Scottish Pyramids The Balmoral Cairns
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The Illusive Scottish Pyramids: The Balmoral Cairns – Unveiling Scotland’s Royal Monuments

In the serene environment of Deeside, Scotland, on the Balmoral estate, visitors can discover a distinctive element of royal heritage— the Balmoral Cairns. This collection of stone cairns, numbering sixteen in total, with an additional cairn on the adjacent Birkhall estate, is a powerful tribute to members of the British royal family and significant historical events. Erected primarily during the reign of Queen Victoria, these cairns are a physical representation of the royal connections to Scotland, encapsulating the personal milestones of Victoria’s lineage.

The most renowned among these is Prince Albert’s Cairn, constructed by Queen Victoria in memory of her husband after his passing in 1861. This Cairn stands apart for its commemorative significance and distinctive form, often called Scotland’s pyramid. While Prince Albert’s Cairn is the most celebrated, each of the Balmoral Cairns carries its own story and significance, beckoning visitors to explore the symbolic landscape.

The Scottish Pyramids The Balmoral Cairns

The Balmoral Cairns collectively embody the intersection of personal memory and national history, set against the backdrop of the Scottish Highlands. They offer a unique glimpse into the Victorian era’s royal customs and aesthetic choices and a tranquil opportunity for reflection amidst natural beauty. As such, they form an integral part of Scotland’s cultural and historical tapestry, inviting onlookers to ponder the legacies etched into the very stones of the Scottish countryside.

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Why Visit The The Scottish Pyramids: The Balmoral Cairns

You should visit if the introduction and photo alone did not persuade you. First, virtually no one, including most locals, even know they exist.

Secondly, these pyramids or cairns are extremely difficult to find. Even the directions from the Balmoral Estate are elusive at best. I’d go as far as to say a little miss-leading because it reads:

Follow the road for 800m and turn right up the hill, signposted to the distillery. After 100m uphill, turn right over a small bridge into the village of Easter Balmoral. Once over the bridge, immediately turn left and head uphill. Proceed up this road for 300m until you arrive at a sign indicating left up a footpath signposted ‘Prince Albert’s Cairn.’ Continue up this hill for 1km to gain the summit and Prince Albert’s Cairn (The Pyramid).

Alberts Pyramid Scotland

There’s no sign in sight! Plus, they don’t tell you that the village of Easter Balmoral is a gated community that is marked private. The sign to the Cairns Walk is a post-stamped size, and it’s on the gates that protect the village – entirely out of sight from the road. So, even if you make it to the village of Easter Balmoral, most are put off because it appears off-limits. Don’t worry; I will give you detailed photographic instructions on accessing them!

Lastly, the Pyramids, especially Albert’s, are breathtaking. It’s one of the most unusual and rewarding hikes you will take in Scotland.

History of the Balmoral Cairns

The Balmoral Cairns are a series of large stone structures with a fascinating history, converging Scottish heritage with royal commemorations.

What Is a Cairn?

Cairns are mounds formed by stones stacked on top of each other. It is man-made and can be built by one person or a group. The term is derived from the Scottish Gaelic word “carn.”

Example of A Cairn

By definition, this word refers to many hills or stone piles formed by man or naturally. In moorlands, uplands, waterways, mountaintops, and mountaintops, cairns can usually be found. Many centuries have passed since this tradition has existed in Scotland. Folklore and customs in Scotland have long been associated with carrying stones to cairns from the bottom of the valley. It is fascinating and curious to see cairns that have grown over time into large mounds. It means, “I will put a stone on your cairn” in ancient Scottish.

Comparison to Traditional Scottish Cairns

Unlike their ancient counterparts, which are typically used as landmarks or burial markers, the Balmoral Cairns are more personal memorials. Although they share the commonality of being stone structures, the royal cairns are deliberate tributes, contrasting with the more practical purpose of traditional cairns in Scotland.

