Balmoral: Where is Balmoral in Scotland and is it open to the public?

Balmoral Caste, ,the private residence of King Charles and Queen Camilla. PIC: Neil Roger/Flickr/CCBalmoral Caste, ,the private residence of King Charles and Queen Camilla. PIC: Neil Roger/Flickr/CC
Balmoral Caste, ,the private residence of King Charles and Queen Camilla. PIC: Neil Roger/Flickr/CC
The castle is set deep in some of Scotland’s finest countryside and has been a refuge for the Royal Family for almost 200 years. Now, it is being opened up to the public like never before.

Balmoral Castle remains the main private residence of the Royal Family in Scotland and, set in the peaceful environment of Deeside, has proved to be the ultimate refuge and retreat time and time again.

The mid-19th Century pile, built for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as they sought clean air and sanctuary, is surrounded by 50,000 acres of parkland, moor, woodland and gardens which are timed to emerge at their best in late summer, just as the monarch arrives for their annual holiday.


Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Queen Elizabeth II’s stays at Balmoral got longer over time with the privacy and quiet offered by the sprawling estate sitting close to her heart. She died here in September 2022 and was laid to rest with a wreath of flowers collected form the surrounding woods an her coffin lifted on its last journey by the gamekeepers and staff who had become so important to her.

Read More
King launches behind-the-scenes Balmoral Castle tours with tickets costing £100

When Diana, Princess of Wales was killed in Paris, it was here that the Royal Family bunkered down before they were persuaded to return to London given the outpouring of public grief. Decades before, a young Queen Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret, spent extended periods here in relative safety during World War Two.

Balmoral time was family time for the royals with the surrounding beauty spots of Lochnagar and Loch Muick the scene for picnics and barbecues, most usually with Prince Philip in his element while tending the grill. Houses over the estate, such as Abergeldie and Birkhall have served as the favoured hideaways of key figures of the family.


Balmoral Estate has long been accessible to the public with the long drive, surrounding parkland, towering firs and stunning setting of the castle leaving an impression of the sanctuary enjoyed by the Royal Family.

This year, the castle and grounds are open from May 4 to August 11.

Up until recently, entrance to the Balmoral afforded access only to the ballroom, where ceilidhs, dances and music have been enjoyed by royals, estate workers and guests over generations. Displays were limited largely to photographs and some of Queen Elizabeth’s favourite outfits, leaving visitors frozen out of the overwhelming majority of the building. With entry at over £20, there was little to see inside but the very private nature of the private residence is being softened a little this summer.

Following the accession of King Charles, more rooms at Balmoral Castle will open up further to the public to offer a deeper insight into life here.

New tours of Balmoral Castle which allow people to see parts of the Royal Family's private home for the first time went on sale in April - and sold out in a day.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

The tours in July and August cost £100, or £150 with afternoon tea, with just 40 tickets a day made available with groups of 10 permitted inside at one time.

The tours will take place before the King and Queen arrive at the castle for their summer break.


Balmoral Castle lies in the valley of the River Dee as it curves through the foothills of the Grampians between Braemar and Ballater. It sits 9 miles west of Ballater and just over 50 miles west of Aberdeen.

To the south of the castle stands the hill of Craig Gowan and to the south west stands the mighty Munro of Lochnagar, an inspiration to all who survey and climb her with the mountain’s magic deeply felt by King Charles throughout his life.

All around, the pure, soft air of Deeside lifts the spirits along with the fir trees that dominate the landscape of these parts.


Balmoral Castle has been a residence of the British Royal Family since 1852, when the original house was purchased by Queen Victoria and her consort, Prince Albert.

The existing house was found to be too small and Balmoral Castle as we know today was built, with Prince Albert closely supervising designs of both house and garden.

While Victoria and Albert made Balmoral Castle known to the world, there was an earlier castle known as Bouchmorale here. Built in the 15th Century, it is thought to have been an early keep tower. Later owned by the prominent Farquharson family , the castle was forfeited by the British Government following the Battle of Culloden given their strong Jacobite support.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Their creation of the new Balmoral hideaway fuelled the great romanticisation of the Highlands, its landscapes and the desirability of Scotland as a tourist destination. The ‘Balmoralisation’ of Scotland is a term frequently use to refer to the representation of Scotland as a place of tartan, stags, mountains, lochs, castles and Highland heroes.

On September 24, 1850, Queen Victoria wrote: "A showery morning, & we could not walk as far as we wished. Everything is so enjoyable here, — every little walk seems full of interest; the scenery, — the good simple people, — besides the almost constant interest of sport, either in the shape of birds, or deer, or roe."

With Queen Victoria making Scotland fashionable following a long spell when the Highlands was demonised as a place of danger and insurrection, owning a Scottish estate became an enduring trophy of the elite.


The Royal Family are considered neighbours to the surrounding area and are afforded privacy and respect by those living in towns such as Braemar and Ballater. A royal presence at Balmoral is often first indicated by the darkened Range Rovers of their security staff. Sometimes, the royals can be spotted in the butchers at Ballater or attending local events.

Related topics:



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.