The 10 best locations for a royal-themed visit to Scotland

Balmoral Castle has been a royal residence since 1852 – VisitScotland / North East 250 / Damian Shields

The public will have access to the previously invisible interior of Balmoral Castle for the first time this summer, in line with the King’s desire to make royal residences more accessible to the public. Tours of the castle will take place as part of a trial period and will visit various rooms used by the King and Queen.

Scotland has a complex relationship with the Royal Family, and yet the fact remains that Queen Victoria was responsible for much of the global concept of ‘Scottishness’ – an idea refined by the late Queen and now embraced by today’s kilt sport . monarch.

However, it is not just the famous castle that attracts visitors from all over the world. A visit to Scotland with a royal theme offers an enticing adventure full of history, epic landscapes and the romantic scent of royal intrigue. The 10 places below all offer excellent opportunities to do as the royal family does (or did), and take in Scotland at its most regal splendor.

Balmoral Castle

The must-visit attraction on any royal-themed visit. It’s easy to see what so enchanted Queen Victoria and Prince Albert when they descended into the tree-clad hills in search of an idyllic Highland estate, adding the royal moniker to Deeside. Enjoying the majesty of the Balmoral Estate is like taking a stroll through Hollywood Scotland, while also offering an intimate glimpse into the life of Queen Victoria and that of more recent Royals. Currently, the interior of the enormous castle is largely off-limits to the public, with tours limited to just the ballroom, grounds and gardens; This summer’s trial will determine whether visitors will be allowed to venture further in the future.

Where to stay: The best thing to do after a visit to Balmoral is Braemar’s Fife Arms, one of Scotland’s most exclusive and breathtaking over-the-top retreats. Sketches of Queen Victoria decorate the walls. Doubles from £757.

The Fife Arms is one of Scotland's most exclusive and breathtaking over-the-top retreatsThe Fife Arms is one of Scotland's most exclusive and breathtaking over-the-top retreats

The Fife Arms is one of Scotland’s most exclusive and breathtaking over-the-top retreats – Sim Canetty-Clarke


No Scottish village has been more embraced by the royal family than Balmoral’s neighbor Ballater, and this beautiful retreat has embraced their patrons in return, with many businesses proudly displaying their royal credentials. When the funeral procession passed last year, 1,400 residents paid their respects. Don’t miss the Victorian station, complete with a vintage carriage containing a waxwork of Queen Victoria, arriving at the Balmoral railway line. The Braemar Gathering Highland Games in September are a royal favourite.

Where to stay: The Balmoral Arms smells like royalty with themed names for bedrooms and the restaurant. Ask about the – discreetly discussed – royal toilet. Doubled from €185.

The station in the village center of BallaterThe station in the village center of Ballater

Ballater village center station – Dennis Barnes

The Deeside Road

The Deeside Way follows the old royal railway route from Ballater east to Aberdeen, 40 miles away – and a stretch of shortbread-tin-beautiful countryside. If you don’t have time to complete it, you can just do some nice stretches around Banchory. A shorter adventure is the climb to the spectacular pit at Burn o’Vat. Hike through the cliffs to an Ice Age geological wonder, or enjoy the eight-mile circular walk around another royal favourite: Loch Muick.

Where to stay: The walkable Banchory Lodge has double prices from £113.

Royal Perth

Scotland’s unofficial ancient capital is shrouded in royal history. For centuries, Scottish monarchs were crowned on the mysterious Stone Of Destiny at Scone Palace, where Victoria once resided. Edward I stole it in 1296 and although it temporarily returned to Westminster Abbey for the coronation of King Charles III, it is now back home in Scotland. Don’t miss the colossal statue of Prince Albert in North Inch Park.

Where to stay: It must be the Royal George Hotel, named after Queen Victoria’s residence in 1848. A royal warrant is proudly displayed by two lamp stands made from the bedposts of Victoria’s bedroom. Doubled from €150.

