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How to visit Balmoral Castle: Transport and tickets for a trip to the royal family’s Scottish home

The King’s Scottish residence is opening the doors to private tour groups for the first time in history

Natalie Wilson
Wednesday 03 April 2024 12:40
Balmoral Castle was purchased by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1852
Balmoral Castle was purchased by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1852 (Getty Images)

Balmoral Castle in Ballater, Scotland, has long played host to the royal family’s annual summer break – visits that over the years have been filled with informal barbecues, picnic lunches and active pursuits on the 50,000-acre estate.

Where Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle have mastered accommodating trails of tourists within their walls, Balmoral has retained an air of privacy since Queen Victoria and Prince Albert purchased the property for £32,000 in 1852.

Now, as part of plans for improved accessibility to the royal residences the Aberdeenshire castle, the late Queen’s favourite residence, will be open to the public for the first time since the castle was completed in 1855.

With the month-long summer trial comes a spotlight on Aberdeen and the Scottish sanctuary beloved by the royals. Here’s how to make travel plans to visit the regal retreat for yourself while the drawbridge is down.

Read more on Scotland travel:

How to get tickets

This summer, Balmoral Castle will be open to the public daily from 10am to 5pm on 4 May, with tickets available to book online.

Tickets are booking up fast, but general admission (£17.50 per adult and £9 per child aged over five) are still available.

Internal guided tours will take place between 1 July and 4 August, and the 40 tickets a day available at a price of £100 for the exclusive 10-person tour groups quickly sold out.

Also fully booked is the Balmoral Expedition Tour, for groups of up to six people and priced at £350 for a two-hour Land Rover tour of the famed Scottish estate and old Caledonian Pine Forest.

What you can see at the castle 

The Balmoral Castle estate spans around 50,000 acres (Getty Images)

The grounds, gardens, exhibitions and ballroom are all included in general admission audio tours. Guests will also be able to visit the Mews Gift Shop for bespoke Balmoral merchandise including tweed and whisky.

On tours of the castle interior, experienced guides will take visitors around several royal rooms “used today by their Majesty’s The King and Queen.” The public will now be able to access rooms including the King’s watercolour collection and outfits worn by King Charles, Queen Camilla and the late Queen Elizabeth II.

The green drawing room, family dining room, library and pages’ lobby are also highlights of the new ‘behind the scenes’ tour.

Can you have afternoon tea at Balmoral Castle?

Aside from private tours of the royal’s Highland home, interior tour tickets including afternoon tea are on offer for £150 or, to savour sandwiches and scones with general admission, a ticket will set you back £60 per person.

Classic, vegetarian, gluten-free and sparkling afternoon teas are all available on the restaurant’s menu.

How to travel to Aberdeenshire

If you don’t fancy a nine-hour drive to Balmoral, the flight time from London to Aberdeen is around 1 hour and 25 minutes.

Direct flights depart from Gatwick, Luton and Heathrow with several airlines including British Airways and easyJet and flights from London Luton to Aberdeen with the latter start from just £20.99.

Take the sleeper from London to Scotland for legendary landscapes and double beds (Caledonian Sleeper)

The Caledonian Sleeper departs six nights a week (excluding Saturdays) from 9pm, taking 10 hours to travel between London Euston and Aberdeen.

LNER trains depart daily for Aberdeen from London King’s Cross and take between seven and eight hours to travel the 396 miles from the English capital.

Where to stay

Read more: The best hotels in Aberdeen

Ardoe House Hotel & Spa

Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe House was inspired by Balmoral Castle (Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe House)

This luxury baronial manor, six miles to the southwest of Aberdeen, is a popular choice with those dreaming of Walter Scott’s romantic Scotland. The chateau-like hotel was inspired by Balmoral Castle just down the road, and its 30 acres of gardens and classic whisky bar with a grand fireplace make it fit for a prince.

The Marcliffe

The Marcliffe may feature originals by Scottish artists and organise salmon-fishing trips, but it’s the family-friendly feel that lingers. The Victorian-era manor house has 32 rooms and seven suites, a spa, a lounge for afternoon tea and a whisky-crammed bar, plus a list of previous guests that covering actual royalty (including King Charles and Princess Anne).

Atholl Hotel

Atholl Hotel is packed with traditional charm (Atholl Hotel)

With witch’s-hat turrets, rose windows and glorious edifices, this 34-bed independent outpost has proximity to the city centre and storied history. There’s an extension, believed to have been used as a private chapel, and a restaurant that focuses on local ingredients, such as black pudding, blade of beef and North Sea haddock. It’s as traditional as a tartan tin of shortbread.

Looking for a Scottish beach retreat? Here’s how to spend a day in Portobello, Edinburgh’s swinging seaside suburb

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