Picnics, BBQs and bracing walks: how the Queen typically spends her summers in Balmoral

The royal family all pay a visit to the monarch in Scotland

The Queen is preparing for her annual break in her Scottish residence, Balmoral Castle. She typically spends from July to early October in her expansive rural retreat. 

Scotland is considered to be one of the Queen's favourite places on Earth; she and her late husband Prince Philip even spent part of their honeymoon at Birkhall hunting lodge, located on the estate, in 1947.

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Her granddaughter Princess Eugenie previously explained: "It's the most beautiful place on earth. I think Granny is the most happy there. I think she really, really loves the Highlands."

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Speaking on ITV's Our Queen At Ninety, Eugenie added: "Walks, picnics, dogs – a lot of dogs, there's always dogs – and people coming in and out all the time. 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."

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Find out everything you need to know about the idyllic royal residence...

The Queen has been visiting Balmoral Castle for decades

Where is Balmoral?

The Queen's summer residence is located in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire. Her Majesty usually takes her private helicopter from England to Scotland, and in the past, she has been pictured boarding the jet with her clan of corgis. The magnificent estate turreted grey stone castle is set amid mountains, lochs, glens and grouse moors.

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It is the Queen's private home and 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 Queen travels everywhere with her corgis

What does the Queen do in Balmoral?

Balmoral is where the monarch and her family can truly relax and be themselves. Each morning a lone piper plays below the Queen's bedroom window.

It was quite usual for visitors to see Prince Philip grilling sausages over a barbeque or Her Majesty washing up; Margaret Thatcher was so baffled by the monarch's habit of washing up with bare hands, she sent her a pair of gloves. Picnics, home cinema evenings, games and bracing walks are all laid on.

MORE: Inside the Queen and Prince Philip's Scottish holiday home, Balmoral Castle

The Queen spends every summer at Balmoral

And despite being on their summer holiday, the royals have been known to attend official engagements, namely the Braemar Gathering, where the Queen is Chieftain of the Highland games. The sovereign is always pictured having a laugh as she watches the annual tug-of-war and the sack race.

Royal fans can also catch a glimpse of the family when they attend Sunday church at Crathie Kirk, located on the Queen's estate.

When does the Queen visit Balmoral?

The Queen usually starts her summer holiday in mid-July, but while the main castle is officially open to tourists until August, she stays in a seven-bedroom stone house on her estate, Craigowan Lodge.

She then moves into the big house in August and usually stays in Scotland until September/October time.

The royals take part in outdoor pursuits

Which royals visit the Queen at Balmoral?

The royal family take it in turns to visit the monarch in Scotland, quietly jetting in on their private helicopters. 

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Prince William and Kate have been visiting Balmoral since their university days. The Cambridges have had some of their most romantic moments at the residence, staying at a cottage called Tam-na-Ghar during their breaks at St Andrew's University. William also surprised his then-girlfriend in 2009, arranging a candle-lit in a remote log cabin on the banks of the River Dee.

Since then, the Duke and Duchess have regularly dropped in for short summer visits with their young children Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis.

Picnics, home cinema evenings, games and bracing walks are all laid on

Which high-profile visitors have stayed at Balmoral?

In past years, non-royals have also been invited to Balmoral. Kate's parents Carole and Michael Middleton have been guests of Prince Charles at his Scottish hunting lodge, Birkhall.

Prime Ministers and first ministers have also stayed for short periods; David Cameron once said there was not much "chillaxing" at Balmoral, with the royals spending their time on outdoor pursuits.

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Tony Blair's wife Cherie also revealed in her autobiography how 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. Cherie knew that royal household staff would unpack her luggage, as is customary at the Queen's residences.

"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.

"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..."

Balmoral is privately owned by the royals

What is Balmoral's history?

Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert first visited the Highlands in 1842 and were so struck by its beauty they resolved to return. The monarch famously called Balmoral a "paradise in the Highlands" and wrote in her diary: "All seemed to breathe freedom and peace, and to make one forget the world and its sad turmoils."

The magnificent estate, set amid mountains, lochs and glens, held a special place for Victoria, so much so that in 1852 her husband Albert bought it for her. The original house was deemed "small but pretty", which led to the commission of Balmoral Castle. Unlike other properties such as Buckingham Palace, it is privately owned.

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