Balmoral Estate is within the Cairngorms National Park, and is partly within the Deeside and Lochnagar National Scenic Aree. The 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres) estate contains a wide variety of landscapes, from the Dee Valley to open mountains. There are seven Munros (hills in Scotland over 3,000 feet (910 m)) in the estate, the highest being Lochnagar at 1,155 metres (3,789 ft). The mountain was the setting for a children's story, The Old Man of Lochnagar, told originally by Prince Charles to his younger brothers, Andrew and Edward, and published in 1980 with royalties accruing to The Prince's Trust.
The areas of Lochnagar and Ballochbuie were designated in 1998 by the Secretary of State for Scotland as Special Protection Areas (SPA) under the European Union (EU) Birds Directive. Ballochbuie is also protected as a Special Area of Conservation by the EU Habitats Directive, as "one of the largest remaining continuous areas of native Caledonian Forest". In addition, there are four Sites of Special Scientific Interest on the estate.
In 1931, the castle gardens were first opened to the public, and are now open daily between April and the end of July, after which the Queen arrives for her annual stay. The ballroom is the only room in the castle which can be viewed by the public.
The Royal Family employs about 50 full-time and 50–100 part-time staff to maintain the working estate. A malt whisky distillery located on the Balmoral Estate produces the Royal Lochnagar Single Malt whisky.
Other properties on the estate include Birkhall, formerly home to Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, and used now by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall for their summer holidays. Craigowan Lodge is used regularly by the Queen's friends and family, and has also been used by the Queen while Balmoral Castle is being prepared. Six smaller properties on the estate are let as holiday cottages.
Read more about this topic: Balmoral Castle
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