06 September 2022

Queen’s love of Balmoral as private retreat sets stage for historic change-over of Prime Ministers

06 September 2022

The Queen is said to never be happier than when she is staying on her beloved Balmoral estate.

Balmoral Castle – her private Scottish home in Aberdeenshire – was handed down to her through generations of royals after being bought for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852.

Victoria described Balmoral as her “Heaven on Earth”, and it is where she sought solace after Albert’s death.

The turreted grey stone castle by the River Dee is surrounded by fir-clad hills, lochs and grouse moors.

The Queen will receive Liz Truss at Balmoral Castle (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The Queen’s traditional annual stay at the main property – after a break at Craigowan Lodge on the estate in July – usually stretches through August and September and into October.

Princess Eugenie, the Queen’s granddaughter, once described Balmoral as the most beautiful place on the planet.

“Walks, picnics, dogs – a lot of dogs, there’s always dogs – and people coming in and out all the time,” she said.

Years of royal memories have been forged at Balmoral, including family barbecues – where the late Duke of Edinburgh did the cooking and the Queen the washing-up.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh during a visit to a farm on their Balmoral estate, to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary (PA)

Eugenie had added: “It’s a lovely base for Granny and Grandpa, for us to come and see them up there; where you just have room to breathe and run.”

Each morning, a lone piper traditionally plays below the Queen’s bedroom window.

Prime ministers and first ministers usually visit the monarch and stay for short periods, but the Queen has never before in her long reign appointed a PM at Balmoral, with Liz Truss the first.

Dr Kwame Nkrumah, Prime Minister of Ghana, with the Queen, Philip, the Prince of Wales and Princess Anne at Balmoral in 1959 (PA)

Former prime minister David Cameron once said there was not much “chillaxing” – chilling out and relaxing – there, with the royals spending their time on outdoor pursuits.

At royal residences, servants meticulously unpack luggage for guests.

Cherie Blair revealed in her autobiography that her son Leo was conceived at Balmoral when she left her contraception at home out of embarrassment during her annual weekend stay there with husband and then PM Tony Blair.

“In 1998 – I had been extremely disconcerted to discover that everything of mine had been unpacked,” she wrote.

“Not only my clothes, but the entire contents of my distinctly ancient toilet bag with its range of unmentionables,” Mrs Blair added.

The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh during their traditional summer break at Balmoral Castle in 1976 (PA)

“This year I had been a little more circumspect, and had not packed my contraceptive equipment out of sheer embarrassment.

“As usual up there, it had been bitterly cold, and what with one thing and another…”

After Philip and Princess Elizabeth married in 1947, they spent part of their honeymoon at Birkhall – a grand hunting lodge on the Balmoral estate since inherited by the Prince of Wales.

The Queen was staying with her grandsons, William and Harry, at Balmoral when their mother Diana, Princess of Wales, died in a car crash in Paris in 1997.

The best videos delivered daily

Watch the stories that matter, right from your inbox