Ever heard of buying a house without even going for a viewing? That is what Prince Albert did in 1848 whenever he purchased the lease to Balmoral Castle. Now, weirdly enough, he didn’t buy the entire estate but just only a fraction of it. He was encouraged to do so by his friend Lord Aberdeen. Essentially, the royal family had bought a timeshare in Aberdeen, which doesn’t sound as glamorous today as it did back then. When the king and Queen first arrived at their holiday home, they didn’t think much of it. They did like the surrounding countryside and decided to stick it out, just as long as they could make a few changes.
Now the castle was already 500 years old. This didn’t stop them from making one big change though. Because the castle was looking so old, they just moved everything 100 yards north and built a brand new house. It only took about 3 years for what we know now as Balmoral Castle to be built. When it was completed, the royal family thought that the old castle was spoiling the good view they now had and concluded it would be best to demolish the castle entirely. After the demolition took place, a bridge was built over the River Dee and the estate was declared completely, which isn’t bad going for what was originally just a rental. The bridge was built was Brunel, one of England’s most famous engineers, but Queen Victoria didn’t like how it looked and it never got the recognition most of his other works have been lauded with.
So how big is Balmoral Castle? Well the estate it sits in is actually part of a national park (the Cairngorms to be exact) and is roughly 50,000 acres. About a fifth of that space is nothing but trees. There are seven really big hills (called munros) dotted throughout, there is a loch to the south and a valley too. It is home to an abundance of wildlife as well. It is estimated that 2,000 red deer live here freely. There is a farm too that looks after Highland cattle and ponies.
It is also possible to live in the estate, although not in the castle. With over 150 properties, half a dozen are leased out as rental properties throughout the year, with the smallest cottages having an asking price of £320 a night. Take a look for yourself here. Although don’t be expecting to be treated like the queen. You’ll be staying in a remote lodge that is self-catering.
If you were going to visit the castle, don’t go in the hope of taking a grand tour. While anyone is free to roam the castle gardens during the spring months, the only room in the building open to the public is the ballroom. Tourists and staff aren’t told when the queen might visit in the summer, and some staff are even left out in the blue as to where in the building her Majesty will be occupying.