When many people think of the British royal family, Buckingham Palace and Kensington Palace come to mind as places of residence, but my mind immediately goes to Balmoral Castle. I think I associate this estate with The Royal Family the most because Balmoral Castle is one of two personal and private residences owned by The Royal Family, unlike the Royal Palaces, which belong to the Crown.
Two and a half years after Queen Victoria’s marriage to Prince Albert, the Queen visited Scotland for the very first time. They loved the Highlands so much, that they knew they had to come back! Thus, Prince Albert purchased Balmoral Castle for Queen Victoria in 1852, having been leased in 1848, and it has been in the family ever since.
Queen Elizabeth II and The Duke of Edinburgh first visited Balmoral in 1952, and they have been spending their summer breaks here with other members of The Royal Family. Us commoners get to peek into this gorgeous estate from April to July, as it is open to the public! CJ and I visited in July, and it was absolutely breathtaking.
Balmoral is located mid way between Ballater and Braemar, just off the A93. The closest train station and airport are located in Aberdeen, about 50 miles east of Balmoral. Personally, we drove the two and a half hours from Edinburgh to Balmoral on a perfect Saturday morning. Once we parked our car in the parking lot close by, we began on foot towards the sweeping estate. We passed over the River Dee (which offers some of the best salmon fishing in Scotland!) and then entered through the front gates of this 50,000-acre Highland Estate.
As soon as we arrived, we came upon a Pipe Band playing right in front of the castle, which was an authentic treat! Since we reached Balmoral just before noon, it was relatively unoccupied. The perfectly manicured front lawn was empty, as you can see from the gorgeous photos. Once we took in the exterior of the castle, we entered the only room accessible to the public – the Ballroom. The Ballroom is still very much in use today and is the backdrop for two big dances during Her Majesty’s stay at Balmoral, which have taken place every year since Queen Victoria’s reign. For the public’s viewing, the Ballroom is covered with objects and portraits from throughout the Victorian era to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria’s birth.
After viewing the Ballroom Exhibition, we walked down a path and passed the Garden Cottage where Queen Victoria would sometimes take breakfast and write. Then we strolled to the gardens, which were started under the supervision of Prince Albert. Since then, it has been taken over by different members of The Royal Family. Queen Mary worked on it from 1923 to 1925, and The Duke of Edinburgh expanded the gardens to include a large kitchen garden. The adorable vegetable garden is harvested between August and October during the family’s summer holiday.
The grounds are so vast that for a moment, it felt like we were alone walking around our own little fairytale. When we walked back to the castle, the sheer vastness of the front lawn was awe-inspiring. The majesty of the castle loomed in the distance; it’s ivy hugged the stones and beautiful yellow roses climbed up the sides.
We then grabbed some delicious lunch (shout out to the scones and jam) at the Pipers Hall Café on the grounds. In the spirit of Queen Elizabeth II, CJ had a coronation chicken sandwich. The café offers vegetarian as well as gluten free options, with a side of art hung on the walls that are for purchase done by The Upper Deeside Art Society!
All in all, it was an absolutely magical day. The staff is extremely friendly, the castle is simply regal, and the grounds were beautiful. I would highly recommend visiting Balmoral Castle (now if only I could live there!)