Balmoral Cairns

  • Sunday 10th October 2021

As much as we have been up in this area we have never undertaken the whole of the Balmoral Cairns walk.

These historical cairns were erected by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on the Balmoral Estate.

Today we were going to have some fun hunting for cairns on this circular walk which would hopefully give us amazing views over Deeside and Balmoral Castle itself.

But would we find all 8 cairns as the route is not waymarked…somehow I think we will as once I set my mind on completing something well let’s just say I always feel it has to be completed even if it gets to the silly stage!

So off we went on our mission. The walk took us over a white metal suspension bridge, across the River Dee and into the forest. The forest is stunning with prestine natural forest paths.

Each of the Cairns are positioned at the highest points within the part of the forest they have been erected. There’s something pretty stunning about them.

Princess Helena Cairn
Princess Louise Cairn

The first Cairn to be erected was the ‘purchase cairn’ which was built to show ownership of the surrounding lands to anyone passing through after Queen Victoria and Prince Albert purchased Balmoral in 1848. Victoria lay the first stone. Albert the last.

The Purchase Cairn

Six other Cairns were erected to celebrate the marriages of Queen Victoria and Prince Alberts children, each inscripted with their names and date of marriage.

Prince Arthur

When Albert died in 1861 the most famous of the cairns, a massive pyramid shaped cairn was built in 1862 in his memory which stands the highest of course with the most stunning and magestical views overlooking the landscape…the inscription reads, ‘To the beloved memory of Albert the great and good Prince Consort. Erected by his broken hearted widow Victoria R.21st August 1862.’

Prince Albert Cairn

When we got to Prince Leopold’s cairn this gave us direct views overlooking Balmoral Castle. In fact I couldn’t quite believe we were so close.

Prince Leopold

Then the clogs in my head started turning. If we just walked off this hill, surely we would land in the garden. So we started walking of the hill heading for the gardens of Balmoral.

So close……can you see the castle 👀
Its like…just there!

At this point our stories were being made up should we get stopped or followed, hopefully not shot at. Our story went something like this…”we had been undertaking the cairn circuit walk, saw the castle, wandered down and oops we were suddenly on the castle grounds…sorry what a silly mistake we just made, we will wander back up”! It sounded quite plausible I guess. And at some point I think I wanted to shout out ‘Freedom’ or something to that affect just for the sake of it I mean these surroundings would have added to the drama..quite fitting I thought as I played it out in my head!

Getting closer…

This reminded me of our time in Patagonia when we tried running up an already closed route to see the Tor’s and just as we were at the very top of our very long, very steep ascent and this was after having walked miles upon miles all day long, the Ranger appeared and stopped us…and our made up story sounded so pathetic as we said it outloud but he did allow us to continue whilst following closely behind!

Balmoral Castle & Gardens

Next minute we were in her (the Queens) garden, wandering past her green houses, crossing over her manucured lawns and prestige flowerbeds, heading up to her front door.

We didn’t dare speak but our faces albeit said everything. When would someone stop us, how far could we go. So we kept going until we were stopped which didn’t happen.

Our ‘stumbling’ into Balmoral Castle was worth the detour and living so close to here I have never visited inside these grounds, until now that is!

Its a stunning place. Not too big but big enough. Not to grand but grand enough. Its biggest draw for me is its location…its absolute perfection.

No wonder Queen Victoria in 1848 purchased this castle which was largely remodelled under the direction of Prince Albert. Its so stunning, surrounded by forests, mountains and river it couldn’t be more idylic. And no wonder this is the Queens favourite ‘home’ and she stays here for around 3 months of the year.

I for one certainly would never want to leave this place and would be quite happy living in the ‘hut’ down the bottom of the garden…its a posh ‘hut’!

You can tell how worried I am here eh….

We wandered around, took photos, got braver and braver and tried to sneaky peak through the drawn curtains, we had coffee in the garden…and still no-one came. We were not sure at all if any of this was allowed but we had some fun doing it before soon realising we still had another 3 cairns to visit, so up the hill we went again giggling all the way.

It was a long hike back up the hill again to reach Princess Alice’s cairn and then from there a further uphill hike to reach Prince Albert’s.

Princess Alice Cairn
Prince Albert Cairn

This cairn is actually pretty impressive and not something you’d expect to find in the Cairngorm National Park…quite touching I felt…maybe someone could build such a cairn for moi!

From here we were then on to our final cairn of the day before heading back towards the van.

Princess Beatrice Cairn

This walk had actually been a lot better than I had expected and I guess it was interesting to see and learn about the cairns with a little bit of fun attached of course. The area around here is certainly beautiful but my highlight had to be running around the Castle grounds so freely…that surely is one for the storybook!


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