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King Charles to Open Scotland’s Balmoral Castle, Where QE2 Died, to Tours

Fans of the British Royal Family probably thought this announcement would ever be made.

King Charles of the United Kingdom has announced that he will be opening Balmoral Castle, his mother’s favorite home and the place where she passed away, to visitors.

Balmoral’s website says this it will be first time such a tour has been offered since the Castle was completed in 1855.

On the Balmoral Castle Internal Guided Tour, visitors will reportedly be escorted, 10 at a time, by a guide through two dining rooms, the drawing room, the Page’s Lobby, and the Red Corridor—all without ropes or barriers (or photos, we’d bet).

Only 40 people will be permitted each day from July 1 to August 4, 2024, after which King Charles and Queen Camilla will return for the rest of the summer. 

Up to now, visitors to Balmoral have only been permitted to see the exterior, gardens, and ballroom of the Castle (not actually a castle, but an estate house), which was given to Queen Victoria by Prince Albert while construction was still underway in 1852.

Queen Elizabeth II decided she wanted to die at Balmoral, located west of Aberdeen, Scotland. As ever a woman of her word, she did, at age 96, in September 2022.  She presumably would not have been in favor of opening her private family enclave to the hoi polloi. The only reason she opened London’s Buckingham Palace to tourists, it’s said, was to defray the expense of restoration work following a terrible 1992 fire in and around Windsor’s State Apartments. 

Charles is in charge now. Balmoral shall be opened as a sign of his accessibility. The King, a devoted watercolor painter, is even taking the opportunity to display a large selection of his works to visitors as part of the tour.

Tickets for the Balmoral Castle Internal Guided Tour cost £100 (US $127), plus another £50 (US $63) if you want afternoon tea.

Royal Family stans needn’t move too fast right now, though. Despite the princely price, all slots sold out within hours.

But fret not—you don’t necessarily have to line up at the castle gate for cancellations this summer to get a chance. The 2024 tour season is reportedly just a trial run, and King Charles apparently has it in mind to open the castle on a regular basis in the future. (Sorry, Mum.)

More and more formerly forbidden spaces are being unlocked these days in Britain. In 2017, London’s cloistered Charterhouse swung its doors wide for outsiders after being closed since 1348 (yes, 1348), and the next year, Westminster Abbey opened its high-level Triforium after centuries of disuse.

Last June, the Houses of Parliament in London began testing its own tours of the Big Ben tower, making the giant bell accessible to non-British visitors for the first time in decades. I tried the tour myself last summer, and its guides told me that the results of their own test period were so positive that plans were already being made to build it out as a permanent offering.