The fun tradition that marks the end of The Royal Family’s summer stay at Balmoral

This year will mark the first family trip to Scotland without the Queen

Royal Family King Charles with the late Queen, Kate Middleton, Prince William, Prince George, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis
(Image credit: Getty)

To mark the end of the Royal Family's summer stay at Balmoral, they throw a huge party for both family, friends and staff to blow off some steam.  

In a tradition that has been upheld for 170 years, the Royal Family are gearing up to throw The Ghillies Ball, a huge summer party marking the end of their time at Balmoral Castle for this year. So while Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis could miss out on this sweet family tradition during their stay, they can at least look forward to dancing it off. 

As per reports in The Express, each year, the Monarch invites the Royal Family, selected friends and their estate's household staff to let loose for one night. The guests reportedly wear kilts and tartan sashes for what is known as the end-of-season dance at Balmoral Castle that takes place in late August.

Marlene Koenig, a historian and an expert on British royalty, told The Express, “It is an event where the staff and royals are on even footing as the ball is for staff, the tenants, the Queen and members of the Royal Family who would join in the traditional Scottish dancing."

The tradition began 170 years ago when Prince Albert bought the Balmoral estate for the then-reigning monarch Queen Victoria in 1852. The couple are said to have organised the first annual ball that same year as they put on a party to thank their staff before everyone returned to London.

The event became known as The Ghillies Ball for two reasons. The first is that “ghillie” means gamekeeper in Gaelic and the party itself was for household staff, including gaekeepers, but also because the lace-up shoes typically worn to Scottish Country and Highland dances are called Ghillies.

Andrew Lownie, a royal biographer and author of the 2021 book Traitor King, told The Express that both royals and staff “love” the ball as it lets them “freely mix and let their hair down”.

Prince Philip, Queen Elizabeth and three of their children at Balmoral

(Image credit: Bettmann via Getty)

It has been confirmed by Rebecca English of The Daily Mail that King Charles will continue the traditional ball despite this year being the family's first summer holiday without the late Queen.

This year will mark the first ball in four years after lockdown restrictions and then the unfortunate illness of the Queen in the run-up to her passing last year. 

Royal expert Marlene Koenig told The Express that this year's ball will be incredibly poignant as it will not only mark King Charles III's first ball, but will also honour the Queen and make up for the ball's long hiatus. 

She said, “Balmoral’s interior has hardly changed since Queen Victoria — so the ball has been a long-standing tradition that King Charles III will want to continue with the next generation. It will be a time to celebrate the new reign and honour her late Majesty.”

News writer

Charlie Elizabeth Culverhouse is a news writer for Goodtoknow, specialising in family content. She began her freelance journalism career after graduating from Nottingham Trent University with an MA in Magazine Journalism, receiving an NCTJ diploma, and earning a First Class BA (Hons) in Journalism at the British and Irish Modern Music Institute. She has also worked with BBC Good Food and The Independent.