Crowds set to line route as the Queen's final journey through Scotland begins

The Queen will leave her beloved Balmoral behind this morning for the very last time, as her final journey from Scotland begins.

The royal cortege, on a scale never seen before, will emerge from the castle gates at 10am with the procession of cars to make its way through Deeside and then to Aberdeen, Dundee and then Edinburgh.

Thousands are expected to line the route, which will slow to walking pace at points, with the journey to the Capital to take five-and-a-half hours.

Yesterday, as the sun set on the Queen’s final day at Balmoral, crowds gathered for the fondest of farewells as the Royal Family thanked the public for their support.

Floral tributes left at the gates of Balmoral Castle on The Queen's final day at her beloved home in Scotland. PIC: Contributed.

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By the bus load, people came to say goodbye and queued in polite fashion for their moment to leave a flower, pay their respects and play witness to this end of an era in deepest, most serene, Deeside.

Utter silence pinned the crowd as members of the Royal Family, including Princess Anne, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, along with a number of the Queen’s grandchildren, left their heavily plated cars to greet the public after attending private prayers at Crathie Kirk, shortly after 2pm.

Asked by a mourner how things were, Prince Andrew said: “We’ve been allowed one day, now we start the process of handing her on.” He then thanked others for coming.

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Princess Eugenie, the Princess Royal, Peter Phillips, Sir Timothy Laurence, Zara Tindall visit the floral tributes at Balmoral Castle with (left-right front) Princess Beatrice and the Duke of York: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire.

As they moved to the bundles of floral tributes, Zara Tindall and Princess Eugenie became tearful, with Lady Louise receiving a comforting arm from her mother, Sophie, Countess of Wessex.

And then, by the gates of Balmoral, the family turned together to face the public for more than a moment in a show of openness and waved - with applause then breaking the still air.

For Carol Smith, 65, an office manager from Banchory, it perfectly summed up the Royal’s affection for the surrounding area – and the affection it holds for them.

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Shona Diack and son Harvey, 14, from Lenzie. Ms Diack said there was extra poignancy visiting Balmoral before The Queen began her last journey out of Scotland. PIC: Contributed.

She said: “That was so touching, so real – such a genuine moment. They were not playing to a world stage. This is not a stage, this is home.

"They looked like a family, a family who is here to grieve. When they turned to us, it felt like a real thank you.

"I am so grateful to have been here when The Queen was still here and to see her family like that.”

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After leaving Balmoral, the cortege will travel to Aberdeen, through the towns and villages that have been part of many a Royal summer, including Ballater and Aboyne, before heading to Aberdeen, Dundee and then the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, where the procession is due to arrive at 3.30pm.

Moira Slater with grandson Mayson, 10, from Fraserburgh and daughter Elaine Tait, from Balmedie, at Balmoral. PIC: Contributed.

The Queen will then be transported along the Royal Mile to St Giles’ Cathedral, where she will lie in state, on Monday.

For Shona Diack, of Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, having the chance to pay her respects to the Queen at Balmoral had a deep poignancy.

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She said: “I feel emotional being here. The reality is, the Queen is today just at the end of the drive. We come here on holiday and stay on the estate and we have watched her come out of the gates many times. Now, this will be the last time. “

Kara Birkett, a primary school cleaner, of Newtonhill in Aberdeenshire, said the afternoon had allowed her to spend some time at Balmoral during the Queen’s final day on Deeside.

She said: “The Queen is still here, at Balmoral, and that means something. We wanted to come here, spend a few moments – and spend a few moments with her.”

Elaine Tait, from Balmedie, travelled with her mother, Moira, and nephew, Mayson, 10, from Fraserburgh to pay their respects.

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Elizabeth Robertson, 59, of Dollar, visited Balmoral to thank The Queen for her service - and to remember her own family history. PIC: Contributed.

Ms Tait said “It’s really poignant that she died in Scotland and that she spent her last days in the country that she loved.”

Elizabeth Robertson, 59, of Dollar in Clackmannanshire, drove up to Braemar through Glenshee with a bunch of the last of the summer flowers from her garden.

She said: “I listened to everything said on the radio about The Queen, her life and her duty and I really felt I owed it to her to pay my respects. I wanted to thank her and for everything she has done for the country.”

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For Ms Robertson – and for many at Balmoral over the last few days – the death of The Queen has held a mirror to her own family, her own story and her own losses.

Ms Robertson said: “She was woven into so many members of my family, going back over the 70 years of her reign. My great aunties lived in Ballater and when we were younger and lived abroad, my dad, who was born in Aberdeen, used to pack us up in his Zephyr and drive us from Madrid to Deeside to see them. I really felt like I wanted to come for the Queen, but also my aunts and my father. The Queen was a constant for us all and her death got me really thinking about all these people.”

For Stephen Utley, a Corporal in the Royal Air Force based at Lossiemouth, the loss of The Queen as the Head of the Armed Forces is a loss without measure.

Corporal Utley said he was “devasted” by the news.

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He said: “It marks the end of an era. It is a very sad time. It’s almost a time that you almost thought would never happen.

“She served for over 70 years and she served flawlessly.”

He said there was a mood of “quiet reflection” among his colleagues, who will now serve His Majesty’s Air Force.

Cpl Utley added: “I met the Queen in 2015 at RAF Marham in Norfolk where she inspected me. It is the highlight of your career.”

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For many at Balmoral yesterday, it was a time of history and of memory – and a time that will live long.

Corporal Stephen Utley, of the Royal Air Force, visited Balmoral yesterday and said he was "devastated" at the loss of the Queen. PIC: Contributed.
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