Eight miles west of Ballater is the area's main attraction, Balmoral Castle. You can visit the gardens and some of the castle between April and July during the year...
The 16th-century tower house, formerly owned by the local Gordon family, was bought for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert in 1852 and converted into today's baronial mansion. It has been the royal family's summer retreat ever since. Only the ballroom and the grounds are open to the likes of you and me, and only for three months of the year.
Pony trekking and pony cart rides are available around the estate grounds and are favourite ways of enjoying the wonderful scenery. Opposite the castle gates is Crathie Church, which is used by the family when they're in residence. There's a small souvenir shop next to the main gates and a visitor centre which gives a lot of information on the castle and its owners. Also at Crathie is the Inver, an 18th-century inn which serves good, honest food (best to book, Tel. 01339-742345). Mid-Apr to end Jul, daily 1000-1700 (closed on Sun in Apr-May). Tel. 742334. Buses to Braemar from Aberdeen stop by the gates.