The Balmoral Cairns has become a significant draw for tourists interested in the intersection of natural beauty and historical significance. These structures commemorate royal history and pose unique challenges and opportunities for conservation and local economic development.

Construction and Dedication

The cairns were constructed during the late 19th century within the grounds of the Balmoral Estate. Each Cairn commemorates a significant event within the British royal family, particularly under the reign of Queen Victoria. The initial structure, the “Purchase Cairn,” was established after Prince Albert acquired the estate in 1852. Further cairns were built to mark the marriages of Queen Victoria’s children.

Purchase Cairn
Purchase Cairn

Historical Significance

These stone monuments serve as memorials and represent an era of British history deeply rooted in tradition and family bonds. Sitting amidst the sprawling landscape of the Balmoral Estate, the cairns reflect the Victorian vision of commemorating personal milestones through enduring, physical landmarks.

Geographical Setting

The Balmoral Cairns, a series of striking stone structures, stand amidst the verdant landscape of Scotland.

Location and Surroundings

The Balmoral Cairns are on the expansive Balmoral Estate in Deeside, Scotland. This estate features the iconic Balmoral Castle, a preferred holiday home for the British royal family. Specifically, the cairns are within the estate’s boundaries, dispersed in a natural setting that offers panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Design and Architecture Of The Scottish Pyramids

The Balmoral Cairns exhibit a unique blend of historical Scottish design with personal commemoration. These structures reflect a thoughtful integration of material choice and architectural style with deep-rooted symbolism.

Constructed from large stone blocks, the Balmoral Cairns are built to last through the ages, much like traditional Scottish cairns. Techniques were applied to create stable pyramid-like structures, showcasing strength and craftsmanship reflective of the era.

Each Cairn bears a significant meaning, commemorating members of the British royal family and notable events in their lives. They serve as a physical embodiment of royal milestones and personal memories within the context of Scottish tradition.

How To Get To The Scottish Pyramids: The Balmoral Cairns

Recall I told you earlier that these pyramids are extremely difficult to find. It took me three attempts to see them! A flat tire debunked my first attempt, and my second was the weather. I’m not a quitter, so I made the journey back up to Scotland to ensure I got to see these marvels.

Despite being a part of the overall Balmoral Estate, you can’t access them from the grounds of Balmoral Castle. The “Cairns Walk” starts at the village of Easter Balmoral.

Before you embark on your journey, you must decide if you will park in the car park next to the A93 at Crathie – the car park for Balmoral Castle. It costs £5.00 to park here and adds another mile to the walk.

The alternative is to park next to the village of Easter Balmoral. On the left-hand side of the road, several free places to park. Word of warning, though: in the summer, you may struggle to find a spot here.

Free Parking At Scottish Pyramids
Free Parking At Scottish Pyramids

Step 1:

Drive to Balmoral Estate, pass the Crathie car park, and drive over the green bridge across the River Dee.

Once you arrive at the entrance to Balmoral Castle, make an immediate left and follow the road until you get to the first right turn.

Sign Before You Make the Right Turn
Sign Before You Make the Right Turn

Step 2:

Make the right turn following the signs to the Royal Lochnagar Distillery.

Sign To Royal Lochnagar Distillery
Sign To Royal Lochnagar Distillery

Step 3:

You’ll see the village of Easter Balmoral on the right if you’ve walked from the car park and head towards the village of Easter Balmoral. Suppose you are going to park for free and drive up another 100 feet or so.

Village of Easter Balmoral
Village of Easter Balmoral

Step 4:

Head to the gates of the village of Easter Balmoral. Despite the locked gates, here is where you will find an elusive sign and public gate that gives you access to the Cairns Walk.

Step 5:

Enter the gate that says Cairns walk, make a left, and then start walking up to where you see the sign for Alberts Pyramid.

Sign To Price Alberts Cairn
Sign To Price Alberts Cairn

From this point, you can choose to either ascend to Price Alberts Cairn or keep walking straight to see the other Cairns.

