Where is Balmoral Castle and how can you visit?

The Scottish Castle is rumoured to be the late Queen's favourite residence

A landscape photo of Balmoral Castle
(Image credit: Alamy)

'Where is Balmoral Castle?' is a popular question among royal fans who want to know more about the place where the late Queen Elizabeth II spent her last few months.

Following the Queen's death (opens in new tab) on 8 September 2022, many are curious to know more about the Scottish residence that was said to be the Queen's favourite, and the place where she appointed her fifteenth Prime Minister (opens in new tab), Liz Truss, just days before her passing. 

This year, Her Majesty first arrived at Balmoral in July (opens in new tab) and spent her annual summer breaks at the Castle for most of her life. The remote location is a source of intrigue to many, who want to know where is Balmoral Castle and can they visit it?

Where is Balmoral Castle?

Balmoral Castle is in Ballater, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The Castle is situated right next to the River Dee and within the Cairngorms National Park, with the closest city being Aberdeen, just under 50 miles away.

As well as the castle itself, there are an additional 150 other buildings on the Balmoral Estate, including Birkhall - the estate of Prince Charles and where the Queen and Prince Philip spent part of their honeymoon - Craigowan Lodge, and several other cottages.

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The remote location allowed the late Queen to relax away from royal duties, and she was known to go horseriding, walking and enjoy barbecues and picnics during her time on the estate, as well as watching events at the nearby Braemar Highland Games with other members of the Royal Family.

Princess Eugenie has previously said of Balmoral: "It's the most beautiful place on earth. I think Granny is the most happy there. I think she really, really loves the Highlands."

Queen Elizabeth spent much of her late husband Prince Philip's final years at Balmoral with him, and it was where they stayed during lockdown as well as their 73rd wedding anniversary in November 2020.

How did The Queen travel to Balmoral?

The Queen usually travelled by private jet to Balmoral - though she was also known to have flown by helicopter - making the journey from England to the east of Scotland.

The Queen traditionally stayed at Balmoral from August to October every year, and members of the Royal Family were invited to spend time with her during her summer break.

The Queen usually travels from RAF Northolt in west London to Aberdeenshire, and in the past has been pictured boarding the jet with her beloved Corgis (opens in new tab).

Who owns Balmoral?

Balmoral Castle was privately owned by the Queen. Of all the royal residences, it is only Balmoral and Sandringham (opens in new tab), in Norfolk, that the Queen owned herself - the rest are property of the Crown Estate.

This means that unlike other royal residences such as Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle (opens in new tab), it has not been automatically passed into the ownership of King Charles. However, it is likely that the late Queen will have left the Scottish residence to King Charles in her will. 

Balmoral has been the Scottish home of the Royal Family since 1852, when it was purchased by Queen Victoria. According to the Balmoral Castle website (opens in new tab), after acquiring the Balmoral Estate Prince Albert decided to build a new Castle as the current one was considered not large enough for the Royal Family. The foundation stone for Balmoral Castle was laid by Queen Victoria on 28th September 1853 and it can be found at the foot of the wall adjacent to the West face of the entrance porch.

When Queen Victoria died in 1901, Balmoral Estate passed on to King Edward VII, and from him to each of his successors.

Inside Balmoral Castle

When royal photographers have been allowed inside the Castle, it's been noted that several of the rooms are decorated with mint green. 

One example is in 2017, when the Queen met with Canadian Governor General Designate Julie Payette. The photographs taken in one of the drawing rooms showed light green carpet and a matching green three-piece furniture set, as well as tall bookshelves and a fireplace with a mirror above.

That same year, General Sir Peter Cosgrove, the Governor-General of Australia and Lady Cosgrove met the Queen at Balmoral Castle, and again pictures showed a mint green carpet with matching furniture and curtains, as well as an armchair covered in a white, green and red fauna fabric and paintings in ornate gold frames.

The same room was photographed when the Queen appointed new PM Liz Truss at Balmoral, and in the final photograph taken of Her Majesty, which shows the Queen smiling in front of a roaring fire.

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In 2021, following the death of Prince Philip, the Royal Family released a photograph of The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at Balmoral with their grandchildren, taken in 2018. The photo showed them sat on a mint green sofa atop a cream rug, next to a lamp with a turquoise and flowery base.

How big is Balmoral Estate?

Balmoral Estate is 50,000 acres, and Balmoral Castle has an incredible 52 bedrooms and a ballroom.

Can you visit Balmoral Castle?

Yes, you can visit Balmoral Castle, but only at certain times of the year and when the Royal Family aren't in residence.

Following the death of the Queen, the Balmoral Estate is closed until further notice and during the Period of Mourning the main gates will be closed to all traffic.

However, floral tributes can be placed at the main gates to Balmoral and a book of condolences is available to sign on the Royal Household website (opens in new tab).

Balmoral guided tours begin at the coffee shop and go via the Game Larder, the original Iron Ballroom and the Ice House. The Ballroom is is the only room open to visitors in the Castle. Following the tour, visitors are free to wander around the grounds and gardens.

Adults tickets cost £16.50, while the price for a child's ticket (5 to 16 years) is £7.50.

You can find out more information at balmoralcastle.com (opens in new tab)

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