2013 Summer (Baltic and Britain – Scotland – July 10 – Day 17)

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.

From Braemar we drove south to Blairgowrie where we spent the night at the Altamount Country House Hotel. The next day we visited Kirrimuir, the birthplace of J. M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan.

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