Balmoral is the Scottish home of the British Royal Family and its location in the heart of the Aberdeenshire countryside makes it an excellent place to visit. Set within the Cairngorm National Park, the impressive Balmoral Estate is home to breathtaking mountain scenery, lochs, lush forests, and unique wildlife, not to mention the castle itself and a trip here is definitely worthwhile.
It is not possible to see Balmoral Castle from the road, but it is possible to visit the Castle and its amazing gardens. It is easily accessible by road and driving through the Cairngorms to Balmoral is blessed with wonderful views in all directions.
Located in the heart of Royal Deeside, Balmoral Estate occupies over 50,000 acres of some of the most idyllic Scottish countryside and it is an impressive backdrop to the Castle and its gardens. Continue reading to discover how to get there and the best things to see when you do.
Can you see Balmoral Castle from the road?
Sadly, Balmoral Castle is not visible from the road, no matter where you are driving from. The castle was designed to be private, so it is located quite far from any roads.
The extensive gardens and well-maintained woodland keep the house well-hidden, but the estate is open to visitors at certain times of the year, so it is possible to see for yourself where members of the Royal Family often spend their summer holidays.
How to reach Balmoral Castle
|Origin City||Distance||Driving Time|
|Aberdeen||50 miles||1 hour 20 minutes|
|Dundee||60 miles||1 hour 40 minutes|
|Inverness||70 miles||1 hour 50 minutes|
|Edinburgh||100 miles||2 hour 45 minutes|
|Glasgow||120 miles||2 hour 40 minutes|
|Newcastle||230 miles||4 hour 45 minutes|
|Belfast||260 miles||7 hours (including ferry)|
|Liverpool||320 miles||6 hours|
Balmoral is situated near the pretty village of Crathie in Aberdeenshire, in the northeast of Scotland. It is accessed by the A93 which leads to Braemar to the west and Aberdeen on the east coast.
Crathie itself sits on the north bank of the River Dee and is known as the Gateway to Balmoral, which is accessed via a bridge over the River Dee, on the south side of the river.
Travelling from Aberdeen, the A93 takes you past the towns of Banchory and Ballater on the 42-mile journey through glorious highland scenery to Crathie.
It is also possible to reach Balmoral from the north on the A939 travelling from Inverness, and from the west, on the A93 from Braemar. Whichever direction you are heading from, the journey will be filled with amazing views and incredibly scenic.
If you are travelling to Balmoral via public transport, then Aberdeen and Dundee are the closest major cities served by major train routes, and from there, it is possible to travel to Balmoral by bus, or even by taxi.
If you are planning to travel by air, Aberdeen is the nearest major airport to Balmoral, from where you can hire a car to make the journey to Crathie.
Driving to Balmoral Castle from Edinburgh
Balmoral is situated in the beautiful countryside of the northeast highlands, 100 miles north of Edinburgh, and the journey takes 2 hours and 40 minutes.
The route starts by taking the A90 to Queensferry where you'll take the recently completed Queensferry Crossing over the Firth of Forth, running parallel with the iconic Forth Bridge. The new bridge, at 1.7 miles is the longest bridge of its type in the world and is an incredible feat of engineering.
The route then follows the M90 north past Kinross, and Loch Leven before arriving at Perth. Home to Scone Palace, the traditional crowning place of the Kings of Scotland, and the Perth Museum and Art Gallery, Perth has a rich mix of history and culture and is an excellent place to take a break and explore.
Leaving Perth, join the A93 heading north as the road runs alongside the River Tay for a short while before reaching Blairgowrie. Continue towards Bridge of Cally and then on to Glenshee at the southern end of the Cairngorm National Park.
Leaving Glenshee, the Devil's Elbow Viewpoint is an excellent place for a photo opportunity, before continuing north to Braemar, officially the coldest place in the UK, and the home of the Braemar Gathering, the highland games regularly attended by the royal family when staying at Balmoral.
From Braemar, continue on the A93 for a further 9 miles before arriving in Crathie.
Driving to Balmoral Castle from Glasgow
Balmoral is located around 120 miles northeast of Glasgow and the journey takes 2 hours and 35 minutes. Leaving Glasgow, the route begins on the M80 heading towards Bannockburn, home to the famous battle of 1314, where the Scots army famously defeated the advancing English army, under the leadership of Robert the Bruce.
After Bannockburn, the M80 merges into the M9 passing Stirling, with its impressive castle and the Wallace monument clearly visible from the road. The M9 becomes the A9 as you continue north passing Gleneagles and its famous golf courses, before arriving at the city of Perth.
Remain on the A9 as you pass Scone Palace and Perth Racecourse, before taking the B8063 at Luncarty heading northeast towards Stanley and then joining the A93 at Kinclaven. From here the A93 follows the same route as the drive from Edinburgh to Balmoral.
