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Royal Deeside

Balmoral Castle is located 8 miles (13 km) east of Braemar (Aberdeenshire), lying in the gently wooded valley of the River Dee. It is one of relatively few Royal residences which is the personal property of the Monarch, rather than owned by the state and made available for use by the Royal Family.

Balmoral Castle, a large estate house situated in the area of Aberdeenshire, Scotland, known as Royal Deeside.  The estate was purchased by Queen Victoria's consort Prince Albert, and remains a favourite summer royal residence. Albert paid just over £30,000 for full ownership in 1852 and immediately started making plans with William Smith to extend the existing 15th century castle, and make a new and bigger castle fit for the royal family. The new building Prince Albert ordered to be built within a hundred yards of the old castle was planned and designed partly by himself and completed in 1856










A large estate house situated in the area known as Royal Deeside.

The estate was purchased by Queen Victoria's consort Prince Albert, and remains a favourite summer Royal Residence.

Albert paid just over £30,000 for full ownership in 1852 and immediately started making plans with William Smith to extend the existing 15th century castle, and make a new and bigger castle fit for the royal family.

The new building Prince Albert ordered to be built within a 100 yards of the old castle was planned and designed partly by himself and completed in 1856. Balmoral Castle is built from granite quarried at Invergelder on the estate.


Old Balmoral Castle, the forerunner of the present castle commenced in 1853, consisted of a square tower or keep of the early 16th century.  At 3 of the angles were turrets characteristic of the 17th century. Attached to the tower was a small courtyard enclosed by a thick wall. It was occupied by the Gordons, first as tenants of the Earl of Mar and later as owners, the earliest records of the estate being in 1451 and 1484. About 1754, attached to the original tower, there was a long steep-roofed, high-gabled house with narrow windows high in the walls, lying east to west parallel with the river. Numerous additions were made by Sir Robert Gordon between 1830 and 1852 when all the old buildings were pulled down.   No trace of the original Balmoral Castle exists.  In the lawn of the present castle, a marble stone is inscribed, 'This stone marks the position of the front entrance door (facing the south) of old Balmoral Castle taken down in 1855

The Balmoral Estate began as a home built by Sir William Drummond in 1390. The estate was formerly owned by King Robert II (1371–1390), who had a hunting lodge in the area.  After Drummond, the estate was sold to Alexander Gordon, the 3rd Earl of Huntly, in the 15th century. The estate remained in the family's hands until it was sold in 1662 to the Farquharsons of Invercauld, who sold the estate in 1798 to the 2nd Earl of Fife.

The estate formed part of the coronation activities of King George IV in 1822.

A series of watercolours exist showing a view of Old Balmoral Castle looking south, with the Dee in the foreground and mountains in the distance. The artist was in Waiting during the Queen's first visit to Balmoral, during 8th to 28th September 1848. They give a clear impression of the Old Castle in its setting, before Prince Albert began his extensive tree planting.

History of Balmoral - In the autumn of 1842, two and a half years after her marriage to Prince Albert, Queen Victoria paid her first visit to Scotland.

They were so struck with the Highlands that they resolved to return. A further visit to Perthshire and then Ardverikie encouraged them to seize the opportunity to purchase Balmoral.

After searching enquiries they bought the estate on the 17th February 1848 and on 8th September 1848 they arrived to take possession of a property they had never seen, but to which they had committed themselves for many years to come.

In the month of September, 1848, Her Majesty the Queen, Prince Albert, the Prince of Wales, Prince Alfred, and the Princess Royal, with their attendants, visited the City on their way to Balmoral, in Strathdee.  The Royal Yacht arrived here on the morning of Thursday, the 7th of September; and at half past 1 o'clock,  the Provost and Magistrates of the City proceeded from the Town-house to the Yacht for the purpose of presenting a dutiful address to Her Majesty, and the Freedom of the City to her Royal Consort. A deputation from the Senatus Academicus of Marischal College was also in attendance, for the purpose of presenting an address from the University.  Later in the afternoon. His Royal Highness visited Old Aberdeen, halting at King's College, where the Earl of Aberdeen, as chancellor of the University of King's College, and the Professors of this ancient seat of learning, were in waiting to receive the Party at the entrance: an address from the Senatus was presented to the Prince in the College Hall by Lord Aberdeen,  and Provost Nicoll presented an address from the Magistrates of Old Aberdeen. After visiting the Library and Chapel, His Royal Highness walked from the College to the Old Cathedral, and was there received by the Reverend Minister of the Parish, who conducted him through the edifice. The Royal Party then returned to  New Aberdeen, and paid a visit to Marischal College: here an address was also presented, and the Prince inspected the Library, Museum, and Observatory of the University. The polished granite works of Messrs. McDonald and Leslie were next visited; and at about half  past 5 o'clock. His Royal Highness rejoined the Queen in the Royal Yacht.  In the course of the evening,  Her Majesty received the principal and Professors of King's College in the Saloon of the Yacht; also the Provost and Magistrates of Old Aberdeen: and on the following morning, the 8th of September, the Corporate, Ecclesiastical, and other authorities of Aberdeen took up their appropriate positions for the Public Reception of her Majesty on landing.  At half past 8 o'clock the Royal Family quitted the yacht, and took their seats in the Royal Carriage, a Procession being formed, which passed along the Quay, and through the City.  On arriving at the confines of the City at Holburn, the Magistrates and other City officials drew aside, and the carriages of the Royal Party proceeded on their way to Balmoral, which was reached in the afternoon, after a progress marked with the most lively demonstrations of loyalty and affection.  On the occasion of this visit, His Royal Highness Prince Albert was invested with the Freedom of Old Aberdeen, as well as that of Aberdeen; and also had the degree of LL.D. conferred upon him by the Senatus Academicus of King's College.

They were not disappointed and when they returned South they opened negotiations for the purchase of the land on which Balmoral stood.  These protracted negotiations were completed on 22nd June 1852, when the fee simple of Balmoral was purchased by Prince Albert. Once the land was purchased they decided to rebuild as the building was no longer adequate for their needs. The Architect selected was William Smith, City Architect of Aberdeen. Soon after the family arrived at the Castle, Mr Smith was summoned from Aberdeen on 8th September 1852.  Prince Albert decided to build a new Castle as the current one was considered not large enough for the Royal Family.  A new site was chosen, 100 yards to the North West of the building, so that they could continue to occupy the old house while the new Castle was under construction.

The foundation stone for Balmoral Castle was laid by Queen Victoria on 28th September 1853 and can be found at the foot of the wall adjacent to the West face of the entrance porch. Before the foundation stone was placed in position Queen Victoria signed a parchment recording the date. This parchment, together with an example of each of the current coins of the realm, was then placed in a bottle, inserted into a cavity below the site prepared for the stone. 

The Castle was completed in 1856 and the old building was then demolished.

This building is commemorated by a stone which is located on the front lawn at a point opposite the tower and about 100 yards from the path. This stone marks the position of the front door to the demolished castle.

The Castle was built in 1855 by William Smith (1817-91), the City Architect for Aberdeen. His father, John Smith (1781 - 1852, had made additions to the previous house on the site in 1834-39, but this was demolished to make way for the present scheme.

Prince Albert was closely involved in the planning of both house and grounds. Over the years the Royal family has improved and developed the house and estate.




Edward Vll - Edward the Caresser complete with Badger Sporran

File:EdwardVII at Balmoral.jpgFile:The Balmoral Castle, Scotland.jpg

Grampian Scenery and Industry

Davidson and Kay's chemists shop at the Babbie Law's corner (off Holburn Street and Albyn Place). The historical characters depicted are associated with medicine.  Davidson & Kay Limited was an Aberdeen Pharmacy business with a history reaching back to the early 1800s, and possibly earlier.  The business was successful and grew during the Victorian period. Davidson & Kay benefited from Royal custom from 1857 onwards when the Duchess of Kent, mother of Queen Victoria, was a customer. The firm was granted the Royal Warrant from Queen Victoria in 1884, whose medicine was taken to the station and placed in charge of a guard before being taken by horseback from Ballater to Balmoral. The firm served 5 generations of the Royal Family in all and also dispensed for the Czar of Russia.  Further dispensaries were built at Wellington Place, Alford Place and even Balmoral as the firm expanded while the main branch was on Union Street. Babbie Law's Corner was on Holburn Junction, looking towards Albyn Place (right) and Holburn Street (left), next to Holburn Central Church in its original form (left), Babbie Law's Corner Sweet Shop (centre) and the U F Christ's College (right). Babbie Law's corner was redeveloped in 1885.


Royal Sports on Hill and Loch, otherwise known as ‘The Boat Picture’ or the ‘Balmoral Misfortune’, was a project which occupied Landseer and Queen Victoria for 20 years and resulted in a disappointing finished work, recorded in W. H Simmons’s print of 1874 (Royal Collection). The optimistic early stages of this process produced some much more satisfying sketches. Queen Victoria acquired this one in 1870, when she despaired of seeing the finished painting; it was, she said, ‘valuable to her as a remembrance of happy times.’

‘the picture is intended to represent me as meeting Albert, who has been stalking, whilst I have been fishing, and the whole is quite consonant with the truth. The solitude, the sport, and the Highlanders in the water &c. will be, as Landseer says, a beautiful historical exemplification of peaceful times, & of the independent life we lead in the dear Highlands. It is quite a new conception, & I think the manner in which he has composed it, will be singularly dignified, poetic & totally novel, for no other Queen has ever enjoyed, what I am fortunate enough to enjoy in our peaceful happy life here. It will tell a great deal, and it is beautiful.’

‘It is to be thus: I, stepping out of the boat at Loch Muick, Albert, in his Highland dress, assisting me out, & I am looking at a stag which he is supposed to have just killed. Bertie is in the dear pony with McDonald (whom Landseer much admires) standing behind, with rifles and plaids on his shoulder.’

Plaque, beside the Well of Lecht records how 5 Companies of the 33rd Regiment built this section of the Military Road in 1754 under the guidance of Lord Charles Hay - Colonel. The road ran from Ruthven Barracks in Strathspey to Braemar Castle on Deeside.

The Broad Arrow is chiselled into the base and a chained ladle  is there for thirsty walkers to drink from this natural spring.

In 1752 Hay was Colonel of the 33rd Regiment, and in 1757 (the 1st year of the 7 years' war) Major-General. Hay subsequently received a high command in the force that was sent to Halifax in Nova Scotia under General Hopson, to join the expedition which was gathering there, under the Earl of Loudoun, to attack the French.

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Last modified: 01/09/2013