Ballater in Scotland
The Beautiful Village of Ballater in Scotland on Royal Deeside is a must-visit location in the Cairngorms mountains National park.
Ballater in Scotland is as close as possible to being the perfect Scottish village.
Close your eyes and imagine the perfect Scottish village tucked away amongst the pine forests of Scotland
Nestled between 2 hills that dominate the skyline. A village where the modern world is available but carefully hidden away
Where is Ballater in Scotland
Aberdeenshire. In the North East of Scotland, the big bit juts out to the right on the maps.
It is 40 miles from Aberdeen and takes around 1 hour to get there once you have cleared the city.
Car and bus are the only practical ways. Alas, there is no train stop
You need the 201 bus service, which is every 30 minutes
Ballater is inside the Cairngorms National Park, which has some of the best scenery anywhere in Scotland. Also, plenty to do.
There are hundreds of attractions across the Park.
Visit museums and castles, adventure parks and breweries, art venues and garden centres. Ballater is a prime base camp for adventurous minds.
Ballater, or the “Modern Ballater”, was built as a tourist location in the 1770s, but early settlement goes back hundreds of years before. Because of the wealth of history, it formed its own Ballater History Group. Check them out on Facebook.
As my readers know, I think you need to research to get the best of Scotland. I give examples of why here.
Ballater has a full range of accommodation from high to budget and lots around the midway point, such as the Ballater Deeside inn. There are also plenty of Holiday Cottages and B&Bs in and close to the village.
The summer months can be fully booked months ahead, so don’t hesitate and please mention Scotland Notes. I am doing my best to support the more independent businesses of Scotland.
The village is situated on a huge bend of the River Dee, a fast-flowing famous Salmon river, spanned by a bridge opened by Queen Victoria in 1885.
Someone must have had a premonition for Instagram when it was opened. It is very photogenic.
There is a path by the riverside, accessed from the Ballater side of the bridge on the right-hand side.
Great Photo opportunities along this walkway, but it can be muddy at times
If this is your first trip to Scotland and you are coming to Ballater, then well done, perfect choice. You might want to look at some ideas for packing.
Ballater has a population of less than two thousand but has facilities for eager visitors keen to visit this charming authentic Village on Royal Deeside.
The main road runs from the bridge through the centre of the village with independent shops, eating places and accommodation on both sides.
The road leaves Ballater and will eventually pass Balmoral Castle, after 8 Miles, the Summer residence of the Queen. Balmoral is the private home of the Queen, and visitors are only allowed in a few places. You can check the website.
But back to the village.
The Perfect Village should come with the perfect Church, and Ballater ticks the box.
Glenmuick Church proudly dominates the centre of the community virtually unaltered for 150 years, with its high tower and storytelling stained glass windows.
The Royal Victorian Railway Station
Queen Victoria, back in the mid-1800s, was very fond of Balmoral Castle and would travel by train from London to Ballater as often as she could. It’s the nearest railway station to Balmoral.
The Line and Station were in use until the mid-1960s. Once the last train had departed almost 60 years ago, the station was unattended and fell into just a shell.
Later it was given a facelift and turned into a museum dedicated to Queen Victoria’s arrival.
The station was rebuilt and reopened in 2018 after a severe fire wiped out the original station. The new station is a marvellous representation of how the Victorian train station of yesteryear would have looked during its royal days.
A very reasonable budget-friendly entrance fee lets you see how the Queen would have travelled.
They also have a pleasantly priced tea room. There is always time for a cream tea from this very popular tea room.
Ballater Railway station is a worthwhile visit. It is better to check the opening times before making a trip to the village if the station is your priority.
More to see
Leaving the station after tea and scones, look opposite at the solidly built imposing building in front of you.
Look up to see the dedications carved into the stone. I will let you discover the inscriptions.
Don’t go yet – look left and spy Dee Valley Confectioners, a traditional Scottish sweetie shop. You can even see the confectionery being made.
