Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle is located 8 miles (13 km) east of Braemar (Aberdeenshire), lying in the gently wooded valley of the River Dee. It is one of relatively few royal residences which are the personal property of the Monarch, rather than owned by the state and made available for use by the Royal Family.

King Robert II (1316-90) had a hunting lodge in the vicinity and Sir Malcolm Drummond built a tower on the same site. The Earl of Huntly bought the estate in the 15th Century and it changed hands twice more before being purchased from the Earl of Fife by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria in 1852. He paid £31,500 for the 4,500 ha (11,000 acre) estate, which comprised hill, woodland and small tenant farms. Over the years further land was purchased, bring the total area up to 21,600 ha (53,375 acres), which includes Birkhall, Glen Doll and grouse moor at Corgarff. Today, 3000 ha (7413 acres) are forested and 222 ha (548 acres) farmed. The estate employs 50 full-time staff with at least another 50 part-time employees.

The castle was built in 1855 by William Smith (1817-91), the City Architect for Aberdeen. His father, John Smith (1781 - 1852), had made additions to the previous house on the site in 1834-39, but this was demolished to make way for the present scheme. Prince Albert was closely involved in the planning of both house and grounds. Drawing on features of the earlier Abbotsford House, Balmoral with its castellations, crowstepped gables and narrow pepperpot turrets copied from German castles known to Albert, was influential in defining the Scots Baronial architectural style and became a fashionable model for numerous later country houses.

Over the years the Royal family has improved and developed the house and estate. The Duke of Edinburgh has most recently enlarged the flower garden and created a water garden.

The Royal Family spend August and September here each year, and are regularly visited by serving Prime Ministers. The US President Dwight D. Eisenhower stayed in 1959. Singer Annie Lennox (b. 1954) visited as part of the BBC television family history programme Who Do You Think You Are? (2012) after it was revealed that her grandfather worked as a gamekeeper on the estate and once danced with Queen Elizabeth (1900 - 2002) at the annual Gillies' Ball. Queen Elizabeth II died in the castle in 2022.

Since 1987, Balmoral Castle has featured on the rear of Royal Bank of Scotland £100 notes.

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