For more than 150 years, summer holidays at Balmoral have been a royal tradition. Queen Elizabeth II usually spends about three months every year at her home in the Scottish Highlands, taking guests on bumpy rides around the 50,000-acre estate in her beloved, beat-up Land Rover and catching bats that get trapped inside the castle with a net so she can release them outdoors. Princess Diana spent part of her honeymoon there but fled in a fit of depression and later said it “rained and rained and rained.” Former British prime minister Tony Blair has admitted he drank heavily during his visits, which he described as a “combination of the intriguing, surreal and the utterly freaky.”
Meghan Markle soon will get to experience Balmoral for herself. As per tradition, the queen has invited members of the family to join her for her annual retreat. “It’s something they can’t get out of,” a source tells In Touch magazine. The insider also confirms Meghan, 37, and Harry, 33, will visit for about four days this summer. “It’s only for a short period of time, but being stuck in the middle of nowhere with the queen can make that time feel much longer.” Luckily, the newly minted Duchess of Sussex has enjoyed a warm relationship with her grandmother-in-law, but Meghan’s estranged, outspoken father, Thomas Markle — who’s ripped into Meghan and the royal family in recent weeks — has caused considerable stress. “The queen is furious, and Meghan knows it,” says the source. “This trip could turn out to be very awkward.”
It won’t be exactly posh, either. Each morning, Meghan will wake up in the cold, drafty castle to the sound of bagpipes before heading outside to explore. But she’d better pack bug spray for her long walks: Balmoral is known for its swarms of biting midges! She’ll be expected to attend lakeside barbecues — where staffers set everything up, then disappear so the royals can pretend they did it all themselves — along with more formal sit-down meals, followed by parlour games like charades.
The worst part for Meghan? The 92-year- old monarch’s royal family enjoys shooting deer and grouse while in Scotland. “Meghan’s very anti-hunting,” says the source. “She’s going to find it diffcult to hold back from expressing her opinion. Harry loves that she speaks her mind but doesn’t want any drama.”
At least she has something to look forward to: After visiting the queen, Harry plans to whisk Meghan — who turned 37 on Aug. 4 — away for a belated birthday trip. (Last year they went to Botswana!) “She’s excited about that,” says the source. “She appreciates the efforts the queen is making to welcome her into the family, but if Meghan had it her way, she’d be lying on a beach somewhere!”