Still making sweets loved by generations of Scots such as Market Candy, Bullseyes, Humbugs, Soor Plooms and Edinburgh Rock.
Need a gift idea? – just push the door open. But if you try a “taster” after you leave, you’re going to have to go back to restock for the folk back home
Bicycle Hire in Ballater, including E-Bikes
Situated in the corner of the Sation square, next to the station, is one of the two bicycles for hire locations.
E-Bikes are also available for the more relaxed rider like me.
Bike Station is a friendly place that wants to help you get the best of the routes around Ballater and are happy to help, hiring or not.
The other recommendation for hiring your touring machine is Cycle Highland, which is close to the Church.
As always, booking ahead is the way to go as there are only so many bikes to go around.
Leaving the station square in the evening, cross over the road and carry on the road opposite you will come to the Phoenix Fish and Chip shop. Famous in Ballater, it has restricted hours in the winter months
Holiday or not, a good portion of fish and chips brings a smile, and if you want a battered haggis, it’s the place to go.
There are a few good places to have a beer and wine in Ballater. If it’s your first time in a Scottish pub then check out this advise
Craigendarroch is regarded very fondly by the people of Ballater, and most will have been to the top at some time. The informative website Deeside Walks gives good information.
Starting point: Craigendarroch Walk, 300 metres from Ballater village centre.
If you are in your 60’s like me, I will allow 2 hours or a bit more.
The view from the top on a nice day is simply spectacular with all of Ballater and the bend in the river Dee spread out before you.
Short of time, energy, or ability to get to the top, here is what it looks like
Before starting your climb, get a snack or a small picnic for the top.
In a moment, I am going to give you first-class recommendations.
But first, please, please, please, do not leave anything on the top. If you took it up, take it down.
And I fully understand that it is not your job or responsibility, but if you see some litter up there and it’s possible to bring it down, be a hero and do it.
On to Food
I love all the independent shops in Ballater, and you always know a good find when you’re in line with the locals.
Chalmers Bakery on Golf road, you can see it from the Church, is a busy traditional bakery.
Put it close to the top of your to-do list when visiting Ballater.
Craigendarroch Hill or river Dee walks are the perfect excuses to pop in and grab a freshly prepared, newly baked substantial snack for the halfway point.
One of these shops is Sheridon’s the Butchers, established in the 1960s.
You will find them not far from the Bridge of the River Dee on the left as you look towards the Church.
If you are staying in an area on a self-catering deal and are a meat eater, be kind to yourself and visit. You must try one of the Scotch Pies.
For your fresh garden vegetables and other delights, grab a basket at Deeside Deli & Garden Shop on Bridge Street, just before the Station Square.
Scotland is the Home of Golf, but it’s not a game that fires my imagination so much, probably because I am just no good at it.
However, I am told the Ballater Golf Course and club are well respected by the golfers out there and boast a stunning visual delight when looking for that lost ball.
Make a call or an email if you’re looking to visit them. Friendliness is a priority for them.
Close by is the Ballater caravan site (Is there anything this village does not have?)
Once again, I have to admit to not knowing much about Caravaning; however, a look at the website highlights all the facilities they have, it looks comprehensive to me. You can pitch a tent there as well.
Staying in Ballater in Scotland is a smart move.
Ballater is more than a village to drive through, as you are beginning to discover. As a base camp, it is as close to ideal as you can get. Folk from afar wanting to have an authentic Scottish experience and filling up their memory cards can hardly go wrong here.
But first, I will get a chance to highlight two problems that we, the ordinary citizens, can do something.
My 2 Crusades
Rubbish left around, which is just an insult if you’re visiting, and disrespecting your country if you live in Scotland.
Please pick it up even though you did not cause it. Set an example who knows someone might follow your lead
If it’s too big or dangerous, report it even if you think someone else has. It’s called nagging.
Why not organise a simple get-together and ask for support from the local authorities.
