Queen Elizabeth II was the United Kingdom’s longest reigning monarch, and her death on September 8th, 2022, let loose a wave of memorials and heartfelt messages. She had become a familiar face across the world, and for many, it is a surprisingly emotional event. Her long reign lasted over 70 years, during which she navigated turbulent times of war and peace throughout the Commonwealth countries and the world. While her list of duties was long, the Queen did cherish the time she had to relax with her family and beloved corgis. She was one of the most traveled people in the world, clocking in with an estimated 1,000,000,000 miles under her belt. As part of the royal family, she enjoyed the luxury of having many estates to visit, and she also toured many countries. Below is a list of some of her favorite places that you too can visit.
1. Balmoral Castle, Scotland
It is no secret that Queen Elizabeth held Scotland and Balmoral Castle close to her heart. If you keep up with the royal family, then you probably have heard that this estate is where the Queen felt most relaxed and where she traditionally spent two months in the summer. “I think Granny is the most happy there,” said Princess Eugenie, the Queen’s granddaughter, in the documentary Our Queen at Ninety. “I think she really, really loves the Highlands. It’s a lovely base for Granny and Grandpa, for us to come and see them up there, where you just have room to breathe and run.”
Today, visitors can visit the 50,000-acre Balmoral Estate from April to July. A ticket to the estate covers parking and access to rooms inside the castle (including the Ballroom Exhibition), the stables, and the vegetable and formal gardens. An audio tour is included in the ticket.
2. Sandringham House, England
Sandringham House has been where the Royal House of Windsor gathers every year for Christmas celebrations.
This gorgeous 8000-acre estate in Norfolk was originally purchased in 1862 by Queen Victoria for Edward VII, who used it for shooting parties and hunting. In fact, Edward VII demanded the clocks in the country house be set back by a half hour so that there would be more daylight for hunting. Sandringham has always held a spot in the Queen’s heart, and it was a place for herself and her family to celebrate together.
Tourists can visit this beautiful countryside home at different times throughout the year. The property not only houses the large home but also a museum and grounds that tourists can explore. The Sandringham Visitor Center is open every day all year long, except for holidays.
3. Windsor Castle, England
When her uncle abdicated and her father took over as king, Elizabeth became heir to the throne. This was but one of the changes in her life, changes that included growing up in Windsor Castle during World War II. The future Queen and her sister Margaret lived a very sheltered life there, away from the London Blitz. Their mundane life truly bothered King George VI. In his diary, he wrote, “Poor darlings, they have never had any fun yet.”
When Elizabeth became Queen in 1952, she came to love Windsor Castle over Buckingham Palace as it was a place of peace and memories. The castle is the oldest and longest-occupied castle in the world and is open to tourists all year round. Tours of the grounds and castle are available and take visitors through the Stately Apartments, Queen Mary’s Dolls’ House, and St. George’s Chapel. Tourists sometimes also get to see the changing of the guard.
Note: Contrary to what many believe, the Queen did not like staying at Buckingham Palace. It was noted in the docuseries The Royal House of Windsor that it was a very empty and cold place for her, filled with hustle and bustle and not allowing her much time to relax. She much preferred Windsor Castle, located just outside of London.
For information on how and where to buy tickets to Windsor Castle click here.
4. Villa Guardamangia, Malta
Before becoming Queen Elizabeth II, Elizabeth lived a simple life as a mother and wife with her naval husband in Malta between 1949 and 1951. Prince Philip was stationed there with the HMS Magpie, and it was here that the couple and their two children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, lived a relatively normal life. The people of Malta left the royals alone, and Elizabeth and her husband would often drive around the island and enjoy picnics. They lived in Villa Guardamangia, a 16,791 square foot townhouse in Guardamangia given to them by Prince Philip’s uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten. It is now owned by the government of Malta.
Unfortunately, as of today, the villa is not open to the public as it is undergoing extensive repairs and is being turned into a museum. However, if you are planning a visit in the near future, keep an eye on Heritage Malta’s website, as they have held open days in the past. The rehabilitation of the building is planned to start at the end of 2022 and last five years. Today, tourists can view the outside of the building and imagine the simpler life Elizabeth enjoyed before taking on the heavy duties of the crown.
5. St. Mawes, Cornwall, England
Located on the shores of Cornwall, this breathtakingly beautiful fishing village was a favorite of the Queen Mother. As children, the future Queen Elizabeth and her sister Princess Margaret were brought here quite frequently for a seaside retreat. The royals stayed in the Penolva, a lovely house built by Dick Wilkins, the Queen Mother’s personal friend.
