Balmoral Castle is a 19th Century Scots Baronial estate house. It sits within the Cairngorms National Park between the towns of Braemar and Ballater. It is the current Scottish residence of the British Royal Family.
The royal connection to this site goes back to Robert II of Scotland. He had a hunting lodge here in the 14th Century. In 1390 Sir William Drummond built the first stone castle here. It was a square-plan tower house with bartizans at three of the corners. By the 19th Century it had been extensively modified and included a walled courtyard and gardens.
All that remains of the original castle is a commemorative stone on the front lawn and a photograph by George Washington Wilson of the old castle before its demolition in 1856.
The story of the current castle at Balmoral starts in 1848 when Prince Albert leased the castle from Lord Aberdeen. Queen Victoria quickly fell in love with the location, writing in her diary that it made "one forget the world and its sad turmoils".
In 1852, after a protracted negotiation, Prince Albert bought Balmoral Castle and its estate and commissioned William Smith, City Architect of Aberdeen, to build a new, larger house near the existing castle.
During the annual autumn visit in 1853 Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone on top of time capsule. The time capsule contained all the coins of the realm along with a signed parchment recording the date. By 1856 the new castle was complete and by 1857 the old castle was completely removed.
Prince Albert took an active role in planning and designing the castle. It was built from white granite quarried from the estate at Glen Gelder. The exterior of Balmoral suggests a strong medieval fortress with machicolations, turrets and a defensive keep. In reality it is a well-planned country house.
The castle consists of two main blocks, each arranged around a courtyard. The main rooms and apartments are in the south-western block, while the north-western block is used for service functions. A tall clock tower sits in the south-east complete with battlements and turrets. In total the palace is capable of holding over 120 guests and courtiers.
After Victoria's death the royal family continued to use Balmoral Castle as a Highland retreat. King George V made substantial improvements during the early 20th Century and Prince Philip has made several additions to it over the years.
Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family still visit every autumn. The Balmoral Estate is The Queen's private property, not the property of the Crown. The Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and The Prince of Wales take a close interest in the running and ongoing improvement of the estate.
Parts of Balmoral Castle are open to the public. The castle is home to several exhibitions including wildlife and art exhibits and a grand art exhibition in the Castle Ballroom. Unusually for a castle, there is good disabled access and accessible toilets.
Other facilities on the estate include a visitors' centre, audio tour, toilets, gift shop as well as walks and a guidebook to the estate. The estate runs various activities including running holidays, fishing and biking events and a Landrover safari. There are a range of holiday cottages available for rent and the estate can also cater for corporate entertainment events and wedding events.
South front of Balmoral Castle
Aerial view of the castle