Balmoral is, of course, the Scottish home of the British royal family and has been ever since Queen Victoria and her consort Prince Albert bought the estate in 1848.
Before that, it was owned by the powerful Gordon family who, in the 16th century, resided in a tower house on the site where Balmoral Castle now stands. Soon after their purchase, Victoria and Albert decided the house was too small and, commissioned the present castle to be built in the Scots Baronial style, fit for a queen. The castle’s foundation stone was laid by Queen Victoria on 28 September 1853 and can be found at the foot of the wall adjacent to the West face of the entrance porch. On the castle’s completion in 1856, the old tower was demolished – it’s been commemorated by a stone on the front lawn, marking its position and orientation.
Set amongst the magnificent scenery of Royal Deeside, in the shadows of Lochnagar, Balmoral covers a rambling 50,000 acres of heather-clad hills and ancient Caledonian woodland. The royal family traditionally spend their holidays here from August and, since 1931, the castle gardens have been open to the public between April and the end of July. Access to the castle is restricted to the ballroom, which is regularly used to house exhibitions of artefacts related to the royal family.
Balmoral Castle, Ballater, Aberdeenshire AB35 5TB. Tel: 01339 742 534; www.balmoralcastle.com
Words: Vicky Sartain