Explore Royal Deeside
Royal Deeside is an area that captivated Queen Victoria with its blend of moody mountains, lofty crags, tumbling rivers and moors and forests. The rarefied air still pervades the attractive towns and villages of Deeside, such as Ballater and Braemar, which are unsurprisingly thronged with visitors in the summer. Braemar is also famous for its Highland Gathering, which is one of Scotland’s best. The whole of Royal Deeside offers excellent opportunities for outdoor activities such as walking and mountain biking and great wildlife watching.
Capercaillie, Scottish Crossbill, Golden Eagle, Red Squirrel, Pine Marten, Black Grouse and Crested Tit and other iconic wildlife can be elusive and the most reliable way of ensuring the sightings of the species you most want to see is to let the experts arrange your tailormade wildlife watching trip around Royal Deeside, be it a mini-break or a longer stay. Join a Braemar Highland Safari, which shows visitors the magnificent mountains, rivers, lochs and wildlife in this part of the Cairngorms National Park.
Experience guided bike rides ideal for families, novice or intermediate mountain bikers throughout the summer with Cycle Highlands in Ballater. Their guides will choose a pace and route to suit and scenery comes as standard! If you want to learn more about mountain biking you can book their one or two-day Discover Mountain Biking courses. View the awesome scenery from horseback on one- or two-hour rides with Glen Tanar Equestrian Centre, south of Dinnet.
Situated in the middle of Ballater, the Brown Sugar Café serves great coffee and home baking (including gluten free options) and has two soups on offer each lunch time – our favourite is the mushroom! Another favourite in Ballater is The Bothy, spacious and comfortable with good coffee and home baking and particularly renowned for its scones. If you’re looking for fine dining, Loch Kinord Hotel at Dinnet and the Braemar Lodge Hotel have award winning chefs.
Experience Royal Deeside’s National Nature Reserves with a guided Walking Safari, where you’ll be shown the sights, sounds and smells which make this beautiful area and its magnificent wildlife so special. WalkDeeside also offer a Mountain Safari, which explores the spectacular Eastern Cairngorms and you can choose from a range of themes to learn more about the rich natural and cultural heritage of Royal Deeside and the Cairngorms.
Two of the UK’s most famous castles are on Royal Deeside – Balmoral and Braemar. Built in 1628 by the Earl of Mar, Braemar Castle was originally a hunting lodge, replacing an earlier building on the site. The castle was burned in 1689 by the Black Colonel (John Farquharson), a supporter of Bonnie Dundee. Set amongst the magnificent scenery of Royal Deeside, in the shadows of Lochnagar is the Balmoral Estate and Balmoral Castle is the private residence of The Queen.
Next door to Balmoral Castle, Royal Lochnagar Distillery is the perfect place to discover how Scotch Whisky is made. Ballater Station is a remarkable Victorian construction that stands at the highest point of the Deeside Line and is now a museum. The AA Box 472 at Cambus O’ May is possibly the smallest museum ever! Visit Crathie Kirk, where Queen Victoria came in 1848 on coming to Balmoral Castle. View contemporary art at the Larks Gallery in Ballater and the Braemar Gallery.
The highest 18 hole golf course in Scotland, Braemar is around 1,200 feet above sea level. The greens are amongst the finest in the area and the course is very popular with holiday makers and golfing societies. It is relatively short, measuring 4,935 off the medal tees, but it will test golfers of any standard. Ballater golf course has a spacious Clubhouse, catering for groups of up to 130 at one sitting. Several holes on the course lie close to the River Dee and many a ball has gone to a watery grave!