Balmoral – the Queen’s Scottish home and summer retreat

The Queen’s Scottish retreat of Balmoral has been chosen as the venue where she will bid Boris Johnson goodbye and welcome the Prime Minister’s successor.

Scotland has been a place of sanctuary for the royal family since Queen Victoria’s day where they relax and enjoy country pursuits.

For the Queen, the estate is associated with happy family holidays and she traditionally spends around eight to ten weeks, during August, September and early October, at her home in Aberdeenshire.

On the eve of the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral in April 2021, a touching photograph of the Queen and Philip was released that gave a glimpse of their lives away from protocol and ceremony in Scotland.

Duke of Edinburgh death
The Duke of Edinburgh and Queen on the Balmoral estate in 1972 (PA)

The royal couple were pictured as they are rarely seen – relaxing together during a summer break and enjoying the scenery on the Balmoral estate.

Looking completely at ease and smiling warmly at the photographer, Philip and the Queen relaxed on the grass at the Coyles of Muick, a beauty spot near the town of Ballater in Aberdeenshire.

The duke was photographed lying back on a rug, propping himself up on his left elbow and had jauntily placed his hat on his right knee.

Beaming at the Countess of Wessex – who took the picture in 2003 – the Queen, dressed in a tartan skirt, blouse and cardigan and a string of pearls, was sat on a rug.

The area is clearly a favourite spot for the Queen as she named a corgi puppy, given to the monarch during lockdown, Muick.

Balmoral is the Queen’s personal and private property which Queen Victoria and Prince Albert made their Scottish home in the early 1850s, and after Albert’s death in 1861 it increasingly became Victoria’s sanctuary during her long years of grieving.

Centenary of the Royal British Legion
The Queen has been using a stick to aid her walking for much of the year (Arthur Edwards/The Sun/PA)

The Queen traditionally inspects a guard of honour at the gates of Balmoral to officially mark taking up residence at her home.

But this year she broke with convention and held the event privately within the estate’s grounds for her “comfort”, sources said.

The Queen has faced episodic mobility issues since last autumn and now regularly uses a walking stick, with some of her official engagements this year shorter in length then would have been expected.

She missed much of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations during the extended Bank Holiday weekend in June but did make two separate brief appearances on the Buckingham Palace balcony.

The Queen travelled to Scotland on July 21 and normally spends part of her time at Craigowan Lodge on the estate before moving to the main property later during her summer break.

The monarch may have travelled to Balmoral by herself but is rarely alone for very long as members of her family are invited to spend time with her every summer.

Platinum Jubilee – Prime Ministers
The Queen with five of her prime ministers (PA)

The Prince of Wales has been visiting his mother regularly according to reports and the Duke of Cambridge, with his family, and the Queen’s other grandchildren are likely to travel to Scotland.

Prime ministers are traditional invited to stay with the Queen at Balmoral during the summer and in the past Harold Wilson, who is said to have “got on like a house on fire” with the monarch, would join members of the royal family for riverside picnics at Balmoral.

Things were very different with Baroness Thatcher, who reportedly found the traditional September weekend at Balmoral painful.

One observer wrote: “A weekend in the country with aristocrats who enjoy riding, shooting, sports and games is Thatcher’s idea of torture.”

Mrs Thatcher could not abide the charades that she was expected to play after dinner at Balmoral.

During a gathering of six of her premiers, the Queen once joked about “the party games which some of you have so nobly endured at Balmoral”.