The Ascend Up To Price Alberts Cairn

No matter what anyone tells you, this is a moderate to strenuous climb up a mountain. The pathway is wet and muddy, it’s uneven, and it’s a very steep climb. Unless you are an avid hiker, it will take you about an hour to reach the top.

Here are some pictures so you know what to expect:


On the way up to Anlberts Cairn, you will also see Princess Beatrice’s Cairn.


It’s also worth mentioning that there are no facilities. So, unless you can ward off a pee for a few hours, you need to be comfortable peeing in the woods!

Prince Albert’s Cairn

Once you make it to the top, you will be rewarded with one of the most amazing views ever! Not to mention that Alberts Pyramid is just breathtaking.

You have to wonder how in the world they built this on top of the mountain. And why did they choose the top of the hill? I was left wondering how Queen Victoria made it up and down the mountain to visit.

Another thing I found interesting is how you cannot see a single sign of the Prince Albert Pyramid until you are at the top of the mountain. It is hidden from sight.

Map Of The The Balmoral Cairns Walk

Map Of Scotlands Pyramids The Balmoral Cairns

Influence on Scottish Heritage

The Balmoral Cairns are more than just monuments; they symbolize Scotland’s rich aristocratic past. Erected by Queen Victoria, they are enduring tributes to significant figures and events in the royal family. These stone structures underscore Scotland’s connection to its regal heritage, forging a link between contemporary society and the historical narratives of the Victorian era.

The Balmoral Cairns are afforded protection due to their historical significance and location within the national park. Regular maintenance is undertaken to ensure their preservation.

Representation in Media and Literature

The Balmoral Cairns occasionally surface in media and literature as poignant reminders of Scotland’s royal legacy. Their storied past and distinctive physical form spark curiosity, making them notable references in historical accounts and travel narratives. While they may not dominate the cultural landscape, the cairns are acknowledged in various forms of media, reflecting their subtle yet stable place in the fabric of Scottish culture.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the historical significance of the Balmoral Cairns?

Scottish Pyramids The Balmoral Cairns

The Balmoral Cairns were erected by Queen Victoria to honor the memory of her husband, Prince Albert, and other family members and important occurrences, reflecting the royal family’s history.

How can one get a tour of the Balmoral Cairns?

Princess Beatrices Cairn

All tours of the Balmoral Cairns are self-guided unless you hire a local to take you on the walk, which is not needed.

What are the opening times for visiting the Balmoral Cairns?

Scottish Pyramids The Balmoral Cairns

Unlike Balmoral Castle, Balmoral Cairns is open 24 hours a day and seven days a week. You can visit anytime – for free!

Are visitors allowed inside the Balmoral Pyramid?

Price Alberts Cairn

The Balmoral Pyramid, also known as Prince Albert’s Cairn, is generally inaccessible from the inside, as it is a monument rather than a building. Visitors can admire it and the other cairns from the outside.

What is the exact location of the Balmoral Pyramid?

The Scottish Pyramids The Balmoral Cairns

The Balmoral Pyramid is located within the Balmoral Estate, near the village of Crathie in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, at coordinates 57.024°N 3.252°W.

How many cairns are included in the Balmoral Cairns collection?

Princess Beatrices Cairn

Eleven cairns are on the Balmoral estate, each serving as a monument to the royal family and various significant historical events.

How much does it cost to see the Scottish Pyramids?

Scottish Pyramids The Balmoral Cairns

Nothing, seeing the Scottish Pyramids is completely free year round!

Closing Thoughts

The Balmoral Cairns are situated on the Balmoral Estate in the Cairngorms National Park, Scotland. They are accessible to the public all year, 24 hours a day, even when Balmoral Estate is closed.

Visiting them is a must! It’s no surprise that I like to explore things that are off-the-beaten-track or not widely known about. The Scottish Pyramids are no exception, but they are spectacular.

It took me two visits and three attempts to see the Pyramids and treehouses climb up a mountain, and I have zero regrets. It was well beyond worth it.

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