Balmoral Castle, Scotland

by Angus MacLeod

Tourism is now one of Scotland’s most important industries and each year more and more visitors spend time in the country for a multitude of reasons. While Edinburgh seems to have a festival for every week of the year but most visitors are most excited to visit the castle. At times Scotland appears to be a nation of castles (which is understandable when you consider it’s turbulent past) and a great many are open to the public. Balmoral Castle is a 5 star visitor attraction at Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

In 1603, when the thrones of Scotland and England were united, it seemed as though the Royal Family lost all interest in Scotland in preference to it’s richer, southern, neighbor. It was not until 1822 that interest was generated by the famous author Sir Walter Scott when he arranged a visit for King George IV. The “one and twenty daft days”, as it became known, was full of pageantry which included many embellishments of Scott’s romantic ideas of medieval Scotland.

The romantic novels of Sir Walter Scott had created a powerful impression, of Scotland, upon the polite society of his day. King George IV had, during his visit of 1822, spent some time at the Balmoral Estate. Dating back to 1390, it was once home to a hunting lodge owned by King Robert II of Scotland and, over the following decades, the estate had been home to a number of earls. In 1842, following favorable reports from Sir James Clark, their doctor, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert decided to hire the estate, sight unseen, for a vacation.

Almost upon arrival, at Balmoral, Victoria and Albert fell in love with the place. They had time to enjoy country walks together and lived in a rather small house with rather small rooms. The estate quickly became one of their most favorite places and, in 1852, Prince Albert purchased it outright for around ?30,000.

Over the years the Royal Family grew and while Albert still managed to enjoy his shooting, and Victoria her country walks, it was apparent that the residence was becoming far too small to accommodate them. It was decided that a new residence was required which was to be designed by William Smith, and architect from Aberdeen, and named Balmoral Castle. The castle was built quickly and was completed in 1856.

Since Prince Albert purchased the estate it has remained the private property of the British Royal Family distinctly separate from the royal estate. As well as Balmoral Castle the, fully working, estate consists of over 100 buildings and 50,000 acres of land. It is also Queen Elizabeth II’s summer retreat.

In 1861 Queen Victoria suffered the death of her husband Prince Albert. Deep in grief the Queen chose to isolate herself and chose to spend more time than ever at Balmoral Castle where she and him had been so happy together. In 1997 Balmoral also witnessed the grief of another royal, Queen Elizabeth II. Diana, Princess of Wales, had died in France and when the queen was told she decided, much to the consternation of her public, to remain there rather than returning to London, which most people had expected her to do.

The royal family of Great Britain can easily afford to take the finest vacations. Indeed they spend a great deal of time traveling the globe and maybe this is the reason why Scotland has always appeared to be a place of private refuge. The present royal family of Queen Elizabeth II often visit remote Scottish islands such as the Isle of Harris in the Western Isles but it is their association with the Balmoral estate which is most widely known.

About the Author: