Inside the Queens life at Balmoral as she heads to the estate for summer

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The Queen heads to the Balmoral estate in the Scottish Highlands every summer for 12 weeks. Royal expert Duncan Larcombe says the trip provides the monarch a break for her sanity as she relaxes and enjoys special time with her family.

"Balmoral plays a key part in the Queen's sanity," he explains. "It's where she can kick off the crown and be the mother, grandmother and great grandmother she is.

"You see the Queen with her family in more formal settings but at Balmoral, it's about being outdoors and playing with the children. She also spends a lot of time there lost in her own thoughts."

Duncan says whilst the Balmoral estate is fully staffed, the family are much more laid back when it comes to eating and socialising.

"Sometimes the staff barely see the family as they are off on walks or going on shoots. It's not a formal dining setting unless the Queen is hosting.

"They love to have packed lunches and barbecues out in nature. The Queen loves to play with her great-grandchilden and her corgis on the grounds. "

After being woken each morning at 9am by bagpipes, the Queen loves to go horse riding or out walking the dogs across the moors. Hiking, fishing and hunting are enjoyed, too, with Prince George reportedly taken to watch his first grouse shoot at the age of five.

This year's trip will be tinged with sadness after the passing of Prince Philip in April. Duncan adds: "The Queen has had a blanket of support thrown around her since Philip's passing.

"She'll have regular guests to stay at the estate. But it will still be hard. Philip really loved to take control of festivities at Balmoral. He allowed her to sit back and relax."

Royal expert Ingrid Seward previously revealed Philip's fondness for Balmoral and his role as head of the barbecues.

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"There are endless picnics, too, day and night. When the staff have their night off, the royals trundle off in the Range Rover for a candlelit picnic dinner in one of the wooden huts, which were built for Queen Victoria.

"They transport the picnic in a special picnic carrier designed by Prince Philip. It contains individual boxes for knives, forks and so on – everything’s in its rightful place.”

Ingrid says the Queen is also very hands on with household chores and even loves to do her own washing up.

“There’s really nothing for staff to do there except have affairs with each other, which is how it got its name Immoral Balmoral!” jokes Ingrid.

She adds, “The Queen even loves to do the washing up with her rubber gloves on!”

Former prime minister Tony Blair witnessed this sight when he was a guest. Writing in his memoir, he divulged, “You think I’m joking, but I’m not.

"They put the gloves on and stick their hands in the sink. The Queen asks if you’ve finished, she stacks the plates up and goes off to the sink.”

Over the years, Balmoral has been privy to a number of key moments. “There have been many happy times but some very sad times, too,” says Ingrid. “It seems everything happens when the royals are at Balmoral, including the death of the Queen’s uncle Prince George, Duke of Kent in a 1942 air crash.”

Princes William and Harry, then 15 and 12, were on the estate when their mother Diana tragically died in Paris in 1997. The Queen asked for the papers to be kept away from her grandsons and it was their father who broke the news to them. “I remember just feeling completely numb, disorientated, dizzy,” William later said.

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