The Royal in Deeside finds it origin in earlier times. It was 1848 when Queen Victoria visited this region in Scotland and fell in love with the place. One can only say that she had good taste as the Deeside is a stunningly beautiful area which should not be missed when you visit Scotland.
Where is the Royal Deeside?
The Royal Deeside can be found in Aberdeenshire, west of Aberdeen, it’s the area around the River Dee and more precisely between the beautiful villages of Banchory and Braemar, which are 40 miles apart. A large part of the Royal Deeside overlaps the Cairngorms National Park, which is the largest one in the UK in the heart of the Scottish Highlands.
The River Dee
The third-highest mountain in Scotland, Braeriach 1,220m, is the source of the majestic River Dee, at the Wells of Dee to be precise. The River Dee flows from the Cairngorm mountains to the City of Aberdeen over a total distance of 140km (87 miles) passing stunning nature, beautiful villages and historic sites on its way. The River Dee is also one of Scotlands best rivers to fish for Salmon.
What are the most interesting places in the Royal Deeside?
The Town of Banchory
Banchory is an excellent base to discover the Royal Deeside as well as other parts of Aberdeenshire and the City of Aberdeen. It has plenty of Accommodations to suit everyones needs and there are lots of things to see and do such as golf, fishing, river canoeing, walking and lots more. The beautiful castles of Crathes and Drum are nearby, they are both run by the National Trust for Scotland.
Banchory, which is the largest town in the Deeside, has a High Street with a good number of shops, restaurants and other facilities for the visitor. There is also a small museum which features James Scott Skinner, also known as the ‘Strathspey King’. James Scott Skinner is considered one of the most influential fiddlers in Scottish traditional music. If you’re in for a treat try the 3 mile walk up to Scolty Hill where you’ll find Scolty Tower, which offers fabulous views in all directions.
Aboyne is a charming village situated between the main through road in the Deeside and the River Dee, some 13 miles west of Banchory. It has an attractive Village Green which is the place where the annual Highland Games are held, in August. The village has a population of around 2,000 and offers shopping and a lot of other facilities.July sees the annual Aboyne and Deeside Festival with a packed calendar. For dates and events please visit their website.
Furthermore there is golf, cycling, walking, mountain biking trails and gliding from the airfield a few miles west of the village. Due to its suitable air currents it has become popular with folk from all over. There is a mountain biking facility at Aboyne Bike Park, located in the Bellwood.
The further west one travels into the Cairngorms towards Braemar the more exciting the landscape becomes and the prettier the villages look. Take for instance Ballater, it’s a gem with its many shops, Victorian Railway Station, impressive bridge over the Dee and the lovely streets with beautiful facades. This pretty village has a lovely atmosphere and it’s a place where visitors stop and stay for a while. Wether it’s because of the fact that the Royal Family frequently visits this village for their shopping when they stay at Balmoral or for the many restaurants and shops, Ballater is just great! And you should really visit this lovely conservation village!
Worth a mention is the Ballater railway station, which was closed in 1966, destroyed by a fire in 2015 and now completely rebuilt. As the railway is no longer there the station is now a visitor centre, café, library and tourist information. Ballater is a great base from where you’ll easily can discover the Cairngorms and western part of the Royal Deeside. Nearby, six miles to the west, is Balmoral Castle, the Royal summer residence. Also nearby, one mile from Balmoral, is the Royal Lochnagar Distillery which is open to the public all year round.
Summer visitors might want to plan their visit around the Ballater Highland Games which are held annually on the second Thursday in August. It’s a great day out for young and old! More info on www.ballaterhighlandgames.com. The Highland Games coincide with Victoria week which offers “Days of fun in Royal Deeside’s most resilient village. Second week of August every year. Be Amused.”
If you’re keen on walking and want to discover the stunning natural beauty of the Cairngorms, visit Ballater in Spring and consider joining the Ballater Walking Festival which takes place in the last week of May. More info on www.walkballater.com.
Braemar is the most westerly village in the Royal Deeside. From here onwards the main road heads south into the more remote Glen Shee to the village of Spittal of Glenshee and ultimately to Blairgowry. Braemar has a population of around 800 people and is a very well maintained, lovely village, surrounded by beautiful hills almost in the centre of the Cairngorms National Park. The official website states that “There is a thriving arts and music scene with concerts, ceilidhs and other events regularly performed in multiple venues.”
