Royal family’s summer retreat of Balmoral opens to the public

The King’s interior design tastes will be on display when visitors are given an extensive tour of Balmoral for the first time in its history.

Charles has thrown open the doors of his Scottish retreat to the public, allowing them a glimpse of royal family life in the Highlands.

From Monday visitors can take a guided tour of a number of rooms in the Aberdeenshire castle, where successive monarchs since Queen Victoria have been able to relax and recharge amongst local Scots who have treated them as their own.

An open door reveals a chair at a desk with books on shelves in Balmoral's library
Balmoral’s library which Charles uses as a his study (Visitor Enterprise for Balmoral Castle/PA)

James Hamilton Goddard, visitor enterprise manager for the Balmoral Estate, has been working with his team to open up the royal residence’s entrance hall, red corridor, main and family dining rooms, page’s lobby, library and drawing room to the public.

He said: “It’s a magnificent place, I think the King wants people to see (it). We were asked, my department, to put this together and we put this together.

“The public who managed to get a ticket will come away (having seen) the royal family’s holiday home – that’s exactly what it is, it feels very homely.”

Charles is the latest in a long line of the kings and queens who have added their own stamp to Balmoral since Victoria and Prince Albert fell in love with area and had the castle built in the 1850s.

A picture of Balmoral Castle painted by King Charles
Balmoral Castle painted by King Charles (Joe Giddens/PA)

The King has changed the drawing room carpets back to Hunting Stewart tartan, which was the original style of floor coverings Victoria had fitted in the castle.

Balmoral’s walls are hung with paintings by Victorian artist Sir Edwin Henry Landseer selected by Charles, who has inherited his great great great grandmother Victoria’s passion for the painter and sculptor.

Landseer is best known for creating the lions at the base of Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square and was invited to Balmoral every summer to teach Victoria and Albert painting.

The castle’s library, which was once Victoria and her consort’s breakfast and lunch room, is today used by the King as his working study where he has welcomed dignitaries from across the globe.

The books lining the shelves include tomes on Scottish History – particularly Highland clans – Albert’s speeches, as well as novels and books on poetry and art.

A room in Balmoral featuring book shelves, a painting over a fireplace and three stag heads on a wall
Balmoral has been the summer retreat for the royal family since Queen Victoria’s reign (Visitor Enterprise for Balmoral Castle/PA)

Mr Hamilton Goddard said: “The public actually seeing the library, which is now used as His Majesty’s study, is just possibly one of the most beautiful rooms of the entire residence.”

Quirky items on display include the chauffeur’s whistle, used in past years to call the driver, which can be seen in the red corridor, decorated with printed flock wallpaper commissioned by Victoria from arts and crafts pioneer William Morris.

Visitors can also see the dinner gong, used to summon Balmoral guests and made from materials salvaged from the British warship the Temeraire which fought in the Battle of Trafalgar.

Tickets for the guided tours, priced at £100 or £150 with afternoon tea, were sold out withing 24 hours of going on sale with 40 people each day allowed to visit the royal residence from July 1 to August 4.

The opening takes place before the King and Queen arrive at Balmoral for their summer break but there is a royal touch for those having cake and sandwiches.

At Charles’ request tea will be served for visitors on a replica of the White Stewart Tartan China used by the royal family at Balmoral.

Visitors have previously only been able to visit Balmoral’s ballroom and the grounds of the castle, and the new tour will include a visit to the ballroom where Victoria staged dances and the royal family still hold Ghillies’ balls to entertain the staff.