Birkhall

Birkhall, a 6,000 acre estate with an early eighteenth century house, is the neighbouring estate to Balmoral purchased by Prince Albert in 1849. The idea was for it to be a separate, but nearby, Scottish home for the future Edward VII. He seems not to have cared for it and the queen bought it back in 1885 and it became the residence of Sir Dighton Probyn Keeper of the Privy Purse to Edward VII.

In the 1930s The Duke of York (the future George VI) asked whether he and the Duchess could rent a house near Balmoral and they were granted Birkhall where they set up a Scottish home retaining much of the old furniture and pictures. Here the Queen and Princess Margret spent many holidays.

It was a modest lodge built of stone, harled and painted white. After the death of George VI Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, claimed that she lived in the ‘TINY HOUSE’ there in ‘extreme discomfort’. In the mid-1950s The Queen paid for the house to be extended, a corrugated iron-roofed extension was demolished, and a neat new wing added with a drawing room and a range of bedrooms, singles on the ground floor and doubles above. A round staircase tower connected old and new. In 1980 the Queen built a new kitchen as a birthday present.

The rooms were organised by Arthur Penn, Queen Elizabeth’s long serving secretary and treasurer, but also contained a collection of cartoons left there by Sir Dighton Probyn. Her collection of Grandfather Clocks added a cacophonous dimension to a stay there.

For the queen mother it was the great outdoors that was the attraction and as well as shooting and fishing she cultivated a fine garden. After her death in 2002 Prince Charles inherited the estate and he made some improvements to the gardens and rearranged the house.