The Queen has officially closed her doors to visitors as she prepares to spend her first summer holiday alone

Her Majesty will spend her first summer alone at Balmoral since Prince Philip passed away

The Queen at the Balmoral Horse Show as she prepares to spend her first summer alone

Her Majesty will spend her first summer alone at Balmoral since Prince Philip passed away

Balmoral has long been known as the royal residence in which the Queen feels most at home.

In fact, the monarch is thought to enjoy her freedom on the 50,000 acre Scottish estate so much that she even, on occasion, goes unrecognised by tourists while out on country walks.

But this summer's holiday at Balmoral marks a sad milestone for the Queen, as it will be her first time staying at the castle since the sad death of her late husband, Prince Philip, earlier this year.

Commencing her annual summer holiday as usual at the end of July, the castle confirmed on Tuesday that it had closed it doors to the general public, and would not be opening again until 2022.

Balmoral confirmed its closure on Instagram, writing in a statement: "Balmoral castle and grounds is now closed to the public until April 2022.

"We would like to thank each and every visitor to the estate throughout 2021 and we hope you all had a very memorable experience. Despite the challenges and restrictions caused by the pandemic it’s been our pleasure to welcome so many happy faces through the gates at Balmoral."

The Queen, who spent much of her time following the sad passing of Prince Philip alone due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is expected to spend her summer enjoying some of her favourite pastimes like horse riding and walking.

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The monarch isn't the only royal taking a deserved break following a busy month of engagements. As Meghan Markle celebrates her 40th birthday in style, Prince William and Kate Middleton are reported to have taken their children on a secret staycation to the Isles of Scilly in recent weeks.

Though this will be the Queen's first time holidaying alone at Balmoral, it is expected that she will entertain several private visitors over the coming months.

As well as reports that Boris and Carrie Johnson could stay for a weekend with their son Wilfred, the Cambridge family also usually take a trip up to Scotland to spend time with their grandmother in the summer.

Princess Eugenie, who is also likely to join the Queen for a stay at Balmoral with her husband Jack Brooksbank, has previously said she believes that her grandmother "is the most happy there".

"I think she really, really loves the Highlands," the princess said. "Walks, picnics, dogs—a lot of dogs, there’s always dogs—and people coming in and out all the time.

“It’s a lovely base for Granny and Grandpa, for us to come and see them up there, where you just have room to breathe and run."

Kate McCusker

Kate McCusker is a freelance writer at Marie Claire UK, having joined the team in 2019. She studied fashion journalism at Central Saint Martins, and her byline has also appeared in Dezeen, British Vogue, The Times and woman&home. In no particular order, her big loves are: design, good fiction, bad reality shows and the risible interiors of celebrity houses.