Balmoral Castle is the private residence of the British royal family. Purchased in 1852 by Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, it became a beloved place for both Victoria and subsequent generations of the royal family. Particularly fond of it was Queen Elizabeth II, who spent the last moments of her life there.
It is undoubtedly one of the most interesting monuments of this region and a tourist attraction admired by over 70.000 tourists every year.
In addition to the royal residences that the monarchs have due to their office, two: Balmoral and Sandringham House, are the private property of the family.
Earlier, however, in the first half of the 14th century, King Robert II of Scotland had a hunting lodge in the area. This estate was later leased by Alexander Gordon, second son of Alexander Seton, 1st Earl of Huntly. The Gordon family built a fortified castle there.
In 1662 the estate passed into the hands of the Farquharsons. In 1830, Sir Robert Gordon purchased the lease of the estate, made major changes to the original castle, and extended it in baronial style.
They then stopped at Taymouth Castle. They returned to Scotland in 1844, having no property of their own there. In 1848 Prince Albert took over part of the lease of Balmoral, including the furniture and staff, without having previously seen the property.
The first visit of the royal couple to Balmoral took place on September 8, 1848. The Queen said the house was "small but nice."
In her diary, she wrote: "Everything seemed to breathe freedom and peace and made one forget the world and its sad turbulences." The surrounding hilly landscape reminded them of Thuringia, Albert's homeland in Germany.
It was decided to expand the castle and commission a new project to John and William Smith. The project involved the construction of various auxiliary buildings and the development of gardens.
It was used as a dining room until October 1, 1851, and as a ballroom until 1856.
The price was £32.000, and in the autumn of the same year, Prince Albert formally took possession of Balmoral. At the same time, the neighboring estate of Birkhall was purchased (now owned by King Charles III).
The first of fourteen stone cairns was also built on the hills overlooking the castle (one of them is on the Birkhall estate). The mounds commemorate members of the British royal family and events from their lives. Most of them were built by Queen Victoria.
The largest mound was built by the Queen in memory of her husband, Prince Albert, after his death in 1861.
In the village of Ballater (in Aberdeenshire, on the River Dee), 60 stones were laid, one for each year of Elizabeth's reign, with the main stone coming from a local quarry in Inver. A second cairn, built on the Balmoral estate, was unveiled by the Queen on August 8, 2012.
This mound was a gift to the Queen from her Scottish subjects and current and former Balmoral employees. It was topped with a stone found in the river. After the construction was completed, the last stone was poured with 10-year-old malt whiskey.
The Queen wanted to receive friends and official guests, such as members of the cabinet, at the castle. It was not possible to expand the existing structure, so it was decided to build a new castle. Prince Albert was very interested in the designs and even changed them himself because he wanted the new building to have turrets and windows.
Construction began in the summer of 1853 on land approximately 90 meters northwest of the original castle. It also did not require the royal family to leave the main building during construction.
During her autumn visit in September 1853, Queen Victoria laid the foundation stone. In the fall of 1855, the apartments were ready for occupancy, only the tower was not ready, so the servants had to stay in the old building.
Victoria was born in 1840 at Buckingham Palace in London. When she was born, the doctor exclaimed sadly: "Oh madam, it's a girl!" The Queen replied: "Never mind, next time it will be the Prince!"
Her younger brother, Prince Albert Edward, born a year later, became King Edward VII.
Balmoral Castle is built from granite quarried in Invergelder. It consists of two main parts arranged around the courtyard. In the southwestern part, there are the main rooms, and in the north-western wing, there are service rooms.
To the southeast is a 24-meter-high clock tower topped with turrets, one of which has a balustrade similar to that of Fraser Castle - the most extensive castle in Scotland, and one of the grandest.
The architecture of the new castle is similar in style to the demolished castle from the 1830s. It has been described as orderly, pedantic, and even Germanic, due to its great influence on Prince Albert's design.
The life of the royal couple at Balmoral was more like that of the nobility than the royal family. Queen Victoria went on long walks, even four hours long, and Albert spent many days hunting.