In the lovely village centre are the Medieval ruins of Kindrochit Castle, near the bridge over the Clunie Water, and The Fife Arms Hotel, a large hotel with restaurants, a bar and more. Outside the village, on the Ballater road, is Braemar Castle which is open to the public although not in the winter season. As Braemar is surrounded by mountains and a largely unpopulated countryside, it’s an ideal location for walkers and for skiers in the winter.
The Annual Braemar Gathering is one of the best known Highland Games in Scotland with a rich history which goes back hundreds of years. The Braemar Gathering takes place on the first Saturday of September and is a great day out for the entire family. You get to see the traditional sports such as tossing the cabre, there are Pipe Bands, displays from the Highland Dancers and lots more. The event is regularly attended by members of the Royal Family from nearby Balmoral Castle. New in 2019 is the recently opened Braemar Highland Games Centre which is open from April to end of October. Braemar Highland Games Centre features a fascinating display of objects, photographs, documents and costumes exploring the history of the Highland games, focusing on the unique story of the Braemar Gathering. For details visit www.highlandgamescentre.org.
When is a good time to Visit the Royal Deeside?
If you’re into walking or any other outdoor pursuit which requires reasonable weather I would say May to October. However, when the Heather turns purple in late summer or the leaves colour gold in autumn you’re in for a treat. This might well be the best time of the year to enjoy the Royal Deeside, especially combined with one of the many events such as the Braemar Gathering. Winter can be stunning too when snow covers the hills and pine trees but you’ll need some fine weather which isn’t always easy.
See and Do in the Royal Deeside
A castle visit is highly recommended and the four largest and most interesting ones, all of which are open to the public, are Balmoral Castle, Braemar Castle, Crathes Castle and Drum Castle.
Balmoral Castle is the summer residence of the Royal Family and therefore not open to the public all year round. It usually opens in April to the public and closed early August to get everything ready for the Royal Family. The castle itself can be visited as well but please note that you’ll only get to see a very limited section, not the entire castle. For more info visit www.balmoralcastle.com.
Looks might be somewhat deceiving. Braemar Castle might not look as impressive as the grander castles mentioned earlier but it’s highly recommended for a visit. Since 10 years the Castle has been operated by the local community who are fund-raising to restore the Castle and bring it up to standard. All the more reason for a visit. For info and opening hours visit www.braemarcastle.co.uk.
Crathes Castle can be found some three miles east of Banchory and is of the most beautiful castles in Scotland. It resembles other stunning castles such as Craigievar Castle, it has a stunning original interior, beautiful gardens and many other attractions. Typically the castle for a family day out! For more info and to find out about all the attractions and opening hours visit the website.
Drum Castle, 8 miles east of Banchory, has an imposing medieval tower which is one of the oldest of its kind in Scotland. There is an Old Oak Forest, a playground for the kids, beautiful garden of historic roses, a chapel and of course the beautiful castle itself which is owned by the National Trust for Scotland. For more info and opening hours visit the NTS website.
Walking in the Deeside
With splendid nature and hills in abundance the Royal Deeside and Cairngorms are a walkers paradise. You can always go to the local visitor centres in the larger villages and towns for more information on local walks. Another good resource if you rather plan ahead is the Walk Highlands website. They have a special section for the eastern part of the Deeside and one for the Braemar area. There is even a long distance walk which is also suitable for cyclists, it’s the Deeside Way. More info here
Fishing River Dee
As written above, the River Dee is one of the best rivers for fishing Salmon. To find out more about the hows, wheres and whens please visit www.salmon-fish-scotland.com
Eat and Drink in the Deeside
Following are a few suggestions for some nice restaurants and café’s between Banchory and Breamar. This list is not covering all restaurants in the area! When in Banchory try the Birdhouse Cafe in the High Street or the Finzean Estate Tearoom and Farm-shop. See www.finzean.com. In Ballater try the Clachan Grill or for a vegetarian breakfast or lunch try the Brown Sugar Cafe in the village centre. In Braemar restaurants and cafe’s are dotted around the village centre and you’ll easily find anything here from breakfast, lunch, snacks, teas & Coffee’s and evening meals.
Accommodation in the Royal Deeside
For the best priced accommodation in the Deeside please follow the links below: