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Inside the Queen's royal residences in the UK and how to visit them

Mirror logo Mirror 05/12/2018 Julie Delahaye
Elizabeth II wearing a hat and smiling at the camera: The Queen © Getty Images Europe The Queen

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The Queen mainly lives in Buckingham Palace, but Her Majesty also boasts other royal residences across the UK.

In fact, these often serve as her holiday homes, as she tends to favour staycations rather than going abroad.

For example, she famously spends her summer breaks in Balmoral, Scotland, while the festive season sees her heading to Sandringham to host the whole royal family for Christmas.

The good news for royal fans is that most of the residences are open to the public for the majority of the year - except when the monarch is staying there of course - so it's really easy to go and visit and explore them for yourself.

Here we take a look at the Queen's royal residences across the UK, including when you can go to visit as well as where to stay nearby.

1. Balmoral Castle

a castle on a cloudy day with Balmoral Castle in the background © Credits: Universal Images Group Editorial

Every summer the Queen and Prince Philip head to this breathtaking estate in the Scottish highlands, where they are often joined by various members of the royal family throughout the season. 

During their Balmoral holidays the royal couple stay in the estate's castle, and invite their close friends and family for informal barbecues, the annual Ghillies Ball and plenty more leisurely walks and picnics.

  a man and a woman sitting on a bench © Credits: Hulton Archive

You can't visit the castle while the Queen is in residence, but there are tours of the grounds, gardens and exhibitions from April until the end of July when Her Majesty usually arrives.

However, the rest of the estate is open to the public year-round (there are 50,000 acres of it after all!). You can even find accommodation on site - there are plenty of holiday cottages on offer.

2. Sandringham House

a close up of a garden © Credits: Getty Images

Sandringham is famously where the Queen hosts the British royals for Christmas, where they indulge in lunch, swap presents and then settle down to watch her give her iconic speech (which is filmed at Buckingham Palace).

The royal family also heads to Sandringham Church for a Christmas Day service, often where crowds have gathered to greet them.

The Sandringham Estate is open to the public and boasts some beautiful gardens as well as a museum offering a glimpse into its history.

Prince Andrew, Duke of York et al. posing for a photo © Credits: Getty Images Europe

However, it's worth noting that while the estate is open year-round, the house, museum and gardens are usually open to the public between April to October only.

Adult tickets start from £11.50 for the museums and gardens, £17.50 if you also want to explore the house.

Considering a trip? Expedia has a handy round-up of the 10 closest hotels to Sandringham House. 

3. Windsor Castle

a castle on top of a building © Credits: Getty

Arguably one of the Queen's most famous residences, she usually resides there for a month each year from March through to April - including when she attends the Royal Windsor Horse Show.

The rest of the time, the castle is open to the public and offers plenty of exhibits where you can find out all about British history and famous monarchs.

Highlights include the opulent State Apartments and Grand Reception room, as well as guided precinct tours.

It's always worth double checking the dates you plan to visit - sometimes the castle can be closed because of special events.

No wonder it's tipped to be one of the top attractions in Windsor.

If you are planning a trip, check out our round-up of the best cheap hotels in Windsor for inspiration. 

4. Hillsborough Castle

a tree in front of a house © Credits: PA

Hillsborough Castle in County Down serves as the Queen's official residence when she visits Northern Ireland. 

The castle is open to the public year-round, although there are certain dates (such as Christmas) where it is closed, so it's worth checking before you travel.

You can take guided tours of the castle and its elegant State Rooms, while in the summer months you may want to check out the picturesque grounds and gardens.

Adult tickets start from £8 but if you're a member of the castle you can go for free. You can find out more on the Hillsborough Castle website.

5. Palace of Holyroodhouse

a castle on top of a building © Credits: Getty Images

The Queen's official residence in Edinburgh, this breathtaking palace is packed with history from its connection to Mary, Queen of Scots, to the grandiose State Rooms and Throne Room for a glimpse into Scottish history and the ruins of Holyrood Abbey.

The palace is open to the public and there are guided tours on offer - including special evening tours where you can enjoy the highlights without having to face the crowds.

Adult tickets start from £14. You can find out more on the Holyroodhouse website

Planning a visit? TripAdvisor has a handy round-up of the closest hotels to Holyrood Park.

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