly how long they will stay, though Their Majesties are expected to make a move to the Balmoral Estate soon. 

Tam-Na-Ghar Cottage

Perhaps the least well-known of all the places where members of the Royal Family stay in Scotland, Tam-Na-Ghar Cottage is the Scottish home of the Prince and Princess of Wales. Just like Birkhall, Tam-Na-Ghar is understood to be on the Balmoral estate and it’s where Prince William, Kate and their kids allegedly sometimes stay when in Scotland. 

The property is said to have been a gift from the late Queen Mother to Prince William before she passed away in 2002. Unlike Balmoral Castle, Tam-Na-Ghar Cottage is a private residence and is never open to the public. There are also virtually no photographs of the residence and the Wales family get to enjoy a high level of privacy whenever they stay there.

Craigowan Lodge

This year it seems like Craigowan Lodge might not be lived in like it used to be during the late Queen Elizabeth's reign. She was understood to spend time here each summer after arriving in Scotland as she waited for Balmoral Castle to close its doors to the public. Only then would she make the move across to the main castle for the remainder of her summer break.

Located on the Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire, this beautiful stone cottage is believed to have seven bedrooms, making it the perfect comfortable residence for royals and any important guests. Over the years Queen Elizabeth and the late Prince Philip are said to have spent time here living like an “ordinary” married couple.

Craigowan Lodge On Balmoral Estate, Scotland

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Speaking upon Craigowan Lodge on Channel 5’s Secrets of the Royal Palaces, royal expert Wesley Kerr expressed his belief that “[Queen Elizabeth] and the Duke [Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh] are able to be there as an ordinary married couple without the grandeur.”

However, this summer it's possible that Queen Elizabeth's beloved Scottish hideaway could be neglected. Reports have suggested that King Charles and Queen Camilla are spending time at the Castle of Mey, with Balmoral set to close to visitors on 16th August. Since His Majesty has his own Scottish home on the Balmoral estate, Birkhall, where he can stay whilst Balmoral is open it might be that he doesn't choose to head to Craigowan Lodge in 2023.

Palace of Holyroodhouse

Whilst the Palace of Holyroodhouse might not be where the Royal Family spend their private summer breaks, it is the monarch's official Scottish residence. Located in Edinburgh, King Charles was there in July 2023 as he marked the first Royal Week or Holyrood Week of his reign. This week traditionally sees the monarch and other royals celebrate Scottish culture, community and achievements with visits and engagements across the country.

Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth II attend the Queen's Body Guard for Scotland

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A garden party is also held here during the week, attended this year by King Charles, Queen Camilla and Princess Anne. The monarch set off from the Palace of Holyroodhouse to travel to St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh for a special Service of Thanksgiving and Dedication to King Charles and Queen Camilla's coronation. Their Majesties also viewed the new Jubilee Gates at the palace which were installed to mark Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee.

The King and Queen aren't currently expected to return to stay the Palace of Holyroodhouse until next summer for Holyrood Week 2024. 

Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Royal Editor with eight years experience working in publishing. Her specialist areas include the British Royal Family, ranging from protocol to outfits. Alongside putting her royal knowledge to good use, Emma knows all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV and more. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, Emma enjoys cooking, long walks and watching yet more crime dramas!