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Scotland's Castles, Balmoral

Jul 15, 2008
Tourism is now one of Scotland's most important industries and each year more and more visitors spend time in the country for a multitude of reasons. While Edinburgh seems to have a festival for every week of the year but most visitors are most excited to visit the castle. At times Scotland appears to be a nation of castles (which is understandable when you consider it's turbulent past) and a great many are open to the public. Balmoral Castle is a 5 star visitor attraction at Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

In 1603, when the thrones of Scotland and England were united, it seemed as though the Royal Family lost all interest in Scotland in preference to it's richer, southern, neighbor. It was not until 1822 that interest was generated by the famous author Sir Walter Scott when he arranged a visit for King George IV. The "one and twenty daft days", as it became known, was full of pageantry which included many embellishments of Scott's romantic ideas of medieval Scotland.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, as had the whole of society, had been heavily influenced by Sir Walter Scott's novels which gave Scotland a romantic appeal. During his trip to Scotland George IV had stayed at Balmoral Estate. The estate dates back to 1390 and was where King Robert II of Scotland had once had a hunting lodge. These facts, and the favorable report from the doctor (Sir James Clark) led Queen Victoria to hire the estate, for their vacation, sight unseen.

Although the property in which they stayed in at Balmoral was rather small (it had rooms much smaller than those they were used to) the pair quickly fell in love with the place. They spent many vacations there taking country walks together and, in 1852, Prince Albert bought the whole estate for about 30,000.

The Royal Family had grown and it was abundantly clear that a new, larger, building was needed desperately. The new residence was to be much larger and named Balmoral Castle. The architect, William Smith from Aberdeen, designed the castle which was completed in 1856.

Since then Balmoral Castle, and it's estate, has been the private property of the British Royal Family (meaning that it is not part of the royal estate). Today the castle and it's 50,000 acres and over 100 buildings is a fully working estate and the summer retreat of Queen Elizabeth II.

Balmoral Castle has witnessed some of the royal's happy times but also their sad. Victoria and Albert had their best times there but following Albert's death, in 1861, Queen Victoria isolated herself spending a great deal of time on the estate. Another sad moment was when, in 1997, Queen Elizabeth II was informed of the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. Elizabeth's grief was kept private and the distraught public criticized her greatly for remaining there rather than immediately returning to London.

The royal family of Great Britain can easily afford to take the finest vacations. Indeed they spend a great deal of time traveling the globe and maybe this is the reason why Scotland has always appeared to be a place of private refuge. The present royal family of Queen Elizabeth II often visit remote Scottish islands such as the Isle of Harris in the Western Isles but it is their association with the Balmoral estate which is most widely known.
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If you are planning to visit Scotland then take a look at Harris Hotels and other Hebrides accommodation online at http://www.virtualhebrides.com/
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