Following in the Royal Family’s footsteps on a tour of Scotland, from Royal Deeside to Edinburgh
There are plenty of places in England where you can immerse yourself in Royal history – from the grandeur of Buckingham Palace to the splendour of Windsor Castle. But if you really want to understand the Family – in the past and present – you’ll need to look further north.
For in this Coronation year, you may find it is in Scotland where the majesty of the monarchy comes alive.
From the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, where Queen Elizabeth II’s coffin lay after she died at Balmoral, to the Cairngorms picnic spots of the late Queen Mother and the Highland boltholes of Queen Victoria, it feels as if every nook and cranny reveals something new about the Royals.
You’ll even find Princess Diana’s honeymoon bed in Scotland – on board the Royal Yacht Britannia. Now decommissioned, the yacht is a floating, faithfully preserved museum on the Edinburgh waterfront.
So it makes sense that Pride of Britain Hotels have put together a Coronation Concierge package that takes you from afternoon tea at the Goring Hotel by Buckingham Palace on to a luxury Scottish journey of Royal exploration. And the regal connection is not confined to the past.
Kate Mansey immersed herself in Royal history on a tour of Scotland, beginning her trip with a stay at Prestonfield House (pictured right) in Edinburgh. The hotel hosted the Queen during her 80th birthday celebrations
Above is King Charles during a reception at Prestonfield House
‘The King was walking down here just a few weeks ago and stopped for a chat,’ says tour guide Simon Blackett of Yellow Welly tours, who has lived in the area for 30 years. ‘He wanted to know what colour we were going to paint Braemar Castle when it was renovated. We see a lot of His Majesty around here.’
‘Here’ is the town of Braemar, site of the Highland Games, nine miles from the Royal Family’s Balmoral estate. Nestled in the stunning scenery of the area, whose connections have earned it the name Royal Deeside, our hotel for one night will be the Fife Arms.
The rooms are exquisite and the walls of the lobby and lounge adorned with works by Picasso.
Roaring fires and award-winning chefs combine to make you feel as if you’re right at home and far away in a luxury parallel universe. No wonder it attracts a certain type of clientele. Dame Judi Dench played the hotel’s grand piano on New Year’s Eve as Sharleen Spiteri sang Abba.
King Charles is said to be a frequent visitor to the town of Braemar (above), which lies nine miles from the Royal Family’s Balmoral estate
Kate checked into the Fife Arms hotel (pictured) in Braemar. ‘Guests can sample some of the King’s favourite drams in Bertie’s Whisky Bar, where rare bottles line the walls,’ she reveals
‘Roaring fires and award-winning chefs combine to make you feel as if you’re right at home and far away in a luxury parallel universe,’ Kate says of the Fife Arms
Guests can sample some of the King’s favourite drams in Bertie’s Whisky Bar, where rare bottles line the walls.
But I’m jumping ahead. Our break started with a Coronation Afternoon Tea at The Goring hotel in London, before we boarded a train to Edinburgh – first class, naturally.
If you’re going to understand the Royals, you should be treated like one. From Edinburgh station it’s a seven-minute taxi to our first stay, at the magnificent Prestonfield House, which hosted the Queen during her 80th birthday celebrations. To celebrate the Coronation, a new cocktail has appeared on the menu, the Royal Warrant, which contains orange bitters and Lochnagar whisky.
Kate went aboard the Fingal, a ship that once roved the Scottish coastline delivering supplies to remote lighthouse keepers
James Thomson has lovingly restored the hotel and his team can arrange for classic cars to whisk you to Holyroodhouse, where an audio headset uses recordings from the King, Princess Anne and Prince Edward to guide you around.
After a restful night, we went aboard the Fingal, a ship that once roved the Scottish coastline delivering supplies to remote lighthouse keepers. Permanently moored, she now has a new mission – as a five-star romantic getaway.
It is run by the same team as the Royal Yacht Britannia, which is just a few minutes’ drive away and makes for a fascinating day out.
On board the yacht which Her Majesty called ‘home’, it’s a joy to discover that personal effects of the family are still here; from the photographs to a telephone system still bearing the names ‘Queen’ and ‘Duke’.
After the stay at the Fife Arms, our three nights away were up, and I understood why Elizabeth II loved Scotland so much. But perhaps another Queen expressed it best. Victoria wrote: ‘I am so sad at thinking of leaving this charming place and the quiet, liberty and the pure air we have enjoyed. The action life we have been leading, peculiar in its way, has been so delightful.’