Park Talk: The Royal Family’s love for the Cairngorms
29th September 2022
By Xander McDade, CNPA Convener
We have all lived through a significant moment in history these past few weeks, with the death of our longest serving monarch, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at Balmoral. The news brought the nation to a standstill, as we all reflected on a life dedicated to service.
There was a very special place in The Queen’s heart – for her corner of the Cairngorms National Park – spending almost every summer of her life at Balmoral where she and other members of the Royal Family were able to enjoy relative privacy and normality away from the hustle and bustle of their busy public lives.
It was Queen Elizabeth’s great great grandparents, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, who began the long standing family tradition of summers in Aberdeenshire, when The Royal Family purchased Balmoral in 1852. And thus, the area has been known as Royal Deeside ever since, and as a result attracts thousands of visitors every year.
Back in the mid 19th century when The Royal Family’s love affair with Deeside began, the concept of UK national parks was 100 years away – with the Peak District becoming the first UK National Park in 1951. It took another 52 years for the Cairngorms National Park to join them.
The cultural heritage of Deeside is steeped in The Royal Family and this is evident from the Royal Crests above shops in Ballater and Braemar as well as The Royal Family’s presence every year at the Braemar Gathering, an event that was a firm favourite of The Queen’s.
The Queen was very much at home in Scotland and in the Cairngorms National Park in particular. She was passionate about the nature, landscapes and the cultural heritage of Deeside as well as its people, and her contribution to life in this special area of the Cairngorms National Park will never be forgotten.
The Cairngorms National Park will continue to be a place of welcome retreat for our new monarch, His Majesty King Charles III, who shares his mother’s love of Deeside and the wider region. He takes a very personal interest in all aspects of life in the Park. Readers will recall his visit to Ballater in the aftermath of Storm Frank in 2015 and his commitment to restore the Cambus O’ May bridge, which was severely damaged in the same storm. He also set up the Rothesay Rooms in Ballater, initially establishing the eatery as a pop up restaurant to drive tourism and employment to the area following flooding and the devastating fire at the Old Royal Station.
As well as showing his support for the local community, King Charles III is well known for his concerns in relation to climate change and biodiversity loss – two of the headline activities in the newly launched Cairngorms National Park Partnership Plan – which sets out how all those with a responsibility for the Park will work together to tackle critical issues that relate to its people, nature and places and ultimately address the climate and nature emergencies. Alongside the Lottery funded ‘Heritage Horizons: Cairngorms 2030’ programme – putting the power to tackle the climate and nature crises in the hands of people who live, visit and work in the UK’s largest national park – I am sure the King will continue to pay close attention to how we are all playing our part in tackling these challenges.