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HistoryPalaces & Buildings

Royal Residences: A brief history of Birkhall

By Alan Findlay, CC BY-SA 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

Royal Central is continuing its series which takes a look at the history of several royal residences. Read on to learn more about the Scottish home where Prince Charles had to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic.

Where is it located?

Birkhall is one of the Scottish residences of the British Royal Family which is located on the Balmoral Estate in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire. 

When was it built, and when was it used as a royal residence?

Birkhall was built in 1715 and was originally owned by the Farquharson family, before being acquired by the Gordon family. Queen Victoria and Prince Albert then owned the house as part of the Balmoral Estate in 1849, which was gifted to their eldest son, the future King Edward VII. 

Edward VII spent very little time at Birkhall, so little in fact that he only visited once. His mother, Queen Victoria had used Birkhall as a residence for her extended family and staff. 

King George V lent Birkhall to the Duke and Duchess of York, the future King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The couple used to holiday there during the 1930s with their two daughters, Princess Elizabeth and Princess Margaret.

After George VI’s accession in 1936, any holidays in Scotland were spent at the nearby Balmoral Castle. After she had a family of her own, Princess Elizabeth chose to spend these summers at Birkhall with her husband, Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh.

Which key events have happened here?

Birkhall was where the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall chose to spend their honeymoon in 2005. It is also where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge celebrated Hogmanay in 2011.

Who is it used by today?

Following the death of the Queen Mother in March 2002, Birkhall was inherited by her grandson, Prince Charles. The heir to the throne visits the home every year and had to spend a period of self-isolation there in March 2020 after the Prince tested positive for COVID-19.