1. Buckingham Palace, London
For magnificent state rooms that feel like they've been transported from a Disney fairytale, London’s most iconic palace can’t be beaten. The theatrical Throne Room, designed by Georgian architect John Nash — who wasn’t known for restraint — houses the thrones under an elaborate arch and canopy, in a room that glistens with chandeliers, intricate gilt decorations and ruby-red fabrics.
Elsewhere, the palace’s enormous Ballroom is the setting for all state banquets. Although Buckingham Palace may be the official London residence of the monarchs since 1837, it is mostly considered as the administrative headquarters rather than a home.
How to visit: For advance tickets, adult £30/ages 18-24 £19.50/child £16.50. Prices slightly higher on the day.
2. Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh
At the opposite end of the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle, which lords it over Scotland’s capital from its volcanic throne, is the King’s official Scottish residence. The palace is as regal as you might expect, with old masters hanging on the walls and the state rooms getting progressively more opulent as you near the King’s Bedchamber.
However, it’s in Mary, Queen of Scots’ chambers — the oldest part of the palace — that the sense of history is most tangible. You’ll likely have to lower your head to get through the doorway, just as Mary would have — although people in the 16th century were generally smaller than today, she stood at almost 6ft tall.
How to visit: Adult from £18/ages 18-24 from £11.50/child from £10.
3. Hampton Court Palace, Richmond upon Thames
This palace is appealing regardless of how you feel about the modern-day royals, because it’s forever linked to that most notorious yet irresistible of Tudors: King Henry VIII. Ghostly sightings abound — hardly surprising considering Henry bumped off a couple of wives — yet there’s a genteel atmosphere, too.
Spend some time ogling the huge tapestries in the Great Hall and then head to the gardens, which include a maze, a ‘magic garden’ for kids, beautiful floral displays in the Great Fountain Garden, and the perfectly preened Privy Garden.
How to visit: Adult £26.10/child £13. Boat trips from Richmond (£12.50 each way) take one hour and 45 minutes.
4. Balmoral, Aberdeenshire
Queen Victoria called Balmoral her “dear paradise” and its location within the Cairngorms National Park, with views of Munros and the meandering River Dee, tops any other royal residence hands down. As this is a private home rather than an official residence, visitors can only enter the Ballroom, which hosts rolling exhibitions, but it’s the grounds that make Balmoral such a worthwhile destination.
The nearby Fife Arms in the pretty village of Braemar — part art gallery/part super-swish hotel — is one of the best places to stay in Scotland and reason enough to visit.
How to visit: Adult from £16.50/child from £8.50.
5. Highgrove, Gloucestershire
The country home of King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort sits in the idyllic Cotswolds region, renowned for its honeypot villages and picturesque rural setting. The neoclassical Georgian house is a private home, so you can’t step inside, but here it’s all about the organic gardens, which the Prince of Wales has transformed since first arriving in 1980.
On 90-minute group tours, which run from spring to September, when the gardens are in full bloom, you’ll be led through such whimsical areas as the Stumpery, the Carpet Garden and Thyme Walk before ending up in the Orchard Tea Room. All profits go to educational charity The Prince’s Foundation.
How to visit: Tours from £30.
6. Hillsborough Castle, County Down
Not a castle at all, but a late 18th-century example of what was known as an ‘Irish Big House’, Hillsborough was probably given its castle name to reinforce a sense of antiquity to the Anglo-Irish Hill family, who commandeered the land on which it stands.
Today it’s the official home of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland and is where members of the Royal Family stay on their rare visits to the region. Though it’s considered politically neutral by some, it still has some way to go to convince other members of the community, who may find the overt display of royal regalia uncomfortable. Outside though, the gardens — which include Lady Alice’s Temple, much loved by Mo Mowlam, who played a key role in the peace process in the 1990s — are delightful.
How to visit: Adult from £10/child from £5.
7. Windsor Castle, Berkshire
Founded by William the Conqueror in the 11th century, Windsor has been home to 20 monarchs. The castle, which King Charles II extravagantly renovated to rival the grandeur of his cousin Louis XIV's Palace of Versailles, rose like a phoenix from the ashes of a major fire in 1992. Nowhere is this rebirth more spectacular than in the Grand Reception Room, here the gold walls and ceilings show no signs of damage.
Another resident monarch renowned for his expensive tastes was George IV, who added the Semi-State Rooms, which include the Crimson Drawing Room, one of the most lavishly decorated chambers in England.
How to visit: For advance tickets, adult £28/ages 18-24 £18/child £15.50. Prices slightly higher on the day.
8. Sandringham, Norfolk
The favourite home of the late Queen’s grandfather, King George V, Sandringham has been an adored holiday home for four generations of the family and it’s expected that King Charles III will continue the tradition of spending Christmas there. Its original regal owner, King Edward VII, demanded it have its own time — Sandringham Time — with clocks set half an hour ahead of GMT to provide more daylight for shooting expeditions.
Marking the year of the coronation, Sandringham is hosting an exhibition of over 40 of the King's watercolours in the historic ballroom. Painted landscapes of the country and other royal residences will be on display until October and can be viewed with a House and Garden ticket.
How to visit: Adult £23/child free entry.