Balmoral Castle is a large estate house in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Originally, the only building on the property was a hunting lodge, built in 1319. In 1390, Sir William Drummond constructed a house to replace the lodge. Since then, the house and property exchanged hands several times. Then in 1847, while on a trip to the area, the cold, rainy weather prompted Queen Victoria’s physician to recommend a stay in Deeside. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert arrived for their first visit to the house in 1848. Victoria found the house “small but pretty” and recorded in her diary that “All seemed to breathe freedom and peace, and to make one forget the world and its sad turmoils.”
The couple purchased the property privately in November 1851 for £32,000. In 1853, feeling the original castle was too small, the couple began construction on the current Balmoral Castle. The new castle was completed in 1856 and the old castle was then destroyed. The architect of the current castle was William Smith of Aberdeen. His designs were reviewed and amended by Prince Albert himself. The castle has remained the private property of the royal family since that time.
Here are a few facts about Balmoral Castle:
- The castle is an example of Scots Baronial architecture. It is made up of two main blocks with a courtyard between. The south-western block contains the main rooms, while the north-eastern block houses the service wings.
- There is an 80-foot (24m) tall clock tower topped with turrets on the south-east corner.
- The castle was built from granite quarried on the estate.
- Additional land and buildings have been adding by the Royal Family since it was first purchased. It now covers an area of about 49,000 acres.
- The Balmoral Estate is a working estate. It includes grouse moors, forestry and farmland as well as managed herds of deer, cattle and ponies.
- The Royal Family employs about 50 full-time and 50–100 part-time staff to maintain the working estate.
- The purchase of a Scottish estate by Victoria and Albert and the adoption of the Scottish architectural style played a key role in influencing the revival of Scottish Highland culture.
- After Albert’s death, Victoria spent more and more time at Balmoral. During this time, she began to depend on her servant John Brown, a local ghillie or gamekeeper, who became one of her closes companions during her long mourning after Albert’s death.
- After Victoria’s death the royal family continued to use Balmoral and have periodically made improvements to buildings and the landscape.
- Since 1987 the castle is shown on the back side of £100 notes issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The current Queen was in residence at Balmoral at the time of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales in 1997. Although another castle was used for the film, her private discussions with Prime Minister Tony Blair during that time are dramatized in Stephen Frears’ film “The Queen” (2006).