Balmoral Castle is one of the most iconic castles in the UK, and this has much to do with its ties to the British Royal Family. In 1848, Queen Victoria and prince consort Albert purchased the estate, and it has served as the royal home in Scotland ever since. August, September, and early October are when the Royal Family are usually in residence, and during this period, the lovely estate and its exhibitions are closed to the public. At other times of the year, however, you can drop by for tours, and this is something that many Scotland visitors have in mind.
Balmoral Castle history starts in the late 1300s, though the beautiful edifice that you will see today was finished in 1856. The original castle was deemed to be too small by Queen Victoria and prince consort Albert, and once the new structure was complete, the old building was demolished. Other changes that were made to the estate included the expanding of the grounds, and today, these grounds cover more than 50,000 acres. Characterizing the landscape are hills and woodlands, and as any good castle should, Balmoral Castle boasts some lovely gardens. Turrets and spires add to the attractive appearance of the castle itself, and during the warmer months, green-colored ivy clings to the stone exterior. It's not hard to understand why Queen Victoria called Balmoral her "dear paradise in the Highlands."
Visiting Balmoral Castle is a popular thing to do in Scotland—as are trips to other Scottish castles—and there is good reason for this. On a visit, you can explore the Ballroom, which is full of various exhibits of interest, and you can also check out the Royal Heraldry and other treasures in Carriage Hall. Other highlights include a three-acre formal garden, and while you can't enter the Garden Cottage, you are free to peek through its window. This cottage was where Queen Victoria often ate breakfast and wrote her famed diaries, and it appears much as it would have during her era. An audio tour is included in the general admission price, and guided tours can be arranged for those who prefer.
There are quite a few things that you might hope to do on a visit to Balmoral Castle. Guided walks that take to the surrounding countryside are offered by the Ranger Service with regularity, and should wish to save your energy, you can opt instead to take a Ranger-led safari that employs Land Rover vehicles for getting around. Other things to do at Balmoral Castle in Scotland are pony trekking tours and salmon fishing excursions, and the month of April sees a healthy number of people participating in Run Balmoral. This annual event features a 5K and 10K run.
Balmoral Castle is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. between the months of March and July. You can find it in the Aberdeenshire area, or Royal Deeside, as this area is known, with the largest area city being Aberdeen. The smaller community of Ballater is the more exact location, and you can easily reach it by way of bus from nearby Aberdeen, which is about three hours' drive from the city of Edinburgh. Should you wish to stay near the castle while in the area, there are some interesting lodging options both on and off the grounds. These lodging options include some enticing rental cottages. If a hotel stay is the aim instead, Ballater is home to a few hotels that should more than suffice for a night or more.