Our objective of the day was Balmoral Castle, the summer residence of the royal family. Before we left the town of Ballater, where we had spent the night, we drove over to the train station. The Royal Train Station at Ballater was the end of the journey from London when the royals went north for the summer. The station is now the Tourist Information Center and was closed until 10 am. We had left our B & B just after nine and felt we didn’t want to wait an hour to go inside, so we just took a few photos and headed west to Balmoral. The royal railway car has been retired and is kept on site. The River Dee runs through Balmoral land and is a favourite fishing spot of the royals. The Balmoral estate is huge, covering 20,000 hectares (50,000 acres) of land between Ballater and Braemar. It is a working estate with herds of Highland Cattle, ponies, and managed deer. The estate manages the forests, has grouse moors, and farmland.The parking area is by the royal stables and garage. There are historic displays in many of the garage bays. It is a nice walk through the trees to the castle; which sits majestically at the back of a huge lawn. We took the tour of the rooms open to the public, but no photos were allowed. The last room was the beautiful ballroom that opened to a lovely sunken garden. The back of the castle is near the forest and a pathway takes you to the edge of the River Dee. There is a path in the forest that will take you to the cemetery where many of the beloved pets of members of the royal family are buried.
Near the pet cemetery is a memorial to Princess Alice. We walked around to the front of the castle and along the vast lawn to the caretakers house.I was tempted to sit on the swing. I have seen photos of Prince Charles and Princess Anne playing on this swing.The formal gardens are at the end of the lawn and the road continues past the vegetable and flower gardens. All the flowers for the arrangements in the castle are grown on site and the majority of the vegetables and fruit used by the staff and family is also grown on the estate. The large greenhouses help with the cultivation of less hardy veggies and flowers. We can’t have all the deer eating the produce.We had arrived at Balmoral Castle just a little after 10 am and didn’t leave until 2:30. It only took about 10 minutes to drive to Braemar Castle, famous for the Braemar Gathering that takes place every summer. BraemarCastleis The castle was built in 1628 for the Earl of Mar. Its main purpose was to defend his lands from the neighbouring Farquharson clan of Inverery (who were actually vassals of the Earl of Mar; which apparently did not mean much in practice). The Earl also used the castle for a hunting lodge in the summer. The castle suffered several attacks and burnings and sat roofless and abandoned over many years. The Farquharson family bought it in 1732 and renovations are ongoing. There are guided tours if you wish to hear the stories or you can walk around on your own.