We take a look at the top ten elegant royal residences around the UK, from Balmoral to Kensington, to Osborne House on the Isle of Wight.
1. Buckingham Palace, London
Buckingham Palace may well be the most well known of royal residences. In the heart of the capital, Buckingham Palace has been the official London residence of the British sovereign since 1837. Queen Victoria was the first monarch to settle in the 775-room palace. She found the original palace lacking in certain features – in particular a grand room in which to entertain. She added a large room which was, at the time of construction in 1853-5, the largest room in London. The 40-acre garden sets the scene for summer garden parties and the palace itself is home to the private offices and apartments of the Duke of Edinburgh, the Duke of York, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Princess Royal, and Princess Alexandra.
Find out more on how to visit Buckingham Palace.
2. Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire
Balmoral Castle is the Scottish home of the Royal Family. The magnificent architecture is typical of the Scottish Baronial period. It is used as the private residence of the Queen and her family – they take residence in the Scottish castle each summer. Balmoral Castle was purchased by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria in 1852. However the castle, built in the 15th century, was deemed too small for a royal family and Prince Albert decided to build a bigger version adjacent to the original. Work began in 1853 and the new castle was completed in 1856. The castle sits on the 20,000-hectacre Balmoral estate in Royal Deeside.
Further information on Balmoral Castle.
3. Sandringham House, Norfolk
Sandringham House in Norfolk is the country retreat of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. It has been the private home of British monarchs since 1862 and in that time it has seen the lives, and indeed deaths of many a royal family. The Duke of Clarence Prince Albert Victor, and King George V both died at Sandringham House. The house was also the venue of the first ever Christmas broadcast. King George V started the tradition with his broadcast to the Empire in 1932. It remained as such until Queen Elizabeth II changed the broadcast to a televised version in 1957, filmed in the library at Sandringham. This delightful house retains a real family country house feel where the Royal Family spend Christmas – locals can see the family making their way to church each Christmas morning.
Read more about Sandringam House.
4. Windsor Castle, Berkshire
Windsor Castle is the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. It was built in 1070 by William the Conqueror and is where the Queen spends most of her weekends. The site of the castle was chosen due to its proximity to the capital (it is a day’s march from the Tower of London) and because it could be used to protect London from western approaches. The castle has been home to kings and queen of Britain for almost 1,000 years. The Queen today still upholds the tradition of Easter Court, where she resides for a month from March to April where she entertains guests with her dine-and-stay parties and attends the Easter Sunday service.
Read more about Windsor Castle.
5. Osborne House, Isle of Wight
Although no longer occupied by the Royal Family, the seaside palace of Osborne House was Queen Victoria’s family home. Bought by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1845, it was used as an escape away from the bustle of London and Windsor. The house was designed by Thomas Cubitt with Prince Albert’s vision and guidance. Here, the couple lived with their nine children overlooking the Solent and their private beach. In the grounds of the house, a giant timber wendy house was built for the royal children’s entertainment. Known as Swiss Cottage, the house will be opening to the public again this year.
Read more about Osborne House.
6. Clarence House, London
Clarence House was built between 1825 and 1827 and designed by John Nash for Prince William Henry, the Duke of Clarence, and his wife Adelaide as their new London home. The stuccoed mansion in the heart of London was the London home of the Queen Mother until her death in 2002. Today it is the official London residence of the HRH Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, and is the location for many state visits and events.
Read more about Clarence House.
7. St James’s Palace, London
Built by Henry VIII in Westminster between 1531 and 1536, St James’s Palace originally took it name from the leper hospital that stood in its place in the 11th century. It has seen many important events take place within its walls. The Chapel Royal saw the marriages of George III and Queen Charlotte; Victoria and Albert; and George V and Queen Mary. The last sovereign to live in the Palace was William IV until his death in 1837. St James’s Palace houses the offices of Princes William and Harry and was most recently the setting for the christening of Prince George of Cambridge.
Find out more about St James’s Palace.
8. Kensington Palace, London
Kensington Palace was bought in its former incarnation as Nottingham House by William III in 1689. The Jacobean mansion in the then village of Kensington was extended and improved by Sir Christopher Wren. Royal residents have occupied the palace since King William III and his wife Queen Mary II and today is the official London residence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, William and Catherine, and their son Prince George and daughter Princess Charlotte.
Read more about Kensington Palace.
9. Frogmore House, Windsor Home Park
Frogmore House is a beautiful royal retreat in the grounds of Windsor Castle. It was originally constructed between 1680 and 1684 and was a great favourite of the royals. Each family who inhabited the house added their own touches so the house stands today as a great testament to the changing tastes throughout history. Queen Victoria was a particular admirer of the house and wrote of it: ‘All is peace and quiet and you only hear the hum of the bees, the singing of the birds and the occasional crowing and cackling from the Poultry Yard!’ The Royal Family still enjoy picnics at Frogmore and although today it is not officially a royal residence, it is often used by the Royal Family for entertaining.
Read more about Frogmore House.
10. Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
This majestic palace was originally founded as a monastery in 1128 but now stands as the Queen’s official residence in Scotland. She spends ‘Holyrood Week’ here each June/July. The palace has had an eventful history with monarchs and members of royalty both living and staying intermittently. The palace was home to Mary Queen of Scots for most of her life.
Read more about the Palace of Holyroodhouse.
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