The Royal Family Is Opening Balmoral Castle to the Public For the First Time in History

The special interior tours of the royal family’s Scottish retreat sold out in less than a day

Historic image of royal family at Balmoral Castle
Photographed in 1979, the late Elizabeth II loved to spend time at Balmoral Castle. Keystone / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

When Queen Victoria visited Scotland for the first time in the fall of 1842, she fell in love with the Highlands, the rugged region in the country’s northwest corner. Six years later, her husband, Prince Albert, leased an estate with an old castle in the Highlands for his wife. In 1852, they purchased the land in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, and got to work building a bigger castle.

The new Balmoral Castle was completed in 1855. Since then, it’s been handed down through generations of the royal family. But members of the public haven’t been allowed inside most of its interior—until now.

For the first time, Charles III is opening up the private retreat to visitors. This summer, the castle will offer special guided tours “through several of the beautiful rooms within Balmoral Castle,” per the castle’s website.

Tickets for the new tours sold out within a day of being released, reports BBC News. However, those lucky enough to have snagged a spot—starting at £100, or roughly $125—are in for a rare treat.

“You will learn about the origins of the castle and how it has been loved by generations of the royal family,” according to the castle’s website. “Travel through time from the purchase of the Balmoral by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, through to present day, where you can see how rooms within the castle are used today by their Majesties the King and Queen and other members of the royal family.”

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For everyone else, the castle’s grounds, gardens and exhibitions will be open from May 4 through August 11. You can even have afternoon tea in the castle’s restaurant or rent one of the five cottages located on the estate’s grounds.

For the royal family, Balmoral Castle has long served as a retreat from the hustle and bustle—and the limelight—of London. Elizabeth II, in particular, loved spending time on the property with her beloved pups. There, she had “the privacy to stroll with her corgis around the gardens, catch up on correspondence … go fly fishing on the river Dee or take in a round of golf on her private course,” as Jill O'Brien wrote for CNN in 2013.

The estate has also been the site of many significant moments for the royal family. It’s where Prince William and Prince Harry learned of the death of their mother, Diana, Princess of Wales. Elizabeth II died at the castle in September 2022.

The property spans 50,000 acres and has 150 buildings, including the 167-room castle.

Black and white photo of royal family in front of castle
Elizabeth II and Prince Philip pose for a photograph with their children Princess Anne (left), Prince Andrew (center) and Charles III (right) in front of Balmoral Castle in September 1960. Getty Images

Meanwhile, back in London, Buckingham Palace’s East Wing will also open to the public this summer after undergoing a five-year renovation. For the first time, guests will be able to explore the room that leads out to the palace’s main balcony, reports Vanity Fair’s Kase Wickman. The balcony is where members of the family gather during certain special events and where newly married royals have waved to their adoring fans below.

Guided tours of the East Wing will take place in July and August, per BBC News. Visitors will be able to strolling along the Principal Corridor, the main hallway that runs through the wing, and gaze at various artworks, including pieces painted by 18th-century artist Thomas Gainsborough.

“Visitors will discover the history of the Wing, first occupied by Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their children and still used by the royal family today for official meetings and events,” according to a statement from the Royal Collection Trust, the charity that manages the royal residences.

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