Touring the UK’s Royal Residences

After the incredible 70-year reign of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, hers is a legacy that will live on forever. Among the many iconic aspects of her reign were the many royal residences that she called home.

Scattered across the UK, they have become the symbols that many associate with the Royal Family and are much loved by the population. Once only the realm of regality, these royal residences can now be visited by the public and are a must-see on any staycation you’re planning.

We take a look at the official residences of the royal family that are open to visitors in our guide. Begin your tour today when you book a hire car for your journey.

Buckingham Palace

London, SW1A 1AA

Buckingham Palace is perhaps the most well-known residence of the Royal Family and is a beacon for tourists across the globe heading to London. The traditional home of national royal celebrations opens its doors to the public every July until October.

You can take part in Garden Guided Tours and Guided Tours of the State Rooms on selected dates in the spring. Also, don’t miss a chance to see the Changing of the Guard while you’re enjoying a weekend in London.

You’ll find a collection of revolving exhibitions take place at palace’s main public art gallery, the Queen’s Gallery too. Opened in 1962, it has been expanded since to accommodate more exhibition space and hosts works from the Royal Collection.

Buckingham Palace is in the heart of London, so there’s lots of other things to see and do nearby. You could visit the courtyards of St James’s Palace, Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery, No.10 Downing Street and Westminster Abbey.

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windsor castle

Windsor Castle

Windsor, SL4 1NJ

Windsor Castle was Her Majesty’s permanent home in the last few months of her life. How appropriate that Britain’s longest-reigning monarch would choose one of the world’s most prestigious castles as her home.

William the Conqueror founded Windsor Castle in the 11th century. Highlights here include the State Apartments and ceremonial rooms, all frequented by members of the Royal Family during their time here.

You’ll be able to see rooms once used by the Queen when she hosted Heads of State from other countries. The Grand Reception Room is also a stunning site, featuring opulent chandeliers and gilding. Make sure you stop and admire paintings by world-famous artists that adorn the walls.

You can visit Windsor Castle any time – apart from Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It’s worth noting that certain areas are occasionally closed, as it remains a working royal palace. Ascot Racecourse is only a 15-minute drive from the castle as well – a place Her Majesty attended on a number of major racing occasions through the years.

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Palace of Holyroodhouse

Canongate, Edinburgh, EH8 8DX

Holyrood Palace, as it’s also known, is the official residence of the British monarch in Scotland. During her reign, the Queen normally spent a week in residence at this stunning Scottish royal sight at the start of each summer.

Sitting at the east end of the Royal Mile in Edinburgh, the palace is closely associated with legendary figures such as Bonnie Prince Charlie and Mary, Queen of Scots. As with Windsor Castle, Holyrood Palace is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, and occasionally other dates at short notice, as it’s a working royal palace.

Visit the chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots in the oldest section of the palace. Once you’ve recovered from walking up the steep and rather narrow staircase to reach them, you can dive into her fascinating world and learn more about her life and times.

You’ll also enjoy a walk in the beautiful scenery of the Palace Gardens. Four hectares of colourful plants, with spectacular views of the Queen’s Park, await. If this doesn’t give you enough of a taste of the past, The Museum of Edinburgh is only a ten-minute walk away.

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hillsborough castle

Hillsborough Castle

The Square, Hillsborough, BT26 6GT

Northern Ireland’s only royal residence is located around 20 minutes from Belfast by car. It’s also the official residence of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Hillsborough Castle is perhaps most famous for 100 acres of glorious gardens, first developed in the 1760s. It’s a joy to lose yourself among the woodland and waterways, and children will love the Imaginary Menagerie interactive play trail.

Step inside the Georgian home and soak up the State Rooms, including the Throne Room and Lady Grey’s Study. Hillsborough Castle is also renowned for its part in the Northern Ireland peace process, and the Red Room has been the setting for many pivotal political meetings since the 1970s.

You can visit both the castle and gardens from Wednesday to Sunday. While in Hillsborough, you could also visit the Irish Linen Centre & Lisburn Museum, which is less than 15 minutes’ drive from the castle grounds.

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Sandringham House

Sandringham, Norfolk, PE35 6EN

A peaceful country retreat for the Royal Family, Sandringham House has served as a private household for four generations of monarchs since 1862. Her Majesty’s love for Sandringham was well known, a place where she could focus on her passion for wildlife and the great outdoors.

The 243 hectares of Sandringham Royal Parkland is a delight, featuring bike trails and a children’s play area. All the walking may give you an appetite, so make sure you stop by Sandringham Restaurant for afternoon tea.

Venture inside and you’ll find artworks and trinkets from royal families across Europe that have been gifted to the Queen and other Windsor family members on state visits.

Most of Sandringham is open all year round but closed on Fridays. Although it’s situated in a quiet Norfolk village, there are other things to do too, including Old Hunstanton Beach (less than nine miles by car) and Snettisham Park (three miles away).

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balmoral castle

Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Estates, Ballater, AB35 5TB

The Scottish holiday home of the Royal Family, Balmoral has belonged to the Windsors since 1852. This working estate contains 20,000 hectares of grouse moors, farmland and forests.

The grounds, gardens and exhibitions are open from spring until the end of summer, with the Balmoral Expedition highly recommended. Starting in the manicured parkland in front of the castle, you’re taken to the Estate farm and then the Caledonian Park Forest, where, if you’re lucky, you might see a capercaillie – a large woodland grouse.

Art exhibitions are also held in the Castle Ballroom. Any visit here is extra special, as it’s the only room inside the castle that is open to the public.

Balmoral can be found near the village of Crathie in Aberdeenshire, within the Cairngorms, with beauty and history all around. Eight miles east of the castle in Ballater, you’ll find the Old Royal Station – a charming and nostalgic showcase of the railways of old.

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Hire a car with Hertz and plan you visit to these royal residences today and start your journey online.