View from Prince Leopold’s Cairn overlooking Balmoral

By Ellie McDonald 

The Balmoral Cairns

One fine Sunday before the snow hit (again) I took a walk around the Balmoral Estate in Deeside in search of stone cairns I’d heard about. Now, had I properly looked at my guide before setting off, I would’ve seen just how many there actually were as opposed to the 3 I thought there was. That was a bit of surprise, but luckily I like the outdoors so it was a welcome surprise.

There are 11 stone cairns in total hidden on the estate. To find them, you often have to venture off the main track and go deep into the forest. There are two other cairns constructed to mark the current Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, and another on the Birkhall estate, owned by the Prince of Wales. The path I followed led me to discover 8 of these 11 cairns that were built by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to mark an event or milestone in the royal family. Each cairn to mark the marriage of each of Victoria’s children, with the exception of her second son and fourth child, Prince Alfred.

The walk offers spectacular views across Deeside and of Balmoral Palace itself. The Purchase Cairn, built in October 1852 to mark the purchase of the estate by Victoria and Albert offers breath taking views of Deeside. There is even a wee bench where you can kick back and take in the views.

The nearby Prince Leopold cairn also offers similarly spectacular views. A short detour off the main track to this will show off a view that directly overlooks Balmoral Palace itself.

The most famous and largest one by far is the Prince Albert Cairn. This particular one can be done on its own (with a bonus cairn on route), or the second last one on the route. Unlike the others, this is a pyramid, the last thing you’d expect in the Cairngorms! The inscription tells the story of a woman devastated by the loss of her husband, reading: “To the beloved memory of Albert the great and good Prince Consort. Erected by his broken-hearted widow Victoria R. 21st August 1862”. If you aren’t familiar with the story, after her beloved Albert suddenly passed away in 1861, Victoria went into deep mourning for the rest of her life and wore only black for the next 40 years.

If you want to find these cairns, I followed the fantastic guide available via Walkhighlands that you can find here: