Balmoral Castle, Scotland

©Byunau Konstantin/Shutterstock

Balmoral Castle

The Cairngorms

Built for Queen Victoria in 1855 as a private residence for the Royal Family, Balmoral kicked off the revival of the Scottish Baronial style of architecture that characterises so many of Scotland’s 19th-century country houses. The admission fee includes an interesting and well-thought-out audio guide, but the tour is very much an outdoor one through garden and grounds.

As for the castle itself, only the ballroom, which displays a collection of Landseer paintings and royal silver, is open to the public. Don’t expect to see the Queen’s private quarters! The main attraction is learning about Highland estate­ management, rather than royal revelations.

You can buy a booklet that details several waymarked walks within Balmoral Estate; the best is the climb to Prince Albert's Cairn, a huge granite pyramid that bears the inscription 'To the beloved memory of Albert the great and good, Prince Consort. Erected by his broken hearted widow Victoria R. 21st August 1862'.

The massive pointy-topped mountain that looms to the south of Balmoral is Lochnagar (1155m), immortalised in verse by Lord Byron, who spent his childhood years in Aberdeenshire:

England, thy beauties are tame and domestic

To one who has roamed o’er the mountains afar.

Oh! for the crags that are wild and majestic,

The steep frowning glories of dark Lochnagar.

Lord Byron, Lochnagar

Balmoral is eight miles west of Ballater, and can be reached on the Aberdeen–Braemar bus.

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