While the hit Netflix series The Crown has shone a spotlight on the Queen’s love of Balmoral as a refuge and the many famed British figures who have visited the estate over the years, it didn’t capture the Duke of Edinburgh’s appreciation for the change of pace at Balmoral and its dense, earthy landscape.
It is widely believed that the Duke of Edinburgh’s resoluteness and determination to perform his royal duties - even as a nonagenarian - was foregrounded by his time at Gordonstoun as a young man.
Prince Philip was known to enjoy manning the grill during many a Balmoral barbecue, as the Royals and prestigious guests would take advantage of Scotland’s slightly warmer, sunnier months with picnics and barbecues at picturesque spots across the Estate.
Royal correspondent and insider Robert Hardman wrote in his biography on Queen Elizabeth, Queen of the World, that the Duke of Edinburgh “would relish the prospect of setting up his barbecue in the unlikeliest spots – and cooking anything that took his fancy.”
He quotes former equerry to the Queen and ex-commander of the Royal Yacht Britannia, Sir Robert Woodward on Prince Philip’s love of hosting the Balmoral barbecue: “He’d lead ashore with all the barbecue kit and the Queen would come later with the salad supplies and all the side dishes.
“He’s a brilliant and very innovative cook. If you produced any strange animal out of the sea, he’d prepare it and cook it. You shouldn’t be surprised if you ate an octopus.”
With grouse, cattle, deer, rabbits and an abundance of red squirrels, Balmoral has provided no shortage of activities to turn to on annual summer trips to Balmoral, offering everything from hunting, to fishing, to deer-stalking.
The Royals’ appreciation for shooting and hunting on the estate’s sprawling grounds is no secret, shown in all its glory when the Duke of Edinburgh received the gift of a silver tankard etched with engravings of the Estate’s deer-stalking areas at St Andrew's Day celebrations in London, 2006. “It’s unusual to get something useful,” the duke reportedly remarked.
Yet stories also abound of Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth’s appreciation for getting their hands dirty at Balmoral - with the Queen washing the dishes and Prince Philip getting stuck into gardening.
Indeed, it was revealed in 2011 that the Duke of Edinburgh once took a bulldozer to a garden at Balmoral in one of several attempts to leave his imprint on Balmoral’s grand and blooming gardens. Since the 1950s, the duke has created several changes to the gardens, illustrating his love of nature with the addition of many herbaceous plants, paths lined with sweet smelling plants and even a water garden.
With its location neatly nestled in the vast Cairngorms National Park, it’s easy to see the appeal of Balmoral for the world’s most famous family. Under a constant spotlight, the castle has long occupied a space where the Royals could relax and enjoy some time away from the hustle and bustle of Buckingham Palace and a vast array of royal duties.