Over the years, many painters were employed at Balmoral, including Edwin and Charles Landseer and Carl Haag, who immortalized the royal family, the castle surroundings and the staff.
Prince Albert spent a lot of time improving the castle's surroundings, and supervised the construction of access roads, bridges, and farm buildings. A model dairy was then built, the construction of which, due to the prince's death, was completed by Victoria. She also built Garden Cottage for her children, Baile-na-Coille for her servant, and Karim Cottage for her Indian secretary.
Several monuments to the prince were created on the estate, Victoria even organized an exhibition of the prince's memorabilia. The Queen herself spent more and more time at Balmoral (up to four months a year). The Queen was then accompanied by staff member John Brown, who became her closest mourning companion.
In September 1896, Tsar Nicholas II of Russia and his wife Alexandra Feodorovna, who was Victoria's beloved granddaughter, visited Balmoral.
Victoria's last visit to Balmoral was in 1900, three months before her death.
King George V made a lot of improvements to the castle and created gardens on its southern side. During World War II, the castle was not used, and the King of Prussia Fountain standing on the estate was removed.
In the 1950s, Prince Philip became interested in the gardens at Balmoral. He created a large vegetable garden next to the flower garden, established an oak plantation, built a paved walkway, and created a water garden.
The main living room and other common areas are said to be dominated by warm greenery, and there are plenty of plaid-patterned carpets and curtains throughout the castle. Throughout the castle, there are mainly rooms and as many as 52 bedrooms.
A few months a year, from April to the end of July, part of the Balmoral property is open to tourists. You can then see the ballroom, the tower, some chambers, and a tiny church. You can also visit the castle gardens, first opened to visitors in 1931. However, it is not possible to see the Queen's private apartments.
A British newspaper once wrote that Balmoral looked like "a vintage shop that exploded."
She enjoyed spending time there from an early age. As a child, she spent holidays there with her sister Margaret, where she rode ponies. It was not just a place for the queen's holiday rest, but a place where she experienced the most beautiful moments.
It was at Balmoral that she accepted the proposal of Philip, who gave her a ring with diamonds from his mother's tiara, received from the last Tsar of Russia.
It is a monument to Queen Victoria's beloved collie dog, whose name was Noble.
It was originally purchased by Prince Albert, not the Queen, meaning no income from the estate flows into the public purse or Parliament. Balmoral, along with Sandringham House in Norfolk, was inherited by Edward VIII on his accession to the throne. After his abdication, he retained ownership of the property, but a financial settlement was reached under which Balmoral and Sandringham House were purchased by Edward's brother and heir to the throne, George VI.
Currently, the estate is still owned by the royal family but managed by trustees.
The Balmoral Estate covers a wide range of landscapes, from the River Dee Valley to the open mountains. There are seven Munros (hills in Scotland over 914,4 m high) on the estate, the highest of which is Lochnagar at 1155 m above sea level.
Lochnagar was the setting for the fairy tale The Old Man of Lochnagar, which the young King Charles III told his younger siblings. In 1980, the story was published and the royalties went to The Prince's Trust.
The estate also includes the 3000-hectare Delnadamph Lodge estate, purchased by Elizabeth II in 1978.
Deer breeding, as well as Highland cattle and ponies, is also developed there. You can fish there for a fee and go hiking at certain times of the year.
3200 ha of the property are covered with trees, of which 1200 ha are forest crops, yielding approximately 10.000 tons of wood per year. It has one of the largest remaining areas of Caledonian pine in Scotland, covering approximately 1200 hectares.
The estate's main mammal is the red deer, with a population of 2000 to 2500 animals.
About a mile from the main Balmoral Castle is Craigowan Lodge, the building that Prince Charles and his wife Diana occupied when they arrived at Balmoral. In May 1981, Charles and Diana posed for photos in it before their wedding in July that year.
The family of Prince Michael Andreevich Romanov spent most of World War II at Craigowan Lodge.
She arrived at her beloved castle less than a month earlier, following the tradition she had cultivated since childhood. There, two days before her death, she received the new Prime Minister of Great Britain, Liz Truss.