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Published: July 27th 2016
There was an optional post-conference outing organised to Balmoral Castle which Kev and I decided to attend the day after the conference officially closed. Many other delegates and partners also decided to attend; once again there were two buses to take us all on a journey of almost two hours.
Luckily I'd taken my umbrella. Actually I've had it in my bag every day since, while we've had some lovely blue skies some of the time, you can't trust it not to rain here although we've never really had an almighty downpour.
Balmoral was purchased by Queen Victoria in 1848, and the Estate - all 50,000 acres of heather clad hills, ancient Caledonian woodland with the River Dee running through it - has been the Scottish home of the British Royal Family ever since. The Royal families holiday starts on 1 August so during the time they are there visitors are not allowed. When our bus pulled into the car park there were at least four huge carriers which had transported more an half a dozen Range Rovers - all 2016 models - which were no doubt for the use of them all and their entourage.
our trusty Guide and Audio Tour we set off. The tour started under the clock outside the stables which had been improved by Prince Albert. Some of the stables held exhibits of cars, landeaus, the Land Rover the then Princess Elizabeth drove during WW2, costumes and the like plus another stable was showing a short video about the estate.
Then it was off walking; past the deer larder where those deer which are shot are hung and butchered; the deer are kept to a manageable number being shot by experts we were told. Shades of John Brown there, the Scottish servant who, it is rumoured, had an affair, or possibly even married, Queen Victoria after Prince Albert's death. A recently discovered letter written by Queen Victoria shortly after the death of John Brown reveals the loss he was to her.
"Perhaps never in history was there so strong and true an attachment, so warm and loving a friendship between the sovereign and servant ... Strength of character as well as power of frame – the most fearless uprightness, kindness, sense of justice, honesty, independence and unselfishness combined with a tender, warm heart ... made him one of the
most remarkable men. The Queen feels that life for the second time is become most trying and sad to bear deprived of all she so needs ... the blow has fallen too heavily not to be very heavily felt..."
The mention of the second time relates to when she lost Prince Albert. At Queen Victoria's request she was buried, not only with some things of Alberts but also a lock of John Brown's hair, his photograph and a ring worn by Brown's mother and given to her by Brown. So, you never know!
We then headed on to the vegetable and flower gardens where organic gardening is practised with both the flowers, fruit and vegetables used to feed the family and decorate the castle. From there it was on to the Garden Cottage. Originally occupied by a gardener it was later used an an isolation hospital for Queen Victoria's Lady in Waiting who developed scarlet fever in 1864. After that Victoria herself liked to use it.
We then headed off towards the castle itself; enjoyed the sunken garden which Queen Victoria overlooked from her bedroom before we went inside to view the ballroom which was the only
part of the castle visitors are allowed to see. Some of the present Queen's outfits were amongst the exhibits there including the long tartan skirt she wears for the Ghillies Ball. The Ghillies Ball is an annual event started by Queen Victoria and continued by all other monarchs since then.
With our next stop the gift shop - where naturally I went mad - I asked the young girl, Kirsty, if she attended the Ghillies Ball. The answer was yes, with Kirsty telling me it was great fun. The ball is presented as a thank you to all the staff there and much enjoyed by the Royals as by everyone who attends.
Then it was time to head back to Aberdeen and to have one final dinner together with those who were able to attend. So we wined, dined and socialised at Rustico's Italian Resturant, corner of Summer Street and Union Row, Aberdeen and which was another great night. No quick change this time! Au Revoir to all who attended!
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