6 of the most majestic royal residences to visit this summer
As the nation continues to bask in the afterglow of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, there’s more scrutiny than ever about what goes on behind the doors of the UK’s royal residences – and this summer, you have the chance to find out for yourselves, as some of the country’s most regal private homes throw open their doors. From open days at the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s UK base, Frogmore House, to the chance to snoop around the magnificent State Rooms at Buckingham Palace, they offer an unparalleled glimpse into life as a royal. Here we’ve rounded up the most majestic spots around the country to visit this summer.
22 July – 2 October 2022
The Queen’s London base was the star of the show over the Platinum Jubilee weekend, with most of the celebrations centred around its regal façade. While the majority of people who get to step behind its famous doors are there for official engagements or have landed a coveted invitation to one of the Queen’s Garden Parties, there is a period of ten weeks each summer where several of the palace’s magnificent State Rooms are open to visitors.
From the end of July to early October, the monarch will open up her London home, offering the opportunity to explore some of the most lavish State Rooms, including the breath-taking ballroom and the Queen’s throne. Keep your eyes peeled for the Vermeers, Titians and Rembrandts that line the walls, as well as the glittering Diamond Diadem the Queen wore for her Coronation, which is on display in the Ball Supper Room. Afterwards, take a tour around the glorious gardens, known to be some of the most beautiful in all of London.
Buckingham Palace, Westminster, London SW1A 1AA; rct.uk
7 July - 26 September 2022
While Buckingham Palace may be her London base, Windsor Castle is now where the Queen calls home, and has been since she moved there full-time during the pandemic. As the largest and oldest occupied castle in the world, any visit here is steeped in history – founded by William the Conquerer in the 11th century, it has housed a staggering 39 monarchs since. It’s open throughout the year, when visitors have the chance to explore several exquisite State and Semi-State Rooms – including the Crimson Drawing Room, one of the most extravagantly decorated chambers in England – as well as St George’s Chapel, where the Duke and Duchess of Sussex got married, but there are also several special events being held this summer.
First up is the Platinum Jubilee exhibition from 7 July – 26 September, where the white duchesse satin Norman Hartnell gown that the Queen wore for her Coronation in 1953 will be on display, along with her purple silk velvet Robe of Estate made by Ede and Ravenscroft. Alongside that, every Friday night in August will play host to an exclusive evening tour of the castle, where visitors will be treated to a special ‘behind the ropes’ experience in the State Apartments.
Castle Hill, Windsor, Berkshire, SL4 1NJ; rct.uk
30 August - 1 September 2022
This charming royal retreat has been in the press more than most over recent years, thanks to the fact that this is where Harry and Meghan chose as their UK base after their 2018 wedding. While they may have now relocated to the sunnier climes of Santa Barbara, the couple recently renewed their lease on the property, suggesting they may be looking to spend more time there in the near future. Now you have the chance to get a rare glimpse inside the house itself, which is set within Windsor Castle’s magnificent Home Park, as part of several annual charity open days.
For three days at the end of the summer, visitors will be able to explore the 35 acres of picturesque gardens that surround the house, complete with winding lakes, wooded mounds and sheltered glades, while there will also be a few tickets available to step inside the 17th-century house, where you’ll be able to peruse the impressive art display, which features works by the Duchess of Kent (who lived at Frogmore for 20 years) and her daughter, Queen Victoria.
Frogmore Drive, Windsor Home Park, Berkshire SL4 2JG; rct.uk
Until 2 August 2022
Views don’t come much more spectacular than the ones at Balmoral – nestled within the Cairngorms National Park, it boasts stunning vistas over the meandering River Dee and the Munro mountains. So it’s no wonder Queen Victoria referred to the spot as her ‘dear paradise’. The castle is open to the public throughout the summer months each year, but shuts its door again when the Queen descends for her summer holiday (it’s said to be the only place in the world where she can truly relax and unwind).
As it’s a private home rather than an official royal residence, visitors are only able to tour the Ballroom here, which hosts a series of rolling exhibitions. But while royal enthusiasts may be disappointed not to be able to explore more of the interiors, it’s still more than worth a visit for the splendid grounds that surround the castle. Make sure to stop off at the stables, too, which host an impressive collection of royal carriages and cars.
Balmoral Estates, Ballater, Aberdeenshire AB35 5TB; balmoralcastle.com
Until 13 October 2022
Along with Balmoral, Sandringham House in Norfolk is known to be one of the Queen’s most treasured holiday homes – it’s here that she spends Christmas every year with the rest of the Royal Family. There are eight ground floor rooms open to the public during the summer – which are all still regularly used by the family – where the décor retains much of the Edwardian grandeur from when the house was first built in 1870. The walls are hung with family portraits and there are plenty of spectacular objets d’art to spot, including a fine porcelain chandelier gifted by Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany.
This year, visitors to the house can also tour a special exhibition, Her Majesty The Queen at Sandringham: An Exemplary Reign and a Unique Country House, which is on display until October and showcases the Queen’s strong affection for the country retreat, with photographs depicting her love of animals, horses and the great outdoors, as well as a display focusing on the very first Christmas Day speech broadcast from 1957. The gardens are also a must-visit, and this year they’re playing host to a special ‘Butterfly Meadow’ installation, where 1,500 butterflies will be on display from 16 July – 1 September.
Sandringham Estate, Sandringham, Norfolk PE35 6EN; sandringhamestate.co.uk
Until 30 September 2022
While you may not actually be able to step inside this grand neoclassical Georgian house, due to the fact that it’s still the private home of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the main emphasis here is on the gardens, which Charles has completely transformed since he first arrived in 1980. The idyllic country house in the heart of the Cotswolds is famed for its organic gardens, where the emphasis is on ethical management and sustainable practices, allowing the bucolic spaces to thrive in harmony with nature.
Book for a 90-minute tour and you’ll be taken around some of the most whimsical offerings on the estate, such as the Stumpery, where you’ll find classical temples crafted from green oak, the bold topiary creations of Thyme Walk and the untamed Wildflower Meadow, which sits across four acres and features dozens of different flower varieties. All in all, it’s one of the most spectacular gardens in the country, and a true testament to our green-fingered future King.
Highgrove House, Doughton, Tetbury, Gloucestershire GL8 8TN; highgrovegardens.com