Balmoral: A royal retreat for Queen Elizabeth II and family

Queen Elizabeth II has died at her home in the Aberdeenshire countryside.

Balmoral Castle: A royal retreat for Queen Elizabeth II and family in Aberdeenshire Getty Images

Balmoral Castle, where Queen Elizabeth II has died aged 96, has been a retreat for the royal family since the late 1800s.

Hidden from view in the stunning Aberdeenshire countryside, it is a place where the Queen was said to have really been herself.

For locals, the Queen was an important part of the local community, but her privacy was always important.

The surroundings of Royal Deeside offered seclusion for Her Majesty from royal duties and the ability to drive, walk or horse ride around and nearby the estate with little fuss.

Heading north to Scotland, it was from the vast Balmoral estate that the Queen would spend many summer months.

She would attend local events and openings, sometimes alone and other times with the extended family.

The Queen and Prince Philip with Princess Anne (left) and Charles sitting on a picnic rug outside Balmoral Castle in 1960.Keystone via Getty Images

The highlight of the summer events was the Braemar gathering. The annual event attracted large crowds to watch the Highland Games and a chance for the public to see the Queen and royal family in relaxed surroundings.

The grounds of Balmoral was the perfect backdrop for the Queen to entertain large crowds.

However, more formal meetings could take place here too.

President Eisenhower one of the many visitors to Royal Deeside and Prime Ministers were often invited to spend time with the Queen during her stay on the estate.

The arrival of the Queen over the decades often drew large crowds – and her connection ensured tourists from around the world made visiting the area an important part of their stay.

But Balmoral was also a place that witnessed great sadness.

In 1997, after the death of Princess Diana in a car accident in Paris, the estate was plunged into mourning.

Media from around the world descended on the gates of the Balmoral estate.

The Queen accompanied Prince Charles and the two young Princes, William and Harry as they viewed to large floral tributes laid outside the gates of the castle.

Along with the Duke of Edinburgh, she delayed in returning to London from Balmoral to the criticism of some.

The Queen enjoys the sack race at the Braemar Gathering in 2006.Getty Images

The nearby Crathie Kirk formed a regular part of the Queen’s stay during the summer months.

She and her family became part of the congregation and many of those who worked on the estate would gather with them in the church on a Sunday.

It was outside Crathie Kirk in 2014, ahead of the referendum on Scottish independence, that the Queen told well-wishers to “think carefully about the future”.

There is little doubt that there is great pride among many on Royal Deeside that the Queen could truly feel at home at Balmoral.

Her special relationship with its people has spanned and endured through the decades.

Her passing marks a sad moment for the community. The loss of a Queen, an employer and a much-loved neighbour.

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