Where the Royal Family spend the summer in Scotland – the four residences

The Queen drives her Range Rover up to Balmoral in 2012

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The Queen traditionally spends a few months in Scotland every summer, while other royals tend to make a trip up north at some point in the season to enjoy all the natural beauty the country has to offer. There are both private and Crown Estate royal residences in Scotland, but it is Balmoral that holds a very special place in the Queen’s heart.

Balmoral Castle

The Queen inherited the Balmoral and Sandringham estates as monarch, and she spends every summer at Balmoral Castle.

In previous decades, the Queen was always joined by her late husband Prince Philip, and members of the Royal Family visit the monarch while she is in residence. The Queen also traditionally receives a visit from her prime minister.

Rumours have abounded of the so-called ‘Balmoral Test’, where royals supposedly judge how well visitors cope with royal life and traditions at the hideaway.

Balmoral first entered the Royal Family’s possession in 1852, when it was purchased by the Queen’s great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria.

Located in the heart of Aberdeenshire, Balmoral is surrounded by sprawling countryside and offers ample fishing spots due to its proximity to the River Dee.

Princess Eugenie once said of the Queen’s affinity to Balmoral: “I think Granny is the most happy there. I think she really, really loves the Highlands.”

Also located on the Balmoral Estate in Craigowan Lodge, which the Queen occasionally stays in when she begins her summer holiday.


Birkhall is the private Scottish residence of Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, and it is also located on the Balmoral Estate.

The home previously belonged to the late Queen Mother, who called the property the ‘little big house’.

Charles and Camilla enjoy fishing and hiking while in residence at Birkhall, and they stayed there during the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020.

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When the Queen Mother died in 2002, it is believed she left a three-bedroom cottage to Prince William on the Balmoral Estate.

As students at St Andrew’s in Moray, Prince William and his girlfriend Kate Middleton were thought to have visited Tam-na-Ghar whenever they needed a break from their studies.

The royal couple have also taken their three children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis there to visit in recent years.

Palace of Holyroodhouse

The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the Queen’s official Scottish residence, and it is not one of the Royal Family’s private properties.

The Queen stays at Holyroodhouse at the start of the summer for Holyrood Week, where she is joined by other royals.

The Royal Family complete engagements around Scotland during this time, and the Queen traditionally meets the Scottish First Minister at the residence.

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