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How King Charles Is Breaking With Royal Tradition in a Major Way

3 minute read

King Charles III has piqued the interest of royal fans by offering tours of private rooms at Balmoral Castle for the first time since its completion.

The lucrative tours, taking place between July 1 and Aug. 4, set buyers back £100 ($126.34) or £150 ($189.51) for a package including afternoon tea. Highlighting the demand, tickets sold out in a single day. Sets of 40 tickets per day were first advertised on Wednesday, and by Thursday they had all gone. 

Balmoral Castle, located in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, is an intimate site for members of the royal family; it’s the monarch’s summer home, it’s where Prince William and Prince Harry learned of their mother’s fatal car crash in 1997, and it’s the beloved residence where Queen Elizabeth II died in 2022, after 70 years on the throne.  

Before now, tours had only offered a glimpse of the ballroom, as well as the castle grounds and gardens. But with King Charles’ permission, history buffs can expect an interior tour that spans the Victorian era to the present day. Groups of 10 people per tour will “learn about the origins of the Castle and how it has been loved by generations of the Royal family,” according to Balmoral’s ticketing page. 

The tour will still include a visit to the ballroom, where the King’s watercolor collection is on display, which depicts scenery at Balmoral, Highgrove, and Sandringham. Visitors can also explore outfits worn by the King and Queen Camilla, Queen Elizabeth II, and the Queen Mother.

Photograph of Queen Elizabeth II with the Duke of Edinburgh and their children.
Photograph of Queen Elizabeth II with her husband, Prince Philip, and their children at Balmoral Castle. Universal Images Group—Getty Images

Balmoral is the private property of the monarch, and it is not attached to the Crown estate. The tours are scheduled to end just before the King and Queen arrive for their 2024 summer break at the residence.

The Highlands home has been a royal haven since 1852, when it was officially purchased by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, for £32,000, which equates to £3.7 million today ($4.7 million), according to the Bank of England calculator. The royal couple decided to expand the castle, believing it to be too small for their family. The works were completed sometime between 1855 and 1856, and the old building was then demolished.

As it currently stands, the estate covers 50,000 acres and consists of 150 buildings, including the King’s house at Birkhall, Craigowan Lodge. The granite castle itself reportedly has 167 rooms, with 52 bedrooms, according to the Guardian, which estimated in 2023 that the estate could be worth £80 million ($101 million).

The tour comes as Buckingham Palace also prepares to welcome visitors to its East Wing for the first time. Special guided tours will take place throughout July and August, following five years of improvement renovations.  

Like Balmoral, the East Wing carried significance for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, as it was first occupied by their family after its creation between 1847 and 1849. It is now used for official meetings and events, and includes the palace’s facade and balcony, where monarchs have appeared alongside their family for historic appearances since 1851.

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Write to Armani Syed at armani.syed@time.com