From the oldest occupied castle in the world to a globe-trotting yacht, we look at some of the best royal residences that you can visit over the coming months
In the weeks following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, royal residences across the country became a focal point for the public to pay their respects to the late monarch. People gathered in their thousands at homes ranging from Balmoral Castle to Buckingham Palace, with many mourners bringing floral tributes that adorned the locked gates.
Some of these royal residences, such as Buckingham Palace, will remain closed to the public for the foreseeable future. However, with the official mourning period over, several residences have opened their doors to visitors once again, offering the opportunity to marvel at the State Apartments, breathe in the history of the Throne Rooms, and learn how generations of royals lived their lives behind the scenes.
As the UK adjusts to life without the Queen, we’ve listed five of the best royal residences that you can visit over the coming months.
Windsor Castle, England
With a story reaching back to the days of William the Conqueror, Windsor Castle is the oldest occupied castle in the world and offers everything you could want for a royal-themed day out.
History abounds everywhere you look — from the magnificent Grand Reception Room, adorned with gleaming gold and priceless paintings to the timeless pageantry of the Changing the Guard. A trip to St George’s Chapel, where the late Queen’s ledger stone is now in place, is sure to be top of many visitors’ must-see lists.
As the winter months draw in, Windsor Castle’s State Rooms are decked out in festive decorations, which are complemented by a programme of magical Christmas choir performances, with entry included in your standard ticket.
Adult from £26.50 / young person (18-24) from £17.50 / child (5-17) from £14.50
Palace of Holyroodhouse, Scotland
The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the King’s official residence in Edinburgh and stands at the end of the famous Royal Mile.
Visitors to Holyroodhouse can marvel at centuries of Scottish royal history. Mary, Queen of Scots called the Palace home during the 1560s, while Bonnie Prince Charlie held court at Holyroodhouse in 1745 shortly before his infamous defeat at the Battle of Culloden.
Many of the Palace’s finest rooms are open to the public, including the extravagant State Apartments and the stunning Throne Room. As Christmas approaches, the palace will host a number of family-friendly activities, from energetic ceilidhs to traditional festive crafting.
Adult from £17.50 / young person (18-24) from £11.50 / child (5-17) from £10
Kensington Palace, England
Kensington Palace has a royal history stretching back to the 17th century. Occupying a prime position in the heart of west London, the palace was the birthplace of Queen Victoria and is an official residence of the new Prince and Princess of Wales.
Wander through the King’s and Queen’s State Apartments and admire the myriad sculptures and paintings before taking a stroll through the grounds, where wildflower meadows thrive alongside carefully tended formal gardens. Your entry ticket will include access to any special displays — these currently include Victoria: A Royal Childhood and the photographic exhibition Life Through a Royal Lens, which ends on 30 October 2022.
Adult £20 / child £10
Hillsborough Castle, Northern Ireland
Dating back to the 1770s, Hillsborough Castle is steeped in both royal and political history. Not only do members of the Royal Family stay at Hillsborough during visits to Northern Ireland, but the castle also doubles as the official home of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.
A ticket to Hillsborough Castle will let you explore one hundred acres of splendid gardens and grant you entry to the lavish Castle State Rooms. Outside the walls, the ever-popular Scarecrow Parade heralds the start of Autumn, whilst December will see an after-dark illuminated trail transform the festive gardens into a sparkling winter wonderland.
Adult £15.25 / Child £7.60
Royal Yacht Britannia, Scotland
Although it may lack the in-your-face grandeur of the palaces and castles, the Royal Yacht Britannia was nonetheless a firm favourite among the royals. The Queen considered Britannia a home away from home, and once stated that the yacht was “the only place where I can truly relax”.
For over four decades, Britannia carried the royal family around the world before it was finally decommissioned in 1997. The yacht is now permanently moored in Leith, just outside Edinburgh city centre. A comprehensive audio guide will lead you through Britannia’s five decks, showcasing everything from the State Apartments to the sparkling Engine Room, and bringing the stories of this unique royal residence to life.
Adult £18 / child £9