Inside Balmoral Castle: the secret stories of Queen Elizabeth’s favorite place now open to visitors

Inside Balmoral Castle: the secret stories of Queen Elizabeth's favorite place now open to visitors

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Balmoral Castle in Scotland holds a significant place in the heart of the British royal family, serving as Queen Elizabeth’s cherished summer retreat. The castle witnessed poignant moments in royal history, including the Queen’s annual holiday escapes and her passing in September 2022.

This centuries-old estate, featured prominently in The Crown, is described as both “freaky” by Tony Blair and “the most beautiful place in the world” by Princess Eugenie. At Balmoral, the royal family enjoys respite from public duties, engaging in outdoor activities like horseback riding and grilling, with Prince Philip often tending to the barbecue.

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“Grandpa, who’d set off half an hour before us, was already tending his grill at the back of the lodge,” Prince Harry wrote in “Spare”.

“He stood amid a thick cloud of smoke, tears streaming from his eyes. He wore a flat cap, which he took off now and then to mop his brow or smack a fly.

“As the fillets of venison sizzled he turned them with a huge pair of tongs, then put on a loop of Cumberland sausages. Normally I’d beg him to make a pot of his specialty, spaghetti Bolognese. This night, for some reason, I didn’t.

“Granny’s specialty was the salad dressing. She’d whisked a large batch. Then she lit the candles down the long table and we all sat on wooden chairs with creaky straw seats. Often we had a guest for these dinners, some famous or eminent personage.

“Many times I’d discussed the temperature of the meat or the coolness of the evening with a prime minister or bishop. But tonight it was just family.”

The history behind the castle

King Charles, following his mother’s tradition, spent a portion of his summer at Balmoral, including a private commemoration of her death anniversary. Steeped in history, Balmoral’s origins date back to 1390, but it officially became a royal residence in 1852 when Prince Albert gifted it to Queen Victoria.

The estate, spanning 50,000 acres with 150 buildings, continues to be a cherished haven for the royal family, despite its somber associations with tragic events such as Princess Diana’s honeymoon and the Queen’s appointment of a new prime minister in 2022.

Balmoral Castle typically closes to the public when the royal family is in residence but opens during other times of the year. In 2023, King Charles extended the public opening until August 16, a departure from Queen Elizabeth’s tradition of beginning her vacations at the end of July.

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