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One of the main reasons we chose the Deeside village of Ballater to use as our base in the Scottish Highlands was its close proximity to Balmoral Castle.  I had seen photos of the royal residence on many occasions, and decided it was time we paid it a visit. The Royal Family uses this idyllic spot as their summer retreat, so there are only certain times of year you can visit.  We lucked out.

The River Dee was always rushing along. After all, it is only early spring in Scotland. They had snow the week before. Photo by me.

Winding down the road alongside the River Dee, all of a sudden we saw the small carpark area and a modest sign tucked under the trees announcing it’s presence.

The welcome sign at the carpark a short way down the lane from the main gates. photo by me.

We parked, paid our pay and display and as instructed walked over a bridge above the river and approached the gate house.

The gatehouse at Balmoral. Photo by me.

Quite an entrance.  You can only tour the gardens, one ballroom, several exhibitions set up in the stable area and then of course the usual gift shop (very tastefully done) and coffee shop. But we were happy with that and bought our tickets at the gate house and decided to walk down the road to the castle rather than wait for the tram. Less Disney, more royal.

We didn't see a squirrel in site. photo by me

We walked from the gatehouse to the welcome area through the scent of pine that shamed any Christmas Tree lot.  The pines were planted in Queen Victoria’s time, and now were massive and varied.  I have never seen anything quite like this.

The walk down the drive was incredible. The decades old pine trees smelled like Christmas morning. photo by me

As the path curved through the pines, the main building came in to view.  What can this be like to come home to after a long London winter?

Our first view of Balmoral coming down the lane. Photo by me.

Because of this unseasonably warm week, the prep for the summer gardens was in full swing and it was so complex and beautifully laid out, surrounded by the magnificent hills of the Cairngorms and the Balmoral Forest.

Spring has arrived at the Balmoral gardens. Photo by me

As we wound in to the gardening area I found so many glorious images of spring that I didn’t know where to start.  I thought I would just let the pictures speak for themselves.

The seedlings have already been started just in case warm weather came. photo by me

New plantings. photo by me

Every corner was planted with little surprises. They plant enough for the kitchen, and flowers for the castle as well as the local church. Photo by me

I am not sure if the covers are protection from frost, or the local creatures. Photo by me.

Seed potatoes for sale. The whole garden seemed so intimate, like a visit to a family farm. There just happened to be a castle in the background. photo by me

There are several greenhouses filled with potted plants preparing for the summer holidays when the royal family arrives. photo by me

Balmoral is a magical place, and visiting it in spring was really special. photo by me.

Scotland is like going through a magic mirror into a fairytale land. It was worth every penny of the high priced petrol it took to drive here.