Reaching Balmoral Castle from Inverness
The journey from Inverness to Balmoral Castle is a pleasant drive, and the entirety of the journey is on A roads. Leaving Inverness, join the A9 heading south, following the signs for Perth.
The route soon takes you past Tomatin, home to the multi-award-winning malt whisky distillery, before reaching Bogroy, where the route heads east on the A938 towards Carrbridge and its famous old packhorse bridge.
Continue east past Dulnain Bridge towards Grantown on Spey, where the route crosses the River Spey and heads south to the beautiful village of Tomintoul, the highest village in the highlands at 1164 feet.
Tomintoul is also home to an award-winning malt whisky distillery, and the area itself is renowned for the Speyside Whisky Trail.
As you continue south through the Cairngorm National Park, the route passes The Lecht, one of the 3 ski centres within the Park, before reaching Cock Bridge, and this stretch of the A939 is considered one of the most beautiful drives in Scotland.
Nearby Corgarff Castle makes for a welcome diversion, before reaching Colnabaichin and heading south along the old military road.
The route passes the ringing stone, a unique rock located at the side of the road that makes a ringing sound when hit with smaller stones, before continuing to Gairnshiel, a picturesque setting and perfect location for a photograph, before joining the B976 leading south, all the way to Crathie.
Can you visit Balmoral Castle for free?
It is not possible to visit Balmoral Castle for free, and due to it being the private residence of the royal family, the majority of the Castle is out of bounds to the public, but it is possible to purchase tickets to gain access to the gardens, see the exhibitions, and visit the ballroom of the Castle.
The admission fee is £16.50 for adults, £8.50 for children aged 5-16, and a family ticket which is valid for 2 adults and up to 3 children, costs £35. The admission fee is used to fund the considerable upkeep of the main house and its beautiful gardens and grounds.
Visiting is available between April and August each year and it is always advisable to book in advance. The official Balmoral Castle website is the place to go for up-to-date information on opening hours, admission prices, and particular restrictions or closures on a given day, so do plan ahead before making a visit.
*Prices calculated at the time of writing
Things you need to know about driving to Balmoral Castle
- The roads leading to Balmoral Castle are well-maintained, passing through rural Scotland where traffic will be quiet. The roads can be narrow in places and it is important to be aware of the speed limits and drive carefully - locals know the roads well and can be over-zealous with the accelerator.
- Situated in the Cairngorms National Park, home to several of the biggest mountains in the UK, the weather conditions can be challenging at times. Whilst Balmoral isn't open to the public during winter, if you are visiting the area at that time, snow and ice can be a danger on the roads. As the Park is known for its wildlife, be extra vigilant for deer straying and other animals straying into the road.
- The drive to Balmoral takes you through some amazing scenery and it is important to enjoy the route and make the most of the attractions along the way to make the trip as enjoyable as possible.
Things to do once you reach Balmoral Castle
The road to Balmoral through the Cairngorms is spectacular, with its glorious landscape surrounding you. The route takes you through many picturesque villages and towns, and there is an abundance of outdoor activities at your fingertips.
Once you reach Balmoral, there are many more attractions to enjoy, and here are some of our favourites:
- Stroll the grounds and gardens of Balmoral Castle - Take a leisurely stroll and enjoy the fabulous gardens and the variety of flora and fauna on display and explore the grounds containing an impressive range of Victorian glasshouses, and water gardens. with a helpful audio tour. The headset comes free when booking admission in advance, and the tour offers a real insight into life on the estate and is available in multiple languages catering to visitors from around the globe.
- The Balmoral Ballroom - The ballroom is the only part of the castle open to the public, with the rest of the rooms unavailable as part of the King's private residence. You can admire the impressive architecture and the opulent decor that has served numerous royal gatherings.
- Explore the Balmoral Estate - Spanning over 50,000 acres of amazing highland countryside, a guided tour is the perfect way to discover the forests, mountains, rivers, and wildlife that make the estate so special. An expedition tour allows 6 guests to see all the estate has to offer by Land Rover.
- The coffee shop - Enjoy some royal refreshments in the Balmoral coffee shop, close to the Castle itself, with a varied selection of hot and cold food and delicious home baking, with scones fit for a king.
- Outdoor Activities - With the glorious scenery and stunning landscapes on its doorstep, Balmoral offers several activities for visitors to enjoy. From fishing in the River Dee, pony trekking, cycling along the waymarked trails, or venturing out into the hills on foot for some breathtaking views over the estate and beyond, there is something for everyone.
- Special Events - Throughout the year, Balmoral lays on several special events which are all displayed on their website. These range from Outdoor Cinema and Theatre events in the grounds, Pop Up restaurant evenings in the Pipers Hall, and Wednesday Walks.
The splendour of Balmoral in its magnificent surroundings makes it a wonderful road trip destination. The drive itself is a memorable encounter with unparalleled mountain views, glistening lochs, and wildlife in abundance at every turn, and it's an experience that will last long in the memory.