Ballater is not only located at the heart of one of the finest areas in Scotland but it is also a charming and busy little town. It has a surprisingly wide range of shops and good places to eat or drink. Many of the shops display Royal Warrants – what better proof is there of good quality!
On the sporting front, there is a fine 18-hole golf course, bowling green and tennis courts and even (for cold weather) a curling rink. For those who like a stroll there are several beautiful and interesting – and easy – walks, including the ever-popular ‘Seven-bridges’ walk. The hills present greater challenges and nearby Loch Muick not only offers a delightful circular walk but also access to Lochnagar, one of the most popular of ‘Munros’. Cycling of all sorts is available here with the local hills ideal for a spot of mountain biking while the conversion of the old railway into the Deeside Way enables a gentle flat ride right through to Aberdeen – 40 miles away. The Dee river is justly considered one of the great salmon rivers in Scotland while a host of local lochs offer the chance for trout fishing.
If castles, whisky and highland games conjure a romantic image of Scotland then Ballater is well endowed. Nearby is Balmoral Castle, holiday home of the Royal Family, while Braemar Castle, Crathes Castle and Drum Castle are all nearby. To add to these are some outstanding ruins, especially those at Kildrummy and Dunottar, and many privately owned castles. A drive into the heart of the Cairngorms National Park takes you past the Lecht Ski Centre to the Whisky Trail featuring many of the great Speyside Malt Whisky distilleries. However, even closer, next to Balmoral, lies the small gem of a distillery – Royal Lochnagar. (Another small gem is nearby Crathie Kirk.) Some of the great highland games are held here with the Braemar Gathering and Lonach Gathering having world fame. To these can be added the fine highland games at Aboyne and Ballater. Ballater even has its own excellent pipe band.
Numerous events are held throughout the year. Ballater Walking Festival is now into its third decade while ActiveAboyne is a bit younger. The Aboyne and Upper Deeside arts festival runs throughout July while Ballater Victoria Week is very popular with August visitors. More recently Ballater has added a winter festival to the list.
To add to all the other attractions, Royal Deeside and the eastern Cairngorms offer the opportunity to spot wildlife rarely seen elsewhere. Both red deer and roe deer are common, as is the charming red squirrel. Grouse and hare can been seen on the hills while above can often be spotted buzzard, osprey or even golden eagle.
Click on the links below for more information on Ballater, Royal Deeside and the eastern Cairngorms: