Queen Elizabeth II: A guide to Her Majesty's royal residences in the UK

As we remember our beloved, longest-reigning Sovereign, we take a closer look at the extraordinary palaces and castles around the UK which Queen Elizabeth II called home...

5 mins

Please note: Following the news of Queen Elizabeth II's passing on 8 September 2022, many royal residences will remain closed during this period of mourning. Please check official websites before planning your visit.

Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire

Balmoral Castle (Shutterstock)

Balmoral Castle (Shutterstock)

This Scottish holiday residence of the Royal Family is where the Queen spent several long weeks during summer every year. When visiting, Her Majesty enjoyed her time in the Scottish outdoors: picnicking, horse riding, and exploring the Highlands in the company of her beloved dogs. It was also where Her Majesty spent the last days of her life, before passing away on 8 September 2022

The baronial-built castle is located 50 miles away from Aberdeen, within Cairngorms National Park. It first became a royal residence in 1852, when Prince Albert brought it for Queen Victoria, and it has remained in the Royal Family ever since.

Balmoral Castle is open to the public every year between April and July each year when the family is not in residence. The main ballroom displays a permanent exhibition of other rooms in the castle.

Windsor Castle, Berkshire

Windsor Castle (Shutterstock)

Windsor Castle (Shutterstock)

Another of the Queen’s most well-known residences is Windsor Castle, where Her Majesty spent most weekends and made her main residence in her final years. It was thought to be her favourite home and where she often hosted other Heads of State and public figures. It was where she kept many of her horses and, until relatively recently, she was often seen riding her favourite horse, Emma, through the private grounds. 

First constructed by William the Conqueror in 1070, the outer walls remain in the same place as where they were originally built. Over the near millennium since it was built, the castle has been lived in and refurbished by 39 successive monarchs. It is both the oldest and largest occupied castle in the entire world.

Windsor Castle is open to visitors throughout the year, only closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. Visitors can roam the brilliant gold ceremonial rooms which were used by the Queen to entertain guests, gaze at the greatest collection of paintings by artists including Hans Holbein, Van Dyck and Rubens, and admire the Queen’s 1953 Coronation dress in St George’s Hall, located within the castle.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

The Palace of Holyroodhouse (Shutterstock)

The Palace of Holyroodhouse (Shutterstock)

Located at the end of Edinburgh’s most famous street, the Royal Mile, this is the official Scottish residence of the of the Royal Family. The Queen’s visited annually in June for ‘Holyrood Week’, when Her Majesty took part in many events and engagements celebrating Scottish history and culture. During the week, 8,000 Scottish locals from all walks of life are invited to the Palace in recognition of their good work.  

The history of the Palace of Holyroodhouse dates back to the 12th century when it was founded by David I as a monastery. It is most well-known for its association with Mary Queen of Scots, who spent most of her life here.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse is open throughout the year, with 14 spectacular staterooms, the ancient ruins of Holyrood Abbey, and magnificent gardens welcoming public visits.

Buckingham Palace, London

Buckingham Palace (Shutterstock)

Buckingham Palace (Shutterstock)

Needing no introduction is one of the UK’s most-cherished landmarks. Buckingham Palace is the official London residence and administrative headquarters of the Monarch. Tens of thousands of people visit the Palace during the year for State banquets and garden parties, and the Queen held weekly meetings with the Prime Minister.

Although it first became property of the Royal Family in 1761 when George III bought it as Buckingham House, the property went under significant development to transform into a Palace, and it later became an official residence of a Sovereign when Queen Victoria made it her home in 1837.

Buckingham Palace attracts millions of visitors every year, most of which stand outside its grand gates and watch the Changing of the Guard. A selection of staterooms are open to the public during the summer months, and some limited tours take place in December, January and at Easter.

Sandringham Estate, Norfolk

Sandringham Estate (Shutterstock)

Sandringham Estate (Shutterstock)

Another beloved holiday home of the Queen is Sandringham Estate, most famously known as the home where the Windsor’s spend their Christmas. It covers 20,000 acres in the Norfolk countryside, and provides 200 jobs for people who work to maintain the grounds.

It was first acquired by the British Royal Family in 1862, when Prince Edward VII and his wife made it their country home. It passed through the generations to Queen Elizabeth II, who gave her first televised Christmas message here in 1957.

Today, Sandringham Estate's is open to the public to explore its 600-acre Royal Park, and to learn about royal history at the estate’s museum.

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