Where do the Royal Family stay in Scotland? From Balmoral to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s lesser-known third 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 on visits, seen here three royal residences in Scotland
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The matter of where the Royal Family stay in Scotland is likely to intrigue fans as the Queen and her nearest and dearest have plenty of royal residences to choose from. 


The extended Royal Family might traditionally be associated with a specific primary residence, from the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall’s Clarence House, to the Queen’s beloved Windsor Castle, but there are plenty more where they come from. The Queen and those high up in the royal line of succession like Prince Charles and Prince William have multiple royal residences they spent time in over the year. 

Now Her Majesty has headed to Scotland for her annual vacation, with many royals expected to visit her there over the coming weeks. When it comes to the royal’s Scottish homes there are quite a few places her nearest and dearest could choose to stay, with some having special links to particular family members. 

Here we reveal the stunning residences where the Royal Family have often stayed when they visit Scotland as the Queen’s summer break begins…

Queen Elizabeth II during an inspection of the Balaklava Company, 5 Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland at the gates at Balmoral

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Where do the Royal Family stay in Scotland? 

Balmoral Castle

Perhaps the most iconic and instantly recognizable of the Royal Family’s Scottish homes is Balmoral Castle in rural Aberdeenshire. It’s here that the Queen traditionally enjoys a much-deserved summer break from August-October and has often been considered over the years to be one of her favorite royal residences. 

The Queen’s grandchildren, great-grandchildren and her four children are often invited to spend time with her during her Balmoral break. It’s here that Her Majesty gets to live a more relaxed pace of life, with the Queen’s hilarious response to Balmoral tourists failing to recognize her on a walk in past years showcasing her more low-key lifestyle there. 

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

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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 at Balmoral and the Queen has often been pictured in the various living rooms and her study in the castle. 

Opening up about what summers are like when the Queen stays at Balmoral, her granddaughter Princess Eugenie told viewers of the 2016 ITV documentary, Our Queen at Ninety, how much the highlands mean to the monarch. 

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."

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

When it comes to where the Royal Family stay in Scotland, the Queen’s beloved Balmoral Castle is definitely her go-to Scottish residence with so many precious memories attached to it of summers spent with her nearest and dearest. 


Birkhall

It might not be quite as famous as Balmoral Castle, but Birkhill on the Balmoral estate is another magnificent royal residence put to good use when the Royal Family stay in Scotland. The property is the official Scottish home of Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla and they’re understood to have spent much of the UK’s lockdowns here during the pandemic. It has been in the Royal Family for over 150 years and once belonged to the Queen Mother. 

Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles at Birkhall in Scotland

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After her death in 2002, the Prince of Wales inherited Birkhall and he and the Duchess of Cornwall spent their honeymoon there three years later. 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 coziness and character."

Though despite it being his home, Prince Charles isn’t the only member of the Royal Family to stay at Birkhall when they’re in Scotland. Prince William, who is second in the royal line of succession, and Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge apparently celebrated New Year’s Eve there with him back in 2011.  

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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The Prince of Wales typically spends time at Birkhall in the summer and it’s thought that he uses his Scottish home as a base when he visits the Queen a short distance away at Balmoral during her annual vacation there. According to the Prince of Wales’ website (opens in new tab), whilst there, Prince Charles and Duchess Camilla enjoy everything from walking in the countryside to fishing. 


Tam-Na-Ghar

Perhaps the least well-known of all the royals’ Scottish homes, Tam-Na-Ghar cottage is the third home of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. They and their three children also reside at Kensington Palace in London and Anmer Hall in Norfolk throughout the year. 

Just like Birkhall, Tam-Na-Ghar is understood to be on the Balmoral estate and it’s where Prince William, Duchess 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 and is a private residence, never opened to the public.


Craigowan Lodge

From the moment it was revealed that the Queen had begun her Balmoral trip for this year and left Windsor Castle, many fans might well have been interested to know more about Craigowan Lodge where she’s predicted to be currently staying. Located on the Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire, this beautiful stone cottage is believed to have seven bedrooms, making it the perfect comfortable residence for Her Majesty and any important guests. 

Over the years she 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 “[the Queen] and the Duke are able to be there as an ordinary married couple without the grandeur.”

With Balmoral open to the public until the end of July, the Queen has reportedly chosen to stay at Craigowan Lodge over the years whilst she waits for it to close to tourists. At this point she and her household will travel around a mile to the main castle and settle in there. The same is thought to be occurring this year as Her Majesty made the trip up to Aberdeenshire in mid-July. 


Palace of Holyroodhouse

Whilst the Palace of Holyroodhouse might not be where the Royal Family spend summer breaks like Balmoral, it is the Queen’s official Scottish residence. Located in Edinburgh, the Queen doesn’t spend her vacation there and it’s thought none of her close family members do either. However, Her Majesty does traditionally pay a visit here every summer ahead of her Balmoral break. 

Holyrood Week, known in Scotland as Royal Week, sees the Queen 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 Prince Charles, Princess Anne and the Earl and Countess of Wessex. The monarch was in residence and began Holyrood Week with the traditional Ceremony of the Keys outside the palace. Meanwhile, the Queen was “sharp as a tack” as she made a wicked joke at the Rennedo parade a few days later. 

The Queen isn’t currently expected to return to stay the Palace of Holyroodhouse until next summer for Holyrood Week 2023. 

Does the Royal Family still own the Castle of Mey? 

Avid royal fans out there might well be wondering this rather intriguing question - did the Queen Mother buy a castle in Scotland for £100? Whilst others might be more than a little confused about this very unusual-sounding - not to mention super affordable! - purchase. Despite the rumors, unfortunately the actual amount she paid isn’t known, whether £100, less or a whole lot more. Though according to the official Castle and Gardens of May website (opens in new tab), the Queen Mother did buy 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. 

Just like her daughter the Queen who traditionally spends August-October at Balmoral enjoying the stunning countryside of Aberdeenshire, the Queen Mother headed to Scotland for an annual summer trip too. She spent three weeks at the Castle of Mey in each August, with another ten days spent there in October. 

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 the Queen. However, this all changed in 1996 when the Queen gifted it with an endowment to the Trust. Now the Royal Family no longer privately own the Castle of Mey, though the eldest of the Queen’s children, Prince Charles, who was known to have been close to the Queen Mother, rents the castle for a few days each August and is President of the Trust. 

Emma Shacklock
Emma Shacklock

Emma is a Senior Lifestyle Writer with six years of experience working in digital publishing. Her specialist areas including literature, the British Royal Family and knowing all there is to know about the latest TV shows on the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and every streaming service out there. When she’s not writing about the next unmissable show to add to your to-watch list or delving into royal protocol, you can find Emma cooking and watching yet more crime dramas.