The Queen maintains a large estate in Scotland called Balmoral; originally built during the reign of Victoria, it has been the favourite get-away spot for all British monarchs since.

Legislation opened up several paths through the estate, such as Ballochbuie Forest, and the roamer has the opportunity of either professionally guided or self-guided walking tours. Some of the paths are patrolled by royal security guards.

The literature, however, advises against roaming when the Royal Family is in residence. This generally includes the common law holidays like Christmas and Easter, but the months of August and September are also given as likely times when members of the Royal Family are there.

How to know when the Royal Family is in residence? Surely there's a way to know beforehand; the alternative is to drive all the way into the highlands and start the roam only to be encountered by the security guards and this isn't reasonable.

I have checked HM's schedule and the only thing listed for Scotland is a perfunctory event in Aberdeen.

Question: how to determine if it's ok to roam on the Balmoral estate? Specifically, when the Royal Family is in residence? and secondarily, what happens if you are encountered by royal security guards if you are roaming during a period when roaming is not advised?

Clarification: Royal Family in this context refers to any living person with a direct blood line to George VI. The Duke of Gloucester, for example, doesn't count.

Clarification: "beforehand" in this context means knowing for certain at least 7 days prior to starting the walk-about so as to enable a reasonable planning time.

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    If you want to know if the family is there today or not, you could just check the Court Circular and see if there are events listed for there or for London. In advance would need something else
    – Gagravarr
    Jun 9 '15 at 13:09
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    I'm so tempted to answer this and steal yet another bounty opportunity from you. :P
    – JoErNanO
    Jun 9 '15 at 13:38
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    The link to HM schedule says "royal engagements are published up to eight weeks in advance", so you will probably not be able to get them earlier than that. The July engagements include a garden party at Holyrood, which probably means she will be at Balmoral around that time. Later in the months is a visit to barking and Dagenham, which means she probably isn't around then. By the start of July the engagements for August should be available. Jun 9 '15 at 14:53
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    I had a quick look on the website for the castle but it didn't mention anything. However, there are contact details available - and that would probably be your best bet. balmoralcastle.com/contact.htm
    – Phil
    Jun 9 '15 at 15:56
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    Just curious: any specific reason why walking there is "not advised" when the Royal Family is in residence? Are some paths closed? Will you be hassled by the Horse Guard? Or is it legal but just considered rude? Jun 9 '15 at 20:05

The Balmoral Estate is vast. On this map of Scottish estates it's the area in the centre of the image bounded by purple lines, extended south from Easter Balmoral and Braemar, over Lochnagar and Loch Muick, almost to Glen Clova. For most this area, the usual right to roam laws apply, even when the Royal Family are in residence; only the area north of Lochnagar is problematic. If your plans involve walking in the mountains around Loch Muick, perhaps climbing Lochnagar, you won't have any difficulty at all. That whole area, including the Spittal of Glenmuick carpark, is open throughout the summer, regardless of whether the Royal Family is there.

The Queen usually spends August and September in Balmoral, and when she is staying in the castle, and security is tight in the area immediately around the castle. If you want to avoid hassle, I'd simply avoid the whole of the forested area on the south bank of the Dee, between Easter Balmoral and Invercauld. Legally the situation is complex. Legislation exists that could be applied to Balmoral to introduce the offence of criminal trespass, but for various reasons Balmoral was excluded from the list of designated protection sites. As trespass doesn't really exist in Scotland, this means there's no legal grounds to keep you out unless there's a specific security concern.

This means that some days you can walk on the estate tracks in Deeside, and on other days you may be asked to turn back. If you remain reasonable, the worst that will happen is that you have to extend or curtail your walk because the planned route is unavailable. You mention Ballochbuie Forest, but I'm afraid I'm less familiar with that end of the estate. Out of season, the Queen sometimes stays in one of the houses along the Loch Muich road, and Prince Charles owns another of them; if they happen to be there, the road and carpark remains open, albeit with extra security.

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    +1 and accepted. If you see off-duty Household Cavalry at the pub in Ballater it's a sure sign, otherwise the RtR laws prevail, which you explained.
    – Gayot Fow
    Jun 24 '15 at 16:30

The walk is not advised for reasons of privacy of the Royal Family, because it is the Queen's private house, not for any other reason.

The Queen and her family are guarded by police. However unless there are diplomats or other visitors, the Queen prefers not to have too many visible police about. One imagines that she goes up to her private house in Scotland to get away from all the police protection.

There are many people who work on Her Majesty's estate, so seeing ordinary people is not really a surprise to her or the other royals.

If you happen to see the Queen out for a ride on her horse, you could simply say "Good day ma'am".


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    No way can you address the Queen with ma'am.
    – JoErNanO
    Jun 10 '15 at 8:50
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    @JoErNanO That's "ma'am" rhyming with ham not rhyming with "farm" btw ;) Yes first greeting should be "Your Majesty" subsequently "ma'am" royal.gov.uk/HMTheQueen/GreetingtheQueen/Overview.aspx
    – Calchas
    Jun 10 '15 at 9:33
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    Very informative. I was already familiar with etiquette, but appreciate your advice. Can you help explain how your answer addresses the question?
    – Gayot Fow
    Jun 10 '15 at 16:21
  • @GayotFow because there is no basis in law, as far as I see, for asking you to leave the estate merely because HMQ is nearby. Hence it is a matter of privacy and no other reason. The rest of the reply is to suggest as long as you are quiet and respectful no one will be particularly bothered.
    – Calchas
    Jun 10 '15 at 16:34

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