Balmoral, Braemar

Deeside is probably Scotland’s most royal region, with Balmoral, Braemar and Invercauld combining to create an unforgettable days-trip along the Dee valley and into the Cairngorm mountains.

Balmoral Castle

Purchased by Prince Albert for Queen Victoria in 1852, Balmoral Castle and estate has been Scottish home of the Royal Family ever since. The building is a distinctive example of Scots Baronial architecture and is certainly interesting.

Balmoral, unlike some ‘Royal’ residencies, this one is actively used in the summer by the Queen and her family

© Copyright Stuart Yeates (Oxford) licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
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At the end of July/ start of August, the estate closes down to the public as the Queen takes up residence. Nearly all of the rooms are off-limits to the public for reasons of privacy, albeit the ballroom, the largest, is open. The gardens and grounds are open. In many respects it’s the surrounding landscape combined with the external architecture that is the bigger attraction


‘Highland Games’ take part all over Scotland every year. A series of strongmen challenges are played out against a colourful kaleidoscope of tartan, and cacophony of bagpipes. The first thing to perhaps understand is that the popular term of ‘Highland Games’ isn’t really recognised in Scotland. The word ‘games’ is replaced with ‘gathering’ and the event then takes it’s hosts name. Set in an amphitheatre of mountains, the circular showground that hosts Braemar’s annual Highland Gathering in early September, is Scotland’s most iconic, this is the one attended every year by the Royal Family

The Braemar Gathering, probably the most famous of the Highland ‘Games’

© Copyright Raibeart MacAoidh licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
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Surrounded by the majestic Grampian Mountains and woodland scenery, Braemar itself is a delightful village, and has started to cement it’s status as the quintessential Highland centre. The peaceful countryside, nearby castles, and whisky distilleries certainly lend it most of the ingredients necessary. There might be other locations better qualified by history, but most of them are working towns today, and have made concessions to the age. Braemar’s comparative isolation has probably insulated it against the advance of commerce. Even traditional Highland industries such as fishing n ever really worked 70 miles inland! For this reason, the celebration of Highland culture has remained very much to the fore and has become the economic lifeblood. Character counts

Worth noting too is the ‘Wade Bridge’ at Invercauld which crosses the shallow River Dee just outside of Braemar. It’s a popular photographic spot in amongst pine trees on the banks of the river that flows down to the coast at Aberdeen. The mountains providing an imposing backdrop and against the crystal clear water. You could justify taking a gentle drive along the rivers courses, turning back when you ‘feel like it’ as the road gradually begins to lose it’s Highland identity as it nears Aberdeen

Please note that during the month of August when the Royal Family moves into Balmoral, it will not be possible to visit. Braemar wouldn’t necessarily be able to support a full day on it’s own, and so we’ll normally look to supplement it with a detour to Dunnottar Castle on the return journey.