Tourists have many choices. The Scots pride themself on being different from the rest. Let’s prove it by doing our little bit.
Big business and corporations. Sure they bring some convenience to our lives but is that it?
You plan to come to Ballater to experience Ballater. The small independent family and self-employed establishments make Ballater.
Support them, please, when you can. Get a genuine smile, not a corporate mask smile.
Use the internet but before you book with a faceless corporation taking 20% or more from the booking, which is just about the net profit margin, give the business a call or email first.
Local People have local knowledge and know-how to take your time to go from great to WOW.
You can be assured that you are not going to get a run-of-the-mill generic hotel room or service.
Most of the accommodation choices in Ballater are either lived-in homes converted for visitors or somebody’s version of their hospitality.
What you are going to get, you can not place a price on
- Local knowledge
- The owner is taking care of you
- Home-cooked food with local ingredients
- A passion for hospitality
- A genuine warmth of feeling and pride in the community
As a side note, I do not get any payment or incentives to mention them here. Remember my crusade- Scots for Scots and leave the big corporations alone.
Many places will make you feel like family.
They also get to listen to years worth of people coming back from activities or visits to nearby places, which makes them perhaps the best human review site you can wish for.
Value for money? A big fat deafening yes
Here is a very short list in no particular order to get you started. If your a Ballater Business not mentioned here, then please contact me, and we will see what we can do to get you listed. There is no charge or offer of freebies needed.
All the above have consistently good reviews on all the usual review sites
Festivals and Events
It’s incredible how many small villages can put on such well-organised and popular events during the year.
Ballater has three easily recommended gatherings a year, and if you are anywhere near at the right time, you should take the time to attend
Ballater Highland Week
Just up the road, there is another venue for the Highland Games called the Braemar Gathering. It attracts people from far and wide as, traditionally, a member of the Royal Family attends
It does, at times, get a bit big for its boots.
Ballater, however, has all the joy of the Games without the public and press attention. It also has its fair share of royal visitors, but they come to see the games and support Ballater holds more personal royal warrants than any other Village in Scotland.
In the Ballater Barracks (there to protect the Royal family), the influx of military personnel also take part in the Games. The hill race is one of their favourite events.
The Ballater Highland games have been held on the second Thursday of August every year since 1864. If you are looking to wear your kilt, this is the day.
Scheduled around the week of the highland games is Ballater Victoria Week. You will bump into many Victorian characters walking the streets or shopping during this event.
A volunteer-led family feast of Sporting, Music and Outdoor Events. Plenty for the kids to do if you are staying for a few days to catch the games
Ballater Walking Week.
The week is in May. The best tip I can give is to book your accommodation early. More information can be found on the Walk Ballater Website.
All of Scotland makes a great place for walkers, ramblers and hikers, and Ballater can hold its head up high with its own Ballater Walking Week. You might even come across a few Hairy Coos.
For many people Ballater Walking Festival has become an important fixture on their calendar as it is friendly and well established, catering for a wide range of walking abilities. Many people return year after to year to try new walks, meet up with old friends and make new ones. People come to experience the joy of walking in the fantastic scenery of Royal Deeside, part of the magnificent Cairngorm National Park. “
If you find yourself in Ballater and want to experience the beauty of the natural world around the area but need the right gear to do it, then head off to The Macnab Countrywear shop.
Fishing, shooting and outdoors, they stock it all. Another lovely independent retailer with old fashion values of customer service and superior products
Great place for sound advice on what flies to use on the local waters
If you want to try your hand at fly fishing, then contact Tullich Fishery. They have all the gear and the right idea to help you cast your first fly and take home supper.
I hope I have given you an insight into Ballater. That is all it is, Insight.
There is so much to do and see in and around Ballater. It would be best if you did what many folks do, go back year after year and still find something new.
This is a “living article” about Ballater and will be updated, so keep checking back.
Thanks for reading. Stay safe