It was Queen Victoria and her husband Prince Albert who acquired Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire back in 1852. The royal couple replaced the original building with a new castle big enough to accommodate their family of nine children. This impressive residence became a favourite of the Queen, who later found there the tranquillity she needed to recover from her grief following her husband's early death.
Surrounded by spectacular mountain scenery and set in hundreds of acres of land, Balmoral offers true privacy. Since Victoria's day, generations of royals have appreciated the chance it offers to relax and enjoy family time away from the glare of public interest.
Elizabeth II has vacationed there throughout her life, visiting first as a young Princess, then as a mother, and now as a grandmother and great-grandmother. The grown-up Windsors, like the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, still often visit her there, bringing their children with them.
Prince Charles and Camilla are also regular visitors and in 2005, they chose to spend their honeymoon on the estate.
There is no shortage of pastimes during Balmoral holidays. The Queen, who is very much a country woman at heart, takes a close interest in the animals - deer, Highland cattle and ponies - which are kept there. She and her family like to ride, go fishing, take long walks and picnic.
But an undoubted highlight of their summer visit is watching traditional sports gathering the Braemar Games, where burly Scots compete in hammer throwing, tug of war and other tests of strength and stamina.