The Deeside community is welcoming the Queen as she begins what will be a poignant summer residence at Balmoral.
The castle, which was bought by Prince Albert in 1852, is believed to be the Queen’s favourite home and offers her a world removed from the glare of the spotlight.
The beloved haven between Ballater and Braemar has provided the backdrop for several of her family’s happiest memories over the decades.
But her visit this summer will be tinged with sadness, as it will be her first stay without her rock of 73 years Prince Philip by her side.
The Duke of Edinburgh, who died in April aged 99, was described as “one of us” by Deeside residents who relished his presence in the community every year.
‘Maybe it will be what she needs’
Butcher to the royals, HM Sheridan, usually experiences a 10% boost when the entourage arrives every summer.
Owner John Sinclair thinks that visiting the spot she holds so dear could be good for the grieving 95-year-old monarch.
Mr Sinclair said: “I will be a bit different for her, I would think.
“It will be sad for her to be there without him, but I’m sure she will still enjoy her holiday. Maybe it will be what she needs.
“Philip would always take great interest in what we had stocked when he visited, he got involved with the community.”
Hopes Queen can attend Crathie Kirk
A normal part of the royal routine at Balmoral is attending Sunday morning services at the nearby Crathie Kirk.
Reverend Kenneth Mackenzie today told us that this remains unlikely for now due to Covid – but that the Queen might be able to return to worship there during her six-week stay.
Rev Mackenzie said: “There are still some regulations on attendance, and difficulties regarding the numbers you can get into Crathie Kirk at the moment.
“In due course, as those rules change, we do hope that the Royal Family will be able to come back to the church and return to what has been a big part of their lives for many years.
“I think people are glad that the Queen has been able to return here, and other members of the family in time.
“The connection between them and the community goes back generations.”
More information on the restrictions on church services is available on the government’s website.
Time for Queen to remember ‘remarkable’ Duke
Conservative MP for West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine, Andrew Bowie, believes the stay could offer the beloved monarch some time for reflection.
Mr Bowie said: “Prince Philip had a life-long love for the north-east and this year’s summer break will allow the Queen to once again remember what a remarkable man he was.
“They regularly spent summer holidays together at Balmoral which was a place they held close to their hearts so it’s great to see the Queen continuing this tradition.
“The couple also visited places in the north-east such as the Coyles of Muick where they would look at ease taking in the wonderful Deeside surroundings.
“I wish the Queen an enjoyable and peaceful summer while she continues to grieve the loss of the Duke of Edinburgh.”
She usually resides in a seven-bedroom stone house on her estate, Craigowan Lodge, while Balmoral Castle is open to tourists until August.
The royals observed a two-week period of mourning following Prince Philip’s death but in recent months the Queen has been getting out more and more for various visits and events.