The main tourist centre on Donside is the little country town of Alford which is west of Aberdeen and really owes its existence to being chosen in 1859 as the terminus of the GNER railway.
Local Sights & Activities for Alford
The principal point of interest in town is the Grampian Transport Museum, which features a comprehensive and fascinating display of transport history, with collections of cars, buses, trams, steam engines and some more unusual exhibits. End Mar to end Oct daily, 1000-1700, £5.20, £4.40 concessions, £2.60 children. TEL. 562292.
Almost next door is the terminus for the Alford Valley Railway, a narrow-gauge railway line between Haughton park and back (one hour) this family-orientated attraction run by train enthusiasts boasts restored diesel locomotives, a 50-seat 'Silver Jubilee' carriage and a restored 1895 former Aberdeen tram car; double check timetable and prices.Apr-May and Sep Sat-Sun 1300-1700; Jun-Aug daily 1300-1700. Tel. 562811.
Six miles south of Alford is one of the northeast's most gorgeous castles, the classic tower house of Craigievar, with its impressive turrets, balustrades and cupolas. The castle remains much as it was when it was built in 1626 by wealthy local merchant, William Forbes. Unfortunately, though, its popularity led to its deterioration and the NTS now restricts entry to only a small number of visitors at a time to prevent further damage. Restoration work is ongoing on a castle that stands in extensive parkland with a waymarked path. Castle open mid-Apr-30 Sep Fri-Tue 1200-1730(last admission 1645); Grounds open all year daily 0930-dusk. £10, £7 concession. Tel. 01339-883280.
Six miles west of Alford, the A944 meets the A97 which heads north towards the town of Huntly, on Speyside. A few miles south of the junction stand the extensive and impressive ruins of Kildrummy Castle, Scotland's most complete 13th-century castle. Amongst the most infamous events in the castle's long and bloody history was the treacherous betrayal of Robert the Bruce's family to the English during the Wars of Independence. Robert Bruce sent his family there to be safe from the English but they were betrayed by the blacksmith who was offered as much gold as he could carry. After setting fire to the castle he was rewarded by having the molten gold poured down his throat. (Never trust the Sassenachs is one moral of the tale.)
It was the seat of the Earls of Mar and used as an HQ for the Jacobite rebellion of 1715, after which the sixth Earl of Mar ('Bobbing John') fled to exile in France and the castle fell into ruin. Apr-Nov daily 0930-1830. The Kildrummy Castle Gardens are also worth a visit. Castle open Apr-Sep daily 0930-1830, £2.50, £1.60 concessions, £0.75 children. Tel.01975-571331.
The railway station is also where you'll find the Tourist Information Centre.TEL. 562052. Open April-May and September Monday-Saturday 1000-1300, Sunday 1300-1700; June-August Monday-Saturday 1000-1200, 1230-1700, Sunday 1300-1700. Also in town is the Alford Heritage Centre, on Mart Road, which has a large display of agricultural and domestic items. Apr-Oct Mon-Sat 1000-1700, Sun 1300-1700. Tel. 562906.
Alford is close to The Lecht ski centre but you can also ski here all year round on the local dry ski slope at the Alford Ski Centre, on Greystone Road, Tel. 563024. There's also snowboarding, instruction and equipment hire.
The tiny village of Strathdon, 10 miles southwest of Kildrummy, is famous for its Highland Games, known as the Lonach Highland Gathering, held on the third Saturday in August, and a healthy blast of authenticity in comparison to the rather more glitzy affair at Braemar on Deeside. The Scottish comedian, Billy Connolly owns a house in the area.
As you head west through Strathdon, you'll see a sign which appears to tell you that you're lost, but in fact is pointing the way to the wonderfully named village of Lost, four miles north of Strathdon, in the middle of nowhere. Take the turning off the A944 at Bellabeg. This road also leads to the excellent Lost Gallery, which shows work by contemporary artists and is well worth visiting. Wed-Sun 1100-1700. Tel. 651287.
Phone code: +44 (0)1975
Five miles west of Strathdon the A944 meets the A939 Ballater-Tomintoul road. A few miles beyond the junction is the austere Corgarff Castle, a 16th-century tower house, later turned into a garrison post, with an eventful and gruesome history. Here Margaret Forbes and her family were burned alive by the Gordons in 1571 during the bitter feud between the two families. In the wake of the ill-fated 1745 rebellion the government remodelled the castle, building a star-shaped defensive wall, and garrisoned 60 men to maintain order and communications in this part of the Highlands. Corgarff continued in use into the 19th century when English Redcoats were stationed here in order to prevent whisky smuggling. Today it's managed by Historic Scotland. Apr-Sep daily 0930-1830; Oct-Mar Sat-Sun 0930-1630, £3.50. Tel. 651460. Just before the castle an old military road leads for about a mile to F Jenny's Bothy, Tel. 651449. Open all year, a basic but wonderfully remote bunkhouse.
Beside Corgarff is the hamlet of Cock Bridge, standing at the end of one the most beautiful and notorious stretches of road in the country. In winter, the Tomintoul to Cock Bridge road is almost always the first road in Scotland to be blocked by snow (you have been warned!). From Cock Bridge the A939 rises steeply to the Lecht Pass (2,089 ft) before dropping dramatically to Tomintoul, the highest village in the Highlands. Tomintoul is a bit of a one-horse town and, like so many others in this area, is an 18th-century planned village, built by the local laird to keep an eye on his tenants. It lies roughly midway between the Don Valley and Speyside, and is therefore well-placed for both the Whisky and Castle Trails. It is also the nearest settlement of any size to The Lecht, one of Scotland's top five ski resorts, and it marks the end of the long-distance Speyside Way, so is popular with walkers and skiers.
On the village square is the Museum and Visitor Centre, which has a display of local history, wildlife, landscape and outdoor activities. Jun-Sep Mon-Sat 1000-1600; Oct-May Mon-Fri 1000-1600. Free. Tel. 673701. Ten miles north of Tomintoul on the B9008 is the Glenlivet Crown Estate, with an extensive network of hiking paths and cycle trails, as well as lots of wildlife, including reindeer. Information and free maps are available from the ranger's office in Tomintoul, Tel. 580283.
Converted from a traditional mill and steading, our holiday cottages nestle on the side of a spectacular, secluded Scottish Highland glen in the Cairngorms National Park. more details about Easter Corrie Holiday Cottages
Sleeping and eating
There are a few hotels around the main square, the nicest of which is the Glenavon Hotel, Tel. 580218. It is also the best place for a drink, and popular with après-skiers, tired walkers and locals. There's also a B&B Livet House, Main St, Tel. 580205. There's the SYHA Youth Hostel, on Main St, Tel. 580282. Other than the hotels, the best place to eat is the Clockhouse on the Square.
Alford Hotels & Accommodation
Self Catering Accommodation
Freshly renovated , this stylish self-catering accommodation can sleep up to 6 persons. Set amidst its own private garden and situated on a small, quiet working farm in the Donside area of rural Aberdeenshire, it is easily accessible to all the nearby tourist attractions, Whisky and Castle trails and outdoor fun activities like fishing, golfing and walking. Children are welcome ;disabled access and disabled parking.Tel: +44 (1975) 562584