Is Balmoral Castle Worth It? Our Day at the Royals’ Summer Estate

Is Balmoral Castle Worth It? Our Day at the Royals’ Summer Estate

Balmoral Castle is a famous estate in Aberdeenshire and one of the most popular places to visit in all of Scotland! What makes it so unique is that it’s still used by the British Royal family as their summer residence. Amazingly though, you can still take a Balmoral Castle tour during select months. Here’s the best tips from our own experience, what to expect, and if we thought it was worth visiting.

Discovering Scotland’s Castles

Before we get to our Balmoral Castle tips, you should know there is so many incredible castles around the country. We included it in our own itinerary that started in the small coastal town of Stonehaven. It ended up being the perfect stop in between there and our hotel in Loch Ness. 

The day before we took the magical coastal walk from Stonehaven to Dunnottar Castle. After Balmoral Castle, we drove to Loch Ness and explored Urquhart Castle from there. We finished our castle tour by seeing Eilean Donan which is the most photographed castle in all of Scotland.

Honestly, it felt like every day of our Scottish Highlands road trip we were at a new and impressive castle. Balmoral is special for a lot of reasons, but there are so many more historic sites to see around this beautiful country. Check out all our favorite castles in Scotland in the article below.

5 Magical Castles in Scotland That Completely Blew Us Away!

Dunnottar Castle Scotland

Is Balmoral Castle Open to the Public?

Yes! The Balmoral Estate is open from April to July for tours. Outside of these months, Balmoral Castle welcomes the Royal family in August of every summer. Unfortunately, the grounds aren’t open during the winter months. 

The Scottish residence was a favorite of the late Queen Elizabeth II and ended up being her final resting place. It was somewhere she spent time in as a small child and visited for plenty of special occasions over the years.

The 50,000 acre Balmoral Estate was the ideal place to escape the politics and craziness of London. The property is now owned by her son King Charles III and he has plans to turn it into a memorial for the Queen. 

Quick History of the Balmoral Estate

While these recent facts are more well known, the history of Balmoral Castle in Scotland goes back much further! The original building was actually a home by constructed by Sir William Drummond in the late 14th century. It is also said that King Robert II of Scotland had a hunting lodge somewhere in this area.

In 1662, the estate would be passed to the Farquharson family and eventually bought by Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert in 1852. It was during this period where construction started to create the Balmoral Castle you see today.

Balmoral Castle Tour

Booking Our Balmoral Castle Tickets

A week before our visit we went to the official Balmoral Castle website to purchase our tickets. Know that there are a limited number of peopled allowed during each time slot.

To guarantee your entry, make sure to book your Balmoral tickets in advance. This is especially important as it is only opened to the public during the peak summer months in Europe.

One of the best ways to see Balmoral is by taking a day tour from Aberdeen. You can also pick up a rental car and drive yourself there as we did.

So how much does it cost to take a Balmoral Castle tour? At the time of our visit, we paid £16.50 Pounds. This gave us access to the Balmoral Estate grounds and into a small museum at the end of our tour.

You’ll be happy to know kids under 5 are free! The regular children’s prices are £8.50 and there is a family ticket available for £35.00. 

Balmoral Castle Tickets

Our Visit to Balmoral Castle

We booked a noon time slot and arrived to the Balmoral Estate 15 minutes early. There is a large parking lot which is just a quick walk to the main gates. Make sure to pay for parking before heading to the castle. It cost £5 pounds for cars and slightly more if you have a campervan or RV. 

After checking in at the front office and taking a quick spin through the gift shop, we were ready to go! We should note that even though there is a set entry time, the Balmoral Castle tour is self-guided. This means that once you enter the grounds you are free to explore on your own. 

There are numbered stops on the map to follow along with the audio tour which share the history and information about the castle. Ask for one one of the electronic handheld devices at the front office to guide you along the way.

We loved the formal gardens and could see they were growing everything for the upcoming royal visit in early August. This included the flower garden, vegetable garden, and water garden.

Even though we went to Balmoral Castle during a popular time of year in July, most of the tour is outdoors around the Scottish estate. This provides plenty of room to spread out and enjoy the outdoors. For this reason, Balmoral did not feel overcrowded like some of the other castles we’d visit later in our trip.

