Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York, is staying with Queen Elizabeth at her Scottish residence Balmoral for the first time in 16 years.

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Sarah – the ex wife of Prince Andrew – is set to celebrate her daughter Beatrice’s 20th birthday at the castle and arrived there with Beatrice and her other daughter Eugenie, 18, last night (07.08.08).

Speaking earlier in the day, Sarah said: “It’s a very special birthday because she was born on August 8 1988 (08.08.88) and now it’s August 8 2008 (08.08.08).

“We’re having a very private party. I can’t tell you what her present is – that would spoil the surprise.”

The visit is the first time Sarah has been to the residence since she was photographed having her toes sucked by American financial adviser John Bryan in 1992.

Since then the duchess has not been invited to attend any royal gatherings, including Christmas celebrations.

The occasion has been termed an “astonishing breakthrough” for Sarah, although Prince Philip will not be present at the party as he is currently on the Isle of Wight.

A source told The Sun: “This is a moment Sarah never thought she would see. Before the toe-sucking Balmoral was her favourite royal residence.

“Philip has yet to bury the hatchet. Sarah has stayed close to the queen, who admires the way she has rebuilt her life while keeping close to Andrew.”

Earlier yesterday, Sarah opened London department store Selfridges’ eco-friendly Christmas shop.

The duchess pleaded with shoppers to consider ethical and environmental issues while purchasing gifts, before climbing onto a life-size topiary elephant to pose for photographs.

She said: “It was great, but there were so many camera flashes I thought I might topple off.”