Queen Elizabeth Heads to Balmoral for First Summer Break in Scotland Since Prince Philip's Death

For more than 150 years, the Scottish castle has served as a private retreat for the British royals

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh
Prince Philip and Queen Elizabeth. Photo: Tim Graham/Getty Images

Queen Elizabeth is heading to one of her favorite places without the love of her life.

The monarch, 95, left Windsor Castle on Friday for Balmoral in Scotland, where she and Prince Philip traditionally retreat from August until the fall. This marks the first summer holiday the Queen will spend without her husband since his death in April at age 99.

The Queen and Prince Philip started isolating together at Windsor Castle in March 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. However, they were able to continue the tradition of spending the summer at Balmoral one last time last year.

For more than 150 years, the Scottish castle has served as a private retreat for the British royals. In the highlands, the royals normally like to entertain friends, hold dances, picnic and go on shooting parties — all the while battling the nibbling little flies that stalk the heather-covered mountain sides.

Although it's a vacation, it's not all play for the monarch while she's away in the Scottish Highlands. She does continue to work, reading her diplomatic papers in the famous "red boxes" that are delivered daily. She also normally continues to hold audiences and undertake some public engagements.

The expansive property has been in the royal family since 1845, when Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert, purchased the castle and the surrounding 7,000 acre estate.

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<a href="https://people.com/tag/queen-elizabeth/" data-inlink="true">Queen Elizabeth</a> and <a href="https://people.com/tag/prince-philip/" data-inlink="true">Prince Philip</a>
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. Fox Photos/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Since the Duke of Edinburgh died on April 9, the Queen has been leaning on the primary pillars of her life — family, faith and service to her kingdom — to fortify her as she keeps calm and carries on, just as she has for 70 remarkable years.

"I always felt that she was never knocked off course," a royal insider says in the summer issue of PEOPLE Royals. "It's her way to remain as steady as possible."

Traditionally, the Queen hosts members of the royal family at Balmoral throughout the summer. She'll like receive visits from Prince William and Kate Middleton with their three children, Princess Eugenie and mom-to-be Princess Beatrice and their husbands and her four children.

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