Royal Deeside

The clue’s in the name with Royal Deeside – an area that captivated Queen Victoria and has been the Scottish home of the Royal family ever since.

With its mountainous scenery, fast-flowing rivers, moody moors and enchanting forests, Deeside has everything from picturesque little towns to a wide range of activities for outdoor enthusiasts as well as many wildlife watching opportunities. Lying in the shadow of the Lochnagar mountain, you’ll find Balmoral Castle, the summer home of the Royal Family.

Whether you head to Balmoral, Ballater, Braemar or Banchory, there’s something for everyone along this stretch of the North East 250.

As you travel through Royal Deeside, on the eastern side of Cairngorms National Park, you’ll come to Crathie; a popular spot with visitors due to its proximity to Balmoral Castle and Royal Lochnagar Distillery. Also popular is Crathie’s granite kirk, which sits opposite Balmoral Castle’s gates. Built in 1895 with the proceeds of a bazaar held at Balmoral, it is now the Royals’ local church.

Originally a 16th century tower house for the Gordon family, Balmoral Castle has been a Royal residence since 1852. Today, the Royal Family spends their summer holidays at Balmoral, and the ballroom and grounds of the castle are open to the public three months of the year.

Within the Balmoral Estate you’ll also find 11 stone cairns, built to commemorate members of the Royal Family. The majority of which were built by Queen Victoria, including cairns to commemorate the marriages of her children.

Located close to Balmoral Castle, on the south side of the River Dee, is where they produce one of Scotland’s most exclusive whiskies. Originally called New Lochnagar, it was renamed Royal Lochnagar following Queen Victoria’s visit in 1848. Today the distillery combines traditional pagoda kiln heads and ancient techniques, including the open mash tun, with a modern visitor centre.

Close to Balmoral, on the eastern gateway to Cairngorm National Park’s highest mountain, Braemar is a must visit for keen walkers and climbers, who can explore the 24 Munros (mountains over 3,000 feet high) and 65 miles of high level walks and cycling routes.

Snowsports enthusiasts can also get their fix eight miles south of the village at Scotland’s largest ski centre in Glenshee. And salmon fishing is possible at the River Dee, which flows past the 17th century Braemar Castle.

Also in Braemar, held annually on the first Saturday in September, Braemar Gathering and Highland Games is famous across the globe. The event has been running in its current form since 1832 and since 1848 it has been regularly attended by the reigning Monarch and members of the Royal Family. Witness spectacular displays from the best pipe bands, Highland dancers and athletes, while possibly catching a glimpse of royalty!

Also within Cairngorms National Park, taking up more than 29,000 hectares of land around a 19th century sporting lodge, is Mar Lodge Estate. Within the estate you’ll find 15 Munros, including four of the five highest mountains in the UK, in an area internationally recognised as the most important nature conservation landscape in Britain.

As you travel further into the heart of Royal Deeside you’ll find Ballater; a picture-perfect Victorian village where many shops and local businesses display the ‘By Royal Appointment’ sign. Set amongst beautiful countryside, the village is home to a number of speciality shops and accommodation providers, as well as Ballater Golf Course, Deeside Deli and Cambus O’May Cheese Company.

Close to the villages of Ballater and Crathie you’ll find Dinnet; a small village where you can access the Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve, Glen Tanar and Dinnet Estates.

Halfway between Ballater and Banchory, on the north bank of the River Dee, is the village of Aboyne. Aboyne started as a small settlement around 1800 but enjoyed rapid expansion following the building of a bridge over the River Dee, the arrival of the Deeside Railway and the spending power of local resident, Sir Cunliffe Brooks, who established a golf club in the village in 1883.

Not far from Aboyne is Banchory. This picture perfect village is the ideal base for exploring all the local attractions, including Cairngorms National Park and Crathes and Drum Castle, or to enjoy a game of golf or one of the many activities available nearby.

As you edge towards Aberdeen, you’ll come to Peterculter on the northern banks of the River Dee. There are a number of sights to see in this Aberdonian suburb, including the site of the Roman marching camp at Normandykes, located near Peterculter Golf Club.