So while I write my A-Z of activity suggestions, we have to look at Q for Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria, two truly celebrated British ladies.
Sadly 2022 will go down in history as the year we lost Queen Elizabeth II, who died in Scotland at the Balmoral Estate that Queen Victoria purchased and perhaps the true home of the Royal Family. Indeed the Queen and Royal Family always spend early Autumn in Scotland, so if your plan includes visiting Scotland, 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.
Many of you will have seen King Charles, Princess Anne and the Prince of Wales visiting Balmoral as the Queen died. Then the funeral procession left the Estate of Queen Victoria so close to Balmoral that she spent many years mourning there 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, 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 King 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 distinctive malt whisky distillery of the same name on the Estate.
Since its purchase, the Balmoral Estate has been added to by successive royal family members 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 provides relaxation for the Royal Family and gives visitors 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, enjoy the freedom afforded by Scotland’s Outdoor Access Code and spend some time visiting Loch Muick – my favourite walk in Scotland or the Balmoral Cairns Walk. The cairns commemorate members of the British royal family and events in their lives.
If you are looking for a quieter walk, visit Castle Park in the Visitor Centre to get a ticket. The Castle viewing is limited as many 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 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
Suppose you love following in the Royal Family’s footsteps. In that case, you must 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 King Charles has a restaurant here – The Rothesay Rooms.
The Town itself is a beautiful Highland town 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 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 Royal Family truly love Scotland and is fully immersed in life and events. Whatever time of year you choose to visit Scotland, you will experience evidence of this. Please make some time to visit Ballater and Deeside to understand why the Royal Family have made Balmoral their Scottish home since 1852.