We took our time strolling through the beautiful walking trails around the Scottish holiday home of the royal family. Yet, the best part of our trip the Balmoral Estate was still to come!

Balmoral Castle Tour Tips

First Glimpse of Balmoral Castle Scotland

After we’d made it through the stunning gardens, we got our first view of Balmoral Castle in Scotland. It was absolutely magical! The two story house is built in Scottish Baronial revival style with local granite. It towers above the scenic grounds with a bright green lawn stretching in front of it. 

Honestly, it’s easy to see why the royal family has picked this as their summer retreat year after year. It was also interesting to stand in the very place where everyone from Prince Charles to Princess Diana have spent time in. After all, so many of the castles in Europe are not still in use… And certainly not by members of the British royal family! 

Keep in mind that the large lawn area is the best place to get  your pictures. We even saw people setting up picnics for lunch here. Once we’d thoroughly taken in the views, we continued on our Balmoral Castle tour around the main house. 

Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle Ballroom Exhibit 

You are free to explore all around the Balmoral Estate and take your time at the different stops. However, know that you actually won’t be able to enter much of the interior or the largest sections of the property. This was still slightly disappointing even though we knew what to expect beforehand. 

The only part of the castle we did go inside was a small exhibit at the end of our tour. It was located inside the ballroom area and held pictures of Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth II, and other famous members of the royal family that made the annual pilgrimage here. 

We noticed there were no pictures of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle. You can probably make your own presumptions about why if you’ve been following on social media!

While we couldn’t see much of the actual Balmoral Castle, the ballroom exhibit was a nice way to finish up our tour. It gave us a small look at what the working estate looks like when the royals are here on summer holiday. 

Balmoral Castle Ballroom Exhibit

Lunch at the Balmoral Castle Cafe 

After seeing this display we proceeded to the coffee shop and restaurant area. This was a great place to grab an English tea and lunch before continuing on our Scotland road trip. We ordered a sandwich and bag of haggis flavored chips which was a pretty wild combo. 

Once we’d finished up our lunch, we headed towards the back of the cafe and found a small ice cream stand. The location of this is actually right next to the garage where the royal family parks their fancy cars. This was a part of the Balmoral Estate we didn’t expect to see and we enjoyed it while eating our ice cream.

Balmoral Castle Cafe

How Much Time Do You Need at Balmoral Estate? 

In total, we took around 2 hours to see the entire grounds of the Balmoral Castle in Scotland. This includes plenty of picture stops, listening to our audio guide, and grabbing a bite to eat. 

We even took a short walk around the banks of the River Dee before heading back to our vehicle. 2 hours seemed like the perfect amount of time for us to take in the views, flower garden, and beautiful scenery. Yet, you can take as much time as you need to enjoy your trip to one of the official royal residences!

Balmoral Estate Scotland

Is Balmoral Castle Worth Visiting? 

If you are planning a trip to this part of Scotland then Balmoral Castle is certainly worth visiting. It was along our route already so we considered it a must-see being there in July.

The only downside to the Balmoral Castle tour was that the ballroom was the only part you’re allowed to go inside. While it’s certainly understandable since we’re not British monarchs (haha!) we would have loved to see more of the famous Balmoral Estate. 

At the end of the day, we still thought it was well worth the visit. As long as you go into it with the right expectations then we think you will be happy with your trip to Balmoral Castle, too!

Is Balmoral Castle Worth Visiting

Have any questions on this article or want to share your own tips for the Balmoral Estate? Leave us a comment below!

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

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Balmoral

Scotland Travel Planning

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 Rental Car: The best way to get around Scotland is by rental car! We always use Discover Cars when traveling in Europe and have found some great deals by booking in advance.

Transportation: Omio is a great place to search for trains, buses, and transfers while traveling through Scotland.

 Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities all over Scotland. You can find everything from a Scottish Highlands tour from Edinburgh to a Loch Ness boat cruise, Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour, and even chocolate making classes.

 Flights: It’s easy to find cheap flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from London to Aberdeen for $30 USD and Edinburgh to Budapest for less than $80! 

 Accommodation: Compare multiple sites for the best prices such as Booking.com and Agoda. Also,  Hostelworld should be your go-to if you’re traveling on a budget. 

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

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