A Mind-Blowing Tour of Queen Elizabeth II's Many Castles

The role of sovereign of the United Kingdom comes with many perks. Strangers, friends, and even your immediate family bow to you. Servants wait on you hand and foot. Clothing from the world's finest designers is made to order. And you have one heck of a real-estate portfolio.

Britain's Queen Elizabeth II marked a milestone on Sept. 9, when she became the longest-reigning monarch in British history. She's marking the occasion in a typical way, by sticking to her royal duties.

When it finally is time to kick up her heels and celebrate her historic achievement, she'll be able to do so at one of her many homes. The queen and crown are in possession of a massive number of properties around the United Kingdom, but only five see regular use by Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Philip. In honor of her long reign, we're taking a close look at the many palaces Queen Elizabeth calls home.

1. Palace of Holyroodhouse
Flickr user Kyoshi Masamune

1. Palace of Holyroodhouse

When in Scotland, the queen and Prince Philip take residence at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in the city of Edinburgh.

The royal couple usually spends a week per year at Holyroodhouse, hosting many important events with Scottish politicians and people in attendance. When the queen arrives each year, the forecourt of the palace becomes a parade ground where she receives the keys to the city of Edinburgh.

The Palace of Holyroodhouse is also where the queen's granddaughter Zara Philips celebrated her marriage in 2011.

Flickr user nunca_mas

A closer look at the exterior architecture of Scotland's Palace of Holyroodhouse.

Flickr user Dutch Simba

The inside of Scotland's Palace of Holyroodhouse is timeworn and elegant.

2. Sandringham House
Flickr user Paulo

2. Sandringham House

The queen's main country house in England is Sandringham House, located in the Norfolk region north of London. The estate is a longtime family favorite; the queen's great-grandfather King Edward VII purchased the home in 1862, and her grandparents George V and Queen Mary spent a great deal of time there as well.

Now, Sandringham House is where the royal family marks every Christmas and many important events.

The estate, which is run as a commercial estate, comprises a number of homes, including Anmer Hall, where Prince William and his family spend the bulk of their time.

Flickr user Elliott Brown

A closer look at the intricate detail on the exterior of Sandringham House.

Flickr user Michael Button

Sandringham House includes the Sandringham Museum, which is open to the public and reveals a look at the style and treasures of the royal estate.

3. Balmoral Castle
Flickr user neil roger

3. Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle is the queen's private residence in Scotland. It was the favorite retreat of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, who spent a great deal of time there after the death of her own husband, Prince Albert.

Today, Balmoral is where the queen and Prince Philip spend a month in the late Summer. Their extended family journeys to Scotland to join for part of the lengthy holiday.

The queen, who loves the outdoors, has long enjoyed the riding, walking, and picnicking possible at Balmoral. When the queen is not in residence, the gardens are open to the public, if the weather permits.

Flickr user speedygroundhog

A closer look at the stunning grounds of Balmoral.

Flickr user Philip N Young

There's even a porte cochère at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.

4. Windsor Castle
Flickr user Márcio Cabral de Moura

4. Windsor Castle

Queen Elizabeth has a particular connection to Windsor Castle, as it is where she and her younger sister, Margaret, spent much of World War II. There is another important connection between Elizabeth and the property, as both her parents, grandfather, and sister are buried in the castle's chapel.

Now, the queen spends one month a year at Windsor Castle with her husband, Prince Philip. They occasionally head there for weekends, too.

The castle is part of a large estate comprised of houses on which various other royals live. Windsor Castle is said to be the largest in-use castle in the world and sits just one hour west of London.

Flickr user Jöshua Barnett

A closer look at the exterior of Windsor Castle.

Flickr user Jöshua Barnett

An inside look at the intricacy of Queen Elizabeth II's Windsor Castle.

5. Buckingham Palace
Flickr user Roger W

5. Buckingham Palace

The queen's primary residence is at Buckingham Palace in London. Royal relatives have inhabited the home for centuries; in the 18th century, it was a home for King George III's family. Since 1837, Buckingham Palace has been the official London residence of the sovereign.

The palace is a working structure where many in the queen's staff report for daily duty in one of its 775 rooms. Many official engagements are held there, including a 2011 dinner to honor President Obama and an afterparty for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Buckingham Palace is open for visitors during select months of the year. Outside the palace, however, tourists flock to the structure daily to see the queen's home.

Flickr user Scott Denny

The approach to London's Buckingham Palace is up a street called The Mall.