Balmoral, in Scotland's Cairngorm National Park, is one of Queen Elizabeth's private homes. It's the place where she, members of the royal family and their invited guests spend August to October. You're invited to visit too.
And if you'd like to drop in, you need to plan and book your tickets well in advance. Unlike Windsor Castle, the British monarch's weekend getaway, open whether the royal family is in residence or not, Balmoral (like Sandringham where the royals spend Christmas), is a private family estate.
It is closed during August, September and October. Even when it is open to the public, only limited areas can be visited, but those give a fascinating insight into the private life of the British monarchy.
Here's what you can see on a visit to Balmoral:
- The Ballroom, which contains an exhibition of paintings, works of art, porcelain, the Balmoral Tartan Collection and other items from the Castle. This is the largest room at Balmoral and the only one actually open to the public. The rest of the interior is a private residence. Exhibitions in the Ballroom change from year to year so if you've visited once, you'll very likely see something else the next time you come.
- The Carriage Hall Courtyard with its exhibition of Royal Heraldry, commemorative china and a display of native wildlife in their natural habitat.Once again, exhibitions are likely to change from year to year in this area.
- A formal garden covering three acres with several Victorian glasshouses, a kitchen garden and water garden
- Garden Cottage - Queen Victoria's retreat, where she wrote her diaries and often ate breakfast. It is not open to the public but you can take a peek inside through the window. It is arranged much as it would have been during Queen Victoria's day.
- Luxury landrover Safaris - Guided tours of the wilder reaches of the estate in the Cairngorm mountains are offered mornings and afternoons during the opening season. participants are offered the loan of top quality Swarovski Optik binoculars to spot wildlife during the tours. Contact the estate to find out whether safaris are available when you want to visit.
Ranger Walks at Balmoral Castle
When Balmoral Castle is open to the public, the Ranger Service offers a series of easy guided walks. Throughout the Autumn and winter, walks ranging from easy hikes and family outings to mountain walks up Lochnagar are also scheduled. The walks are free of charge but must be booked in advance and the normal admission for a Balmoral visit applies. The selection and schedule of walks changes so check the Balmoral Walks website
Other sites of interest near Balmoral Castle
Crathie Parish Church, where the Royal Family attend church services on Sunday mornings, can be visited from April to October. Sunday services are 11:30.
Royal Lochnagar Distillery A small, working Scotch whiskey distillery, open year round, with inexpensive guided tours and tastings on the hour until 4pm from April through October and frequently scheduled tours for the rest of the year.
- Address: The Estates Office
Balmoral, United KingdomAberdeenshire AB35 5TB
- Telephone: +44(0)13397 42534
- Opening Times: Grounds, gardens and exhibitions, April 1 until Monday, July 31 in 2017, daily from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Opening dates may vary from year to year, so visit the Balmoral website before you go.
- Special Off Season Openings and Tours: Guided tours are sometimes available in the autumn and, from year to year, special autumn and winter opening dates are available.
- Autumn/Winter Guided Tours in 2016: The tours take an hour and after, visitors can stop in the gift shop and have tea and shortbread. In 2016 the tours are scheduled for October 26, 29; November 9, 16, 19, 23, 26, 30 and December 7, 10 and 14. There are four tours each day, beginning at 11, 12, 1 and 2pm. Advance booking is not necessary but visitors are advised to arrive ahead of their tour start time.
- Winter Safari Tours: Three-hour hour landrover safari tours, beginning at 10am are available from late October through early December. The tours, a treat for wildlife lovers, cost £60 per person in 2016. The winter tours are for a minimum of two and a maximum of six people. As there is only one per day in the winter, advance booking is required, with payment on booking. To book telephone +44 (0)13397 42534 or email email@example.com
- Admission: Adult, senior, student, child and family tickets are available. Check the website for current prices.