Balmoral Castle: the Queen’s Retreat

La residencia de verano de la reina Isabel se encuentra en Escocia, donde se estableció a instancias de su tatarabuela Victoria, apasionada de las tradiciones locales. El castillo está abierto al público para visitas, excepto cuando la familia real está allí alojada...

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Balmoral Castle

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Balmoral Castle in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, is the Queen’s official summer residence. The castle, situated in the Highlands, is just one of the monarch’s five official residences. The others are Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Holyroodhouse (also in Scotland), all owned by the nation, and Sandringham which, like Balmoral, is the Queen’s private property. The original Balmoral Castle was bought in 1852 by Queen Victoria and her husband, Prince Albert. The couple quickly decided the castle was too small for them and their seven children, and they built a bigger one in the Scottish Baronial style. 

Scottish Customs

The royal couple also quickly fell in love with Scotland and its customs. The house was decorated with tartan carpets, curtains, and upholstery. There were bagpipes at every meal and Scottish dancing in the evening. T he Queen’s adoption of Scottish customs played an important part in the revival of Highland culture in the country. It also helped to give the monarchy a British dimension for the first time. The English nobility followed their queen to north Scotland, buying or building their own enormous Highland retreats in the region. Over the next sixty years, north Scotland became a playground for the rich. As a result, train communications with London improved dramatically, except for the line between Perth and Aberdeen, where the driver insisted on stopping to look at the potatoes he was growing in his vegetable garden. 

Changes in Fortune

During the 20th century, however, many of these enormous properties were abandoned or forgotten. This century their fortunes have changed again. There is now a revival of interest in the region, with people building or restoring properties for their private use or as hotels. Balmoral Castle has never been forgotten or abandoned, either by the royal family or by the public. Fifty full-time and fifty to one hundred part-time staff work in Balmoral looking after the 150 buildings, grouse moors, forests, farmland, deer, cattle and ponies. 

Open to the Public

The castle’s gardens were opened to the public for the first time in 1931 and the grounds in 1968. These days, 80,000 people visit Balmoral every year, where they can enjoy the fishing (for a price), guided walking tours and ‘safari tours’ in Land Rovers, or play golf on the 18-hole course. There are also six holiday houses that people can rent, and a very small whisky distillery making the Royal Lochnagar Single Malt. Sadly, the ballroom is the only room in the castle open to the public. Queen Victoria bought Balmoral for £31,000. The current value is £14 million. No one, however, expects the Queen to sell her favourite home.

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