Explore HM The Queen’s favourite places

    Balmoral, queen
    The Balmoral estate in Aberdeenshire is where the Queen spends her summer holidays
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    The Queen is most readily associated with her official residences – Buckingham Palace, Windsor Palace and the Palace of Holyroodhouse – but where does the monarch really enjoy spending her time? Here we take a look at the other royal homes and landscapes known to be beloved of HM Queen Elizabeth II.

    Balmoral

    The rural splendour of the Queen’s private estate in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, is known to be a favourite. Every year, she heads there for her summer holiday.

    Set in 50,000 acres of Scottish highlands the estate has been a favourite of members of the royal family since 1852, when it was bought for £32,000 by Prince Albert, on behalf of his wife, Queen Victoria. Set within the Cairngorms National Park, the 50,000-acre estate contains a wide variety of landscapes, from the Dee river valley to open mountains, and to this day it remains a working estate. A lover of country pursuits, it’s no surprise this is where the Queen retreats to escape the affairs of state.

    The grounds, gardens, exhibitions, gift shop and coffee shop are open to the public until Sunday 31 July and a number of holiday cottages are available to rent on the estate.

    The Royal Yacht Britannia

    Royal Yacht Britannia, wuuen
    Royal Yacht Britannia

    Now berthed in Edinburgh and one of the UK’s top visitor attractions, the Royal Yacht Britannia was the floating home of the Queen and the royal family from 1954 until it was decommissioned in 1997. For more than 40 years, Britannia sailed a million miles around the world, as well as being used for glittering state visits, official receptions and royal honeymoons. The Queen described the royal yacht, which was used for family summer holidays, as “the one place I can truly relax” and, with its comfortable and elegant State Rooms, that’s no surprise.

    Britannia is open every day, and you can even enjoy refreshments on the Royal Deck Tea Room.

    Western Isles

    Isle of Harris, Horgabost, Western Isles, Scotland
    Beach on the Isle of Harris, Horgabost, Western Isles, Scotland. Credit: VisitBritain/Britain on View

    Until she was decommissioned, the royal family would take their annual holiday cruise on the Royal Yacht Britannia around the Western Isles of Scotland. Landing on remote beaches gave the family private time to relax away from official duties and the public, enjoying picnics on beautiful remote islands such as Skye and Isle of Harris.

    Windsor Castle

    Windsor Castle
    Windsor Castle. Credit: VisitBritain/Britain on View

    The Windsor estate is the private property of the royal family, and is where the Queen retreats at weekends. With its wild views and majestic panoramas the Queen lives as close as possible to a normal life, walking her dogs in the grounds, driving in the grounds and spending time with her family. She spent a great deal of time there as a child, and possibly regards it as her true home.

    The state rooms, and grounds are open to the public year-round.

    Y Bwthyn Bach

    On her sixth birthday in 1932 Princess Elizabeth was given a miniature thatched cottage, Y Bwthyn Bach, or The Little House, by the people of Wales. Placed in the grounds of the Royal Lodge, then her parents’ country home, in Windsor Great Park, it was built to two-fifths scale with a living room, kitchen, bedroom and bathroom. Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret looked after it themselves and for many years it was their favourite toy, and remains in regular use by the royal children. Although it’s not open to the public, this great video offers an amazing insider’s view.

    Sandringham Estate

    Sandringham House
    The East Front of Sandringham House

    Around 110 miles north of London lies the sprawling Norfolk estate of Sandringham, a private royal home since 1862. It was first purchased as a country home for 21-year-old Prince Edward – later King Edward VII – by his parents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Four generations of British monarchs have now called it home, and today it’s a much-loved retreat for the current monarch and where the royal family gathers for Christmas.

    The house is at the heart of the 8,000-hectare Sandringham Estate was built in 1870 by the Prince and Princess of Wales, later King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, and was once described as “the most comfortable house in England”.

    The main groundfloor rooms, regularly used by the royal family, are open to the public and the decor and contents remain very much as they were in Edwardian times. Sandringham Museum, in the former coach houses, is a treasure trove of royal-related artefacts.

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