Scotland’s Castles, Balmoral

by Angus MacLeod

The tourist industry is now so great in Scotland that it is a major part of the nation’s economy. Part of the nation’s appeal is it’s wonderful countryside but it is Scotland’s incredible history which helps create a vacation that is full of excitement, exploration and adventure. One of the main Scottish tourist attractions is Edinburgh Castle but there are a great many more castles in Scotland open to the public including Balmoral Castle in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire.

Following the Union of the Crowns, in 1603, Royal Family of Great Britain seemed to have lost all interest in Scotland. However, in 1822, Sir Walter Scott organized a trip to Scotland for King George IV which became known as the “one and twenty daft days”. Scott ensured the visit was a rich pageant incorporating all of his 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.

Ever since the Balmoral estate became the private property of Prince Albert it has remained the private property of the British Royal Family and is not considered part of the royal estate. Today the working estate consists of over 100 buildings spread over an area of some 50,000 acres of land.

Balmoral Castle had witnessed some momentous personal moments in the history of the royal family. Of course Victoria and Albert had many happy memories and this was, most probably, the main reason why she spent so much time there following the death of Albert in 1861. In 1997 Queen Elizabeth II was heavily criticized in the British press for staying there rather than returning to London following the death of Diana the Princess of Wales. The 2006 movie “The Queen” highlighted this tragic period superbly and went some way in explaining her behaviour.

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.

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