IF you dream of living like royalty, it may be easier than you think.
Tucked away on the Balmoral estate – which was the late Queen’s favourite residence – are some secret cottages that you can rent out for as little as £15 a night.
If you want to earn ultimate bragging rights among your pals, these self-catered lodges could be the perfect opportunity.
And you’ve got a few to choose from, as the Balmoral estate rents out nine cottages in total; Colt Cottages, Connachat Cottage, Garbh Allt Shiel, Karim Cottage, Knocks Cottage, Rhebreck Lodge, Sterinbeg and Tigh Na Garaidh.
Unfortunately, if you dream of bumping into the likes of King Charles or Prince William and Kate Middleton, you may not be in luck, as you can’t book when the royal family is in residence.
That means you sadly won’t get a glimpse of the Prince and Princess of Wales exploring the grounds, but you’ll still get an experience fit for royalty.
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You’ll be able to stroll around the same paths and take in the same breathtaking national park views, while enjoying the peaceful accommodation.
Stays from £15
The cheapest homes to book are Colt Cottages, which sleep five people and cost from £555 for a week’s stay.
This works out at just over £15 per person for each night in the royal estate.
In comparison, a two-person room for seven nights at Butlins in February will set you back £351 per person, which is £50 a night.
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Unlike the royals, you may have to have a slightly more rustic night, with each cottage have one double bed, one single bed and two on the sofa bed.
When she goes through the gates at Balmoral at the start of her summer holidays, she kicks off her shoes in delight because the people who work on the estate pay her the greatest privilege of all — they ignore her.
The website states: “Bookings at Colt Cottage run on a Saturday to Saturday basis and the cottages are available throughout the year, with the exception of some weeks during The Royal Visit.
“There are two cottages, which are semi detached. They can be occupied separately or if required they can be used together by one large family.”
You could also check out some of the other cottages on offer, which rise in price to the most expensive of the bunch, Rhebreck Lodge.
This four-star lodging sleeps six and will set you back £1,620 a week over the festive period.
The description reads: “Rhebreck Lodge is set in a quiet location at Easter Balmoral and enjoys wonderful views across the valley towards Crathie Church and also over the golf course.”
Meanwhile, larger groups may prefer the eight-bed Connachat Cottage, which is situated three miles away from the castle near to the River Dee, and costs from £1,080 for a week.
Live like royalty
During your stay, you can partake in all the nature-centred activities that the royal family enjoy, from fly-fishing to ranger hikes.
Or perhaps you want to check out some of the nearby attractions, such as Braemar Castle and the Royal Lochnagar Distillery.
You could even take a leaf out of the late Queen’s book and pick up an order of fish and chips from the local town of Ballater.
Every year the royals flock to Balmoral for the summer months and spend time in private as a family.
The Queen's 'favourite place on earth'
Sun royal photographer Arthur Edwards once asked the Queen: “Why do you go to Balmoral every year for your holidays?”
She replied: “Where else could I go?”
Arthur protested: “You’re the Queen — you could go anywhere, Ma’am!”
She replied: “But I love it there.”
It was a lady-in-waiting who explained to Arthur exactly why Her Majesty loved to spend summer after summer among the Highland moors and lochs, rather than swapping them once in a while for a sun-kissed tropical island like any other multi-millionaire.
She explained: “What you don’t realise is that when she goes through the gates at Balmoral at the start of her summer holidays, she kicks off her shoes in delight because the people who work on the estate pay her the greatest privilege of all — they ignore her.”
A rich royal past
The Queen had her great-great grandparents Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to thank for buying the family holiday retreat.
The pair were newlyweds in their early twenties when they visited the Highlands for the first time in 1842.
Victoria was instantly smitten, writing: “All seemed to breathe freedom and peace and to make one forget the world and its sad turmoils.”
She and Albert spent the next few years looking for a home to buy in this wonderland, and fell for Balmoral when they were sent watercolour images of its 50,000 acres showing “a wilderness of moss and moorland, interspersed with craggy ridges”.
They took out a lease in 1848 and purchased it outright in 1852.
Her Majesty first visited the estate as a baby, and some of the earliest family photos show her being pushed around the grounds in a pram.
CAN ANYONE VISIT BALMORAL?
Yes, they can.
The castle gardens were first opened to the public in 1931.
Balmoral Castle is open to the public every day from April to July, while no members of the Royal Family are there.
Opening times are from 10am till 5pm, with the last recommended admissions at 4pm.
The ballroom is the only room within the castle that may be viewed by the public, the rest are the Queen's private rooms.
King Charles is looking at making royal households more accessible to the public, and it is unknown whether he holds plans to open Balmoral Castle more often.
Elizabeth, her sister Margaret and parents the Duke and Duchess of York — later King and Queen — would return year after year, firmly bedding in the sacred family tradition of a ten-week annual visit.
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Elizabeth II’s own family would continue this tradition of informal style at the castle — famously, the late Duke of Edinburgh would fire up the barbecue to cook meals, and designed a special car trailer just to carry their picnics.
Meanwhile, as former Prime Minister Tony Blair revealed, the Queen would do the washing- up.
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