The Queen and Royal Family always spend early Autumn in Scotland so if your plan includes visiting Scotland then you are in good company!
Located just a scenic 60 mile drive away from us is Balmoral Castle which has been the Scottish Home of the Royal Family since it was purchased for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852. From that moment on the Royal Family have been firmly linked to Scotland.
In fact as I write this the Prince of Wales has been spending his Covid-19 isolation period at Birkhall, his property on the Balmoral Estate – perhaps testament to how close the Royal Family is to Scotland. And Queen Victoria spent many years in mourning at Balmoral after the death of Prince Albert.
Balmoral Estate located on Royal Deeside is in the Cairngorms National Park. Five of the highest mountains in the UK are found in the Cairngorms along with crystal clear rivers and vast tracks of wildland.
The route from Blervie House to Balmoral is the world-famous Snow Roads and is a drive we encourage all our guests to drive. If you want to see wild, spectacular Scotland – here it is. However, you might wish to ask Graham about his Garnshiel Bridge experiences!
The Balmoral Estate includes the distinctive Lochnager mountain. The setting for a children’s story, The Old Man of Lochnagar, written by Prince Charles In the film Mrs Brown, John Brown and Benjamin Disraeli hike up Lochnagar to discuss the need for Queen Victoria to return to active involvement with the government. There is also a rather distinctive malt whisky distillery of the same name on the Estate.
Since its purchase, the Balmoral Estate has been added to by successive members of the royal family, and now covers an area of approximately 50,000 acres (20,000 ha). It is a working estate, including grouse moors, forestry, and farmland, as well as managed herds of deer, Highland cattle, and ponies. With Lochnager as part of Balmoral, the Estate not only provides relaxation for the Royal Family but also provides visitors with glimpses of how well managed Highland Estates function. One of the best ways to see this Estate is on foot but there is a quicker more comfortable way by taking a Landrover Safari Tour which is a unique opportunity to explore the best of Balmoral.
If you prefer to walk then enjoy the freedom afforded by Scotland’s Outdoor Access Code and spend some time visiting Loch Muick – my favourite walk in all of Scotland or walk the Balmoral Cairns Walk. The cairns commemorate members of the British royal family and events in their lives.
Looking for a quieter walk then visit the Castle. Park in the Visitor Centre to get a ticket. The Castle viewing is limited as many of the rooms are private but the Garden, Grounds, Ballrooms and China are all on display.
If you are visiting in August my Top Tip is to be in the car park in time for Sunday Service to see the Royal Family attend Church. You may even see visiting dignitaries as it is customary for the Prime Minister and other Heads of State to visit the Monarch at this time. On Mondays, you can even have tea in the Kirk.
Royal Warrant Town – Ballater
If you love following in the Royal Family’s footsteps then you have to drive 7 miles down the road to Ballater. Known as Royal Warrant town because of the number of businesses supplying her Majesty. George Strachan the Grocer by Royal Appointment and the Prince of Wales has a restaurant here – The Rothesay Rooms.
The town itself is a wonderful Highland town that is worth spending time in. Visit the renovated Victorian Train Station (the original was damaged in a fire in 2015). Now a tea room the renovation is beautifully done and you can just imagine Queen Victoria’s train pulling into the station complete with all her entourage. Meander further down the Town to enjoy the shops or the River Dee or have lunch in the Prince of Wales restaurant.
Another area where you will see the Royal Family’s affinity to Scotland is at the Braemar Gathering – the most famous Highland Games in the world. Many members of the Royal Family will always be in attendance. If you are not visiting Scotland while the Games are on you can always stop and explore the history of the Games at the Visitor Centre.
And if you are visiting Johnstons of Elgin when you are staying with us check out the Balmoral tartan and estate tweed designed by Prince Albert in 1852 and first woven by Johnstons in 1853. They still use the same colours and designs today.
The Queen and members of the Royal Family truly love Scotland and are fully immersed in life and events up here. Whatever time of year you chose to visit Scotland you will experience evidence of this. Make some time to visit Ballater and Deeside to understand why the Royal Family have made Balmoral their Scottish home since 1852.