- Visit Balmoral Castle for a royally good day out, learning how the royals live in this decadent estate.
- Check out the gardens, exhibitions and audio and guided tours to really immerse yourself in this glorious castle.
- Don't miss out on the safari park tour and other events that are held throughout the year.
Balmoral Castle is the Scottish home of the British Royal Family in Royal Deeside. This large estate house is open to the public every day from April to July, when visitors can explore the exhibitions, the stunning gardens and decadent grounds. The Castle is architecturally an example of the Scots Baronial 16th and 17th century style, classified by Historic Scotland as an outstanding building of historical style, a category A listed building, so it's a sight to behold.
The Balmoral Castle Estate boasts beautiful surroundings, stretching gracefully to just over 50,000 acres of ancient Caledonian woodland, rolling heather clad hills, and the unforgettable beautiful River Dee that is nearby the castle. This has quickly become a family favourite trip as it's truly wonderful to explore; the area is rich in history and beauty, with many a hidden gem to be uncovered. Access during the spring and summer months is recommended, as after those months, the Royal Family will visit often and so, finding times days you're allowed to visit can be more difficult.
Balmoral Castle is the Scottish home of the British Royal Family, designed by Prince Albert and William Smith, a famous Aberdeen architect, built in 1855 and taking around three years to complete. Most rooms are private and not open to the public as this is still the home of the Royal Family. The Castle Ballroom is in fact the only room always open to the public, and being the biggest one on the property, it's a treat. The Royal Family has used this room to host dances and other special events throughout history and still today, like the Ghillies Ball. Immerse yourself in the Castle's history and imagine the grand dances that took place in that very room.
It's also an exhibition space where you can dive into the history of the Castle. Be on the lookout for special exhibit, like the 2015 Ballroom exhibit, which told the charming history of Childhood at Balmoral through the different ages, introducing memorabilia and delightful stories and Balmoral Castle facts to do with the monarchy. On display you will find sculptural works of art, along with artefacts and more. For more Scottish Castle experiences, check out Crathes Castle Garden and Estate, a National Trust castle home to historic turrets, detailed gargoyles, 16th-century painted ceilings and ancient yew hedges.
A recent exhibition displayed objects and portraits throughout the Victorian era to celebrate the 200th anniversary of Queen Victoria's birth. The exhibition in the Ballroom took an intimate, close look at her time at Balmoral. Plus, in the Carriage Hall Courtyard, you and your family get to discover the wildlife display and the Estate exhibition. For those who love films, too, there's a chance to sit back, relax and enjoy the short film in HD, which presents how life on the estate today is, along with how the impressive 50,000 acre Highland Estate is managed.
Through careful stewardship over the past 150 years, the owners, the Royals, have managed to preserve the gorgeous scenery, landscape, wildlife and architecture of Balmoral Castle and Balmoral Gardens so that it is available for all generations to enjoy. There are some fantastic Balmoral Castle tours on offer, which are always a hit with families. For an even more exciting tour, check out the the Safari Tour, which takes you and your little ones on a journey through the well-groomed parkland and gardens which lie ahead of Balmoral Castle and you'll be taken gently through the Estate farm and into the old Caledonian Pine Forest for an relaxing trip. The Ranger Service provides safaris and guided walks intermittently throughout the year, where you can see Scottish wildlife up close.
Have a blast in the gardens of Balmoral, which have expanded, improving with each successive member of the Royals who manage it, since Prince Albert who started its design. Queen Mary, between 1923 and 1925, devised the charming garden that boasts a semi circular wall of rocks, encircling a fountain. Then, the Duke of Edinburgh expanded the gardens to include a large kitchen garden. Plus, there is a vegetable garden that is harvested from the months of August and October, which crosses over with the Royal Family's summer holiday, so they can keep an eye on it! Make sure to check out the formal landscapes, which cover nearly three acres of stunning landscape, home to a range of Victorian glasshouses and the conservatory, of which these display flowering pot plants throughout the year to delight and please guests. Just west of the main garden, near the trees between the Garden Cottage and West Drive is a water garden, too, which is always fascinating for the little ones.
Head to the Garden Cottage, with its rich history and quaint design. The wooden building was completed in 1863, and the original cottage was occupied by a gardener, with two of the rooms in the cottage allocated to Queen Victoria herself. Experience how the interiors and exteriors of the Garden Cottage have changed over time, which is surprisingly not that much, so there is still lots of history nestled amongst the nooks and crannies for you to discover. The Garden Cottage overlooks the secluded Water Garden, which is situated just west of the main garden, between the cottage and the West Drive. It encircles the cottage, with the stunning rose garden and conservatory just a short walk away, and a fantastic little trip.
Don't miss out on the audio tour guides on offer at Balmoral, where you can truly immerse yourself into the history of this gorgeous Scottish estate through the landscape, grounds and exhibitions. Your little ones will be fascinated to learn about the story of Balmoral on this tour, as they imagine up the inner workings of the Estate. You'll be offered a glimpse into the genuine workings of the Estate and tells the tales of the Castle's most famous residents and visitors. Walk in the footsteps of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and the Tsar of Russia as they're brought to life, and find out how the staff from the Estate and Royal Household have lived throughout history. This tour is available in multiple languages, too, from English to Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish. Just grab a headset and a map of the tour from the Carriage Hall Exhibition; there are hearing aid loops available too if required.
Don't miss out on the Balmoral Castle events held during the year. The Estate makes for a delightful venue as during the open season there are many activities for visitors to participate in, and many to keep the little ones entertained. Be sure to check out the Run Balmoral weekend events, a jam-packed weekend of races and activities. Events like these happen every year, so whenever you decide to come there is something for you. There's also a nine-hole, 18-tee golf course, which is always great fun, especially for those looking to have corporate days. Salmon fishing is available on the open market too, down at the River Dee.
If you're wondering what to do near Balmoral Castle, check out the Cairngorms National Park that surrounds it, which is a beautiful glimpse into some of the best of Scotland's nature and adventure. From mountain trails and forest routes, to wetlands, moorland and wooded forest, along with tons of activities for the sports-inclined, including snow sports and water sports and even a ridge-based bungee jump at Killiecrankie, there's so much to doo. If you're after some more Aberdeenshire experiences, head to the Grampian Transport Museum, exhibiting the history of transport as it has existed in the north east of Scotland through dramatic displays that the kids love, plus working and climb-aboard vehicles which are always a hit with the older ones, along with exhibits and video presentations.
What to know before you go
- Balmoral Castle opening times are 11am to 3pm.
- It's open from April to July and intermittently throughout the rest of the year.
- When you're feeling peckish, there is Pipers Hall Cafe, serving up snacks, drinks and delicious meals that are reasonably priced.
- There are toilets, baby-changing facilities and accessible toilets, which are located near the cafe and shop, in the Queen's Building foyer.
- Balmoral Castle is accessible and suitable for visitors with disabilities, there are wheelchairs and mobility scooters available.
- Most areas are navigable for wheelchairs and buggies, with some exceptions as this is an old estate and some surfaces may be uneven.
- Dogs are allowed on site, but they must be kept on leads.
- We recommend travelling by car as Balmoral is quite a distance from the nearest station, which is Aberdeen.
- By car, Balmoral is located midway between Ballater and Braemar, just off the A93.
- There is parking available, and spaces for elderly visitors and those with disabilities.