Royal Family's escape to Balmoral will be 'a carefree break away' to hope for better days

With the first seven months of the year being dominated by health worries for the Royal Family, the summer holidays will be a welcome treat, particularly for the Prince and Princess of Wales’ young children. Prince George, 10, Princess Charlotte, nine, and Prince Louis, six, will be on hand during the warmer weather to give their mum an extra boost as she continues her cancer treatment.

Even though having her children around for endless hugs will be all Catherine, 42, could hope for this summer, a carefree break away from the every day will come as a welcome bonus.

And after the King, Queen and other senior royals returned to Scotland to mark Holyrood Week, the countdown began for the highlight of the summer break – their escape to Balmoral. With the annual trip beckoning, it will be an especially poignant return for the mother of three, according to a leading expert.

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The couple could spend part of the summer break on the Balmoral estate in Scotland -Credit:PA

Former BBC royal correspondent Jennie Bond exclusively tells OK! “It’s been one heck of a year for the Royal Family so far and nothing would please the King more than to have his close family gathered together in the peace of Balmoral for a time to take stock together, mark the passing of an incredibly difficult few months and look to the future”.

As for whether the princess will be among the number returning to Scotland this summer, Jennie adds, “Like Catherine herself has said, cancer treatment brings with it a large measure of uncertainty and that must extend to whether she is able to spend part of the summer holidays at Balmoral.

“If she does go, I’m sure the whole family will want to surround her with love, support and renewed strength. She, meanwhile, will want to make the summer months as fun and carefree for the children as she possibly can after everything she’s been through.”

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The Prince and Princess of Wales have many special ties to Scotland -Credit:Will Warr

However, if the family decides to remain nearer to home and spend a relaxing few weeks enjoying the company of their friends and Kate’s family, an extended break to Anmer Hall in Norfolk is likely on the cards. Frequently referred to as their favourite home, the red brick retreat is a haven where everyone can hunker down together and fill the time with games in the garden, local day trips and idyllic trips to nearby Holkham Beach.

A return to Scotland would likely be the goal, though, as the country holds a deeply special place in the princess’ heart – not least because it is where the first foundations of her royal role were laid when she met Prince William, 42, at the University of St Andrews in 2001.

For the prince, too, the links Scotland holds go beyond simply enjoying the magnificent scenery or taking a quiet moment in nature – as it is where the course of his life shifted three times.

During the family’s summer trip to Balmoral in 1997, he heard about his mother’s tragic death, and again it became the setting of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing in 2022. But, amongst the dark memories is the light William found when met his future wife.

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The couple met when they were both students at the University of St Andrews in 2001 -Credit:Middleton Family/Clarence House via GettyImages

Speaking about the many connections himself, William once reflected, “In short, Scotland is the source of some of my happiest memories. But also, my saddest.

"I was in Balmoral when I was told that my mother had died. Still in shock, I found sanctuary in the service at Crathie Kirk that very morning. And in the dark days of grief that followed, I found comfort and solace in the Scottish outdoors. As a result, the connection I feel to Scotland will forever run deep.”

And, as parents, they’ve delighted in sharing their love for the country with their children. “George, Charlotte and Louis already know how dear Scotland is to both of us and they’re starting to build their own happy memories here too," William said.

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The young royals have started building their own happy memories at Balmoral -Credit:The Duchess of Cambridge via Getty Images

It is clear they cherish this special relationship with the area, Jennie says as she predicts how the Wales family’s summer will shift this year. “I think William and the children will fit in with whatever is best for Catherine.

"If they want of course, they have their own little bolthole there – the little cottage they call Tam-Na-Ghar – which was often used by Queen Victoria, and was left to William by his great grandmother, the Queen Mother when she died in 2002.”

Even though their return to the Highlands is not confirmed, the Royal Family typically head north for their Scottish break in August and are spoiled by choice when it comes to activities to enjoy.

“Just like in the late Queen’s reign, time at Balmoral is family time,” Jennie says. “And, if the King gets the chance, he will relish the chance to hang out with his grandchildren by reading them stories, teaching them about the wildlife around them, playing cards and enjoying picnics... weather permitting!

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Balmoral has provided an escape for the Royal Family for generations -Credit:UK Press via Getty Images

"Then there are the ponies – and what better place to learn to ride? The late Queen was always popping her children and grandchildren on ponies and leading them around, and now Charles will do the same.”

The break from duties will provide the perfect chance to bond with his grandchildren. He loves to read stories to them so maybe he’ll treat the youngsters to a telling of The Old Man of Lochnagar, the children’s book he wrote in 1980 which is set in the caves near Balmoral.

Perhaps there will also be time for the King to take a special moment out and go for a reflective walk with his eldest grandson in Prince George’s Wood – the arboretum at Birkhall dedicated to George when he was born in 2013.

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The King will be able to spend some bonding time with his grandchildren -Credit:David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

As well as enjoying plentiful barbecues and adventures with his close cousins, the second in line to the throne might also turn his hand to the much-loved royal pastime of salmon fishing in the River Dee with James, Earl of Wessex, 16, and his mother, the Duchess of Edinburgh, 59 – who are both talented at the sport.

The trip to the Highlands will also prove a time for reflection for King Charles as he looks back on more than six months impacted by worrying health battles.

Balmoral has always been the place where Charles takes time out to relax and reflect,” Jennie says. “Walking over the moors is his ‘me time’, where he can take solace in the hills and rugged countryside.”

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The King has spent almost every summer at Balmoral Castle since he was born -Credit:Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

At the time of her death at Balmoral Castle at the age of 96, Queen Elizabeth was hailed as the Queen of Scots, and while members of the Royal Family have carried out official duties there since, it is her memory that will forever be tied to the country.

Queen Elizabeth made her affection for Scotland very well-known and enjoyed annual visits there her entire life – whether on official duties or during down-time with her family. Just like his mother, the King also relishes his time in the country, making it clear that he will heed her example and maintain this special relationship.

The monarch’s own love of Scotland has never wavered and he has chosen to mark some of his milestones there – including proposing to Queen Camilla at their Birkhall residence. This provided a beautiful family link as Balmoral is also where Prince Philip secretly proposed to Princess Elizabeth in 1946.

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Balmoral Castle has been a retreat for the Royal Family for many generations -Credit:Topfoto/PA Images

“It will be their second Balmoral summer without the late Queen - but I’m sure her presence, and absence, will still be keenly felt,” Jennie reflects.

For William and Catherine, as well as the rest of the royals, the tantalising promise of freedom Balmoral provides will be a cheering thought after so many challenges.

“The summer stay up there has always been a time primarily for family for a gathering in the peace of the Scottish countryside after the busyness and noise of their working lives in London and elsewhere. It’s a ‘breathe, relax and be still’ kind of place, and that’s what they all love about it,” Jennie says. “And, this year, more than ever, they all need to gather themselves and re-group for what they must all hope will be better days to come.”