The house features two terraces and a gorgeous manicured garden overlooking the sea. There is also a private ship dock with direct access to the sea, which the family used to come ashore. Today, tourists can actually rent this lavish retreat with 180° seaside views from St. Mawes Retreats. The home sleeps up to eight guests.
6. Epsom Downs and Ascot Racecourse
It’s no secret that Queen Elizabeth II was a huge fan of horses and horse racing. Many even say that horse racing has stayed so popular due to her encouragement and contributions to the sport. The Royal Family has kept horses and entered them in races since Queen Elizabeth’s father came to power, and Queen Elizabeth kept that tradition alive. The horses are kept at the Royal Stud in Sandringham and have been raced by some of the world’s top jockeys. The first horse race the Queen ever won was the Epsom Oaks in 1957 with her horse Carrozza.
The late Queen attended many horse races throughout her years, most notably the week-long Royal Ascot at Ascot Racecourse and the Epsom Derby at Epsom Downs Racecourse. A great way to pay tribute to the late Queen and her passion for horses is to attend one of these races yourself. The Royal Ascot and the Epsom Derby races are held each year in June.
7. Royal Yacht Britannia
Her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was one of the most well-traveled people in the world, visiting over 117 countries in her lifetime. She traveled by various forms of transportation, but her favorite was by the royal yacht, Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia. While she also traveled by private car and private jet, she described her love of the boat as the “one place where I can truly relax.”
Her Majesty’s Yacht Britannia was decommissioned in 1997 due to the cost of running and maintaining it. Today, the ship’s final resting place is in Edinburgh, where tourists can tour the grand rooms and enjoy afternoon tea in the Royal Deck Tea Room. The boat is also available for private events.
8. Aberdare National Park, Kenya
Kenya will always hold significance in the life of Queen Elizabeth II as she was in Kenya when she found out that her father, King George VI, had passed away and that she had become Queen. Elizabeth and Prince Philip were filling in on a tour for the sickly king and were staying in the oldest safari lodge in Kenya, Treetops, in Aberdare National Park. Her armed escort, Jim Corbett, famously documented in the Treetops logbook: “For the first time in the history of the world, a young girl climbed into the tree as a princess and climbed down as a queen.” The British royals’ association with Kenya doesn’t end there. The country was also a popular game hunting spot for the British royals, figures like George VI and the Queen Mother were known to love the beauty of the country, and Prince William famously proposed to Kate Middleton at Lewa Downs in the north.
Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Treetops closed down. If you would like to experience the same chic safari concept, we suggest checking out Treetops’ neighboring accommodation, The Ark.
9. Scottish Isles
The Queen had enjoyed sailing on the Britannia to the Scottish Isles, where the family would disembark on remote islands and enjoy picnics; but when the Britannia was decommissioned in the 1990s, the royal family did not have the funds to commission a new yacht. However, in 2006 and 2010, Queen Elizabeth II once again spent vacation cruising the Scottish Islands with her family, now aboard the luxurious Hebridean Princess. You can sail around those same islands on the same yacht with Hebridean Island Cruises.
10. Victoria, Canada
Queen Elizabeth II is said to have had a soft spot for Canada, and she visited it more than any other Commonwealth country. In total, she made 22 official visits to Canada as Queen, but her first visit was in 1951 while she was still Princess Elizabeth. The late Queen stayed at the Fairmont Empress Hotel every decade since she became Queen and enjoyed visiting British Columbia’s national parks. For obvious political reasons, the Queen frequently visited Ottawa, the country’s capital city. Outside of that, she visited Victoria, British Columbia, the most.
Queen Elizabeth II’s last visit to Canada was in 2010. “My mother once said that this country felt like a home away from home for the Queen of Canada,” she said. “I’m delighted to report that it still does, and I’m delighted to be back amongst you all.”
Other Royal Estates You Can Visit That the Queen Lived in
- Buckingham Palace, London
- Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
- Hillsborough House, Northern Ireland
- Clarence House, London (where she lived before becoming Queen)
- Windlesham Moor, England (the first place the Queen and her husband rented for a few years)
Regardless of your personal views about the monarchy, Queen Elizabeth II was, first and foremost, a mother, a grandmother, and a great-grandmother. She served her country and her family with grace and wisdom. Her legacy will live on.