Scone Palace is at the heart of Perth's connection with the monarchyScone Palace is at the heart of Perth's connection with the monarchy

Scone Palace is at the heart of Perth’s connection with the monarchy – Chris Watt

Glamis Castle

One of Britain’s most historic castles, full of stories of the Queen Mother at her childhood home and childhood home. Princess Margaret was born here, the first royal to be born in Scotland since Charles I, and many royal families have enjoyed Glamis’s legendary hospitality. Allow a full day to explore the castle and its extensive gardens, and make sure to have lunch in the old Victorian kitchens.

Where to stay: Stay with your family in royal style at the on-site Glamis House. You can even photograph your own pheasants and partridges for dinner, if you prefer.

St Andrews

As if the student-lined historic streets of beautiful St Andrews weren’t enough, this beachside town is also where the Prince and Princess of Wales met and fell in love after their last-minute transfer from the University of Edinburgh . Visit the bars they frequented and then follow their footsteps to West Sands, made famous by the Chariots of Fire scene. St Andrews is of course the home of golf, with several Royals having been appointed Captain of the Royal & Ancient.

Where to stay: The Old Course Hotel, Golf Resort and Spa is the place. Look over the legendary Old Course and then stroll along it to West Sands. Doubles from £420.

St Andrews: where William and Kate met and fell in loveSt Andrews: where William and Kate met and fell in love

St Andrews: where William and Kate met and fell in love – Getty


Dunfermline was crowned Scotland’s newest city as part of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations. Rich layers of royal history run through the cobbled streets of this mini-Edinburgh: Scotland’s monarchs once lived in the grand palace where the ill-fated Charles I was born, and Scotland’s only royal saint – Margaret – once held sceptre. Robert the Bruce is buried in an abbey to rival Durham, and although the Stuarts shipped their entire court to London in 1603, a rich legacy lives on.

Where to stay: Forrester Park Resort, in Cairneyhill, four miles west of Dunfermline, is set in 350 acres of parkland and has a gold course. Doubles from £120.


The royal family spends more time in Edinburgh than anywhere else in the country except Balmoral. A Thanksgiving service was held at St. Giles’ Cathedral to mark the coronation, a striking building that was also part of the Queen’s final journey to London from Balmoral. The Honors of Scotland (Britain’s original Crown Jewels) – which once eluded Cromwell and were presented to Charles at the coronation – are on display at Edinburgh Castle. The current royal residence is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, opened as an intoxicating window into royal life.

Where to stay: The Balmoral is named after the Highland castle, of similar grandeur. Think luxurious public areas and palatial bedrooms. Doubles from £313 – read our review here. Plan the perfect trip to Edinburgh with our guide.

The royal residence in Edinburgh: the Palace of HolyroodhouseThe royal residence in Edinburgh: the Palace of Holyroodhouse

The royal residence in Edinburgh: the Palace of Holyroodhouse – Getty

Old Britannia

The Royal Yacht Britannia – Trip Advisor’s highest-rated British attraction – was built in Scotland in 1954 and is now, appropriately, moored in the Firth of Forth. Take the tram and poke around five decks: visit the State Apartments, see the locomotives, peek into the royal bedrooms and enjoy afternoon tea in the Royal Deck Tearoom.

Where to stay: Fingal is a luxury ship hotel moored nearby, whose restaurant serves up a treat befitting the glory days of Britannia. Doubles from £300.

‘New Britain’

The Hebridean Princess is the stately old little cruise ship that the Queen chartered twice to sail around her beloved Hebrides instead of Britannia. She seats just 48 guests, and Her Majesty’s portrait hangs above the reception (if you’re lucky, the crew can speak warmly about their personal royal encounters). Cruising the Hebrides aboard this luxurious lady is the closest you can get to a cruise with the Royal Family – and of course they stock Laphroaig, King Charles’ favorite dram.

Where to stay: The Hebridean Princess offers several cruises, with a seven-day Hidden Isles voyage in May from £5,880 per person, all-inclusive.

Plan the perfect two-week holiday in Scotland with our expert guide.

This story was first published in July 2023 and has been revised and updated.

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