Nine miles west of Balmoral, is Braemar, the final town on Deeside, lying at the foot of the awesome, brooding Cairngorm massif, which dominates the Eastern Highlands.
Even at the height of summer you can see a dab of snow still lying in a hollow in the surrounding mountains, and Braemar is an excellent base for hiking, and winter skiing at Glenshee. Braemar is officially the coldest place in Britain and is well known for its mountains and Scottish wildlife.
It's an attractive little place, much loved by Queen Victoria and much visited during its annual Braemar Gathering (or games), which attracts tens of thousands of visitors each year, amongst them members of the royal family. The games are held on the first Saturday in September. Booking is essential and tickets can be bought in advance from the Booking Secretary, BRHS, Coilacreich, Ballater, AB35 5UH, Tel. 755377
The Tourist Information Centre in Braemar is in Balmoral Mews, on Mar Rd. It's open daily Jan-May and Sep-Dec 1000-1700, Jun 0930-1800, Jul-Aug 0930-1900. Tel. 741600.
The Braemar Highland Heritage Centre, in Balmoral Mews by the tourist office, includes informative talks (in several languages) on the area, an exhibition and shops. Daily Apr-Sep 0900-1800 (Jul-Aug till 2000), Oct-Mar 1000-1700. Free. Tel. 741944. For rental of ski equipment, try The Braemar Ski School Hire, in Victoria Hall on Glenshee Rd.
Just north of the village, and well signposted, is Braemar Castle, dating from 1628. This impressive fortress was used by Hanoverian troops after the Jacobite Rising of 1745. It is L-shaped, with a star-shaped defensive wall and a central round tower with a spiral stair. There are barrel-vaulted ceilings and an underground prison. The world's largest cairngorm (a semi-precious stone, a variety of quartz, which is yellow, grey or brown in colour) weighing 52lbs is on display in the morning room. There's also a piece of tartan worn by Prince Charles Edward, Bonnie Prince Charlie. See below for opening times. Tel. 741219.
A very scenic side trip from Braemar is to the Linn of Dee, six miles west of the village, at the end of the road. Here, the river thunders through a narrow gorge to spectacular effect. There are numerous walks from here along the river, or for the more adventurous, the famous Lairig Ghru, which runs through the Cairngorms to Aviemore (see below).
Phone code: +44 (0)1339
Local Sights & Activities for Braemar
Braemar has an array of outdoor leisure activities too. The 18-hole golf course attracts golfers all year round. There are plenty of climbing and walking opportunities. Other attractions on offer include Braemar Castle which dates back to 1628; the Cairngorms National Park, Highland Safari tours and the Glenshee Snow-sport School and Ski Centre- tel:(013397) 41320.
Braemar is home to the world famous Braemar Gathering held annually on the first Saturday in September. The Junior Highland Games is held as part of the annual Braemar Gala Week in July.
Braemar Hotels & Accommodation
Accommodation is hard to find before and during the Braemar Gathering, but at other times of the year there's plenty to choose from.
Best of all is the Braemar Lodge Hotel, Tel. 741627, on the outskirts of the village on the road south to Glenshee and Blairgowrie. Book through the LateRooms link above for the best prices.
There's also the Invercauld Arms Hotel, Tel. 741605, and the Callater Lodge Hotel, Glenshee Rd, Tel. 741275, www. hotel-braemar.co.uk Small and comfortable.
There are plenty of guesthouses and B&Bs, including Schiehallion House, Tel. 741679, open Jan-Oct on Glenshee Rd; and Clunie Lodge, Tel. 741330, on Cluniebank Rd.
There's a SYHA Youth Hostel, Tel. 741659, open all year, at Corrie Feragie on Glenshee Rd; and also Rucksacks, 15 Mar Rd, Tel. 741517, a cheap and friendly bunkhouse that's popular with hikers and also rents out mountain bikes.
Between the Linn of Dee and the tiny settlement of Inverey, a mile to the east, there's a very basic youth hostel (open mid-May to early October), which has no phone, so book through Braemar hostel. A postbus runs in the afternoon (Monday-Saturday) from Braemar to the Linn of Dee, via the hostel.
There's camping at Invercauld Caravan Site, Tel. 741373, open Dec-Oct, on Glenshee Rd.