Balmoral Castle to throw open its doors to public for first time - and the King has added a royal touch

Balmoral Castle, Scottish retreat of the Royal Family since the 1850s, is being opened up to the public for the first time in its history.

From Monday, visitors can take a guided tour of a number of the Aberdeenshire castle's entrance hall, red corridor, main and family dining rooms, page's lobby, library and drawing room.

"The public who managed to get a ticket will come away [having seen] the Royal Family's holiday home. That's exactly what it is, it feels very homely," said James Hamilton Goddard, visitor enterprise manager for the Balmoral Estate.

The King is the latest in a long line of monarchs to add their own stamp to Balmoral since Queen Victoria and Prince Albert had the castle built in the 1850s.

"It's a magnificent place, I think the King wants people to see [it]," said Mr Hamilton Goddard.

Inside the castle

The King has changed the drawing room carpets back to Hunting Stewart tartan, which was the original style of floor coverings Queen Victoria had fitted in the castle.

He also hung paintings by Victorian artist Sir Edwin Henry Landseer, who was also loved by Queen Victoria..

Sir Landseer is best known for creating the lions at the base of Nelson's Column in Trafalgar Square and was invited to Balmoral every summer to teach Queen Victoria and Prince Albert painting.

The castle's library, which was once Queen Victoria's breakfast and lunch room, is today used by the King as his working study. He has welcomed dignitaries to it from across the globe.

The books lining the shelves include tomes on Scottish history - particularly Highland clans - Albert's speeches, as well as novels and books on poetry and art.

Mr Hamilton Goddard said the library is "possibly one of the most beautiful rooms of the entire residence".

Visitors can see the chauffeur's whistle used in past years to call the driver and the dinner gong used to summon Balmoral guests. The gong is made from materials salvaged from the Temeraire, the British warship that fought in the Battle of Trafalgar.

Tickets for the guided tours, priced at £100 or £150 with afternoon tea, were sold out within 24 hours of going on sale with 40 people each day allowed to visit the royal residence from 1 July to 4 August.

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The opening takes place before the King and Queen arrive at Balmoral for their summer break but there is a royal touch for those having cake and sandwiches.

At the King's request, tea will be served for visitors on a replica of the White Stewart Tartan China used by the Royal Family at Balmoral.

Visitors have previously only been able to visit Balmoral's ballroom and the grounds of the castle, and the new tour will include a visit to the ballroom where Victoria staged dances and the Royal Family still hold Ghillies' balls to entertain the staff.