There are a whole host of things to do in Ballater whilst visiting. Balmoral Estate and Royal Lochnagar Distillery are near Ballater, whilst the scenery, wildlife, local walking trails, and a range of activities around the town, Royal Deeside and the Cairngorms National Park have attracted visitors since the time of Queen Victoria.
Ballater is near to Balmoral Castle, the Scottish holiday home of the British Royal Family, and Crathie Church, where the family worship when in residence. Stately mansions and historic castles like Crathes and Braemar lead visitors along the Aberdeenshire Castle Trail, embracing centuries of Scottish heritage and culture along the way.
Scroll through to see our top tips for discovering the royal heritage of Royal Deeside.
Balmoral Castle and estate is the Scottish summer home of the Royal Family including His Majesty King Charles. The castle is a wonderful example of Scots Baronial architecture and the building has been awarded a category A listing by Historic Scotland. The grounds, gardens, exhibitions, gift shop and cafe are normally open to the Public on a daily basis from April through July.
Admission includes parking, access to the formal and vegetable gardens, the exhibitions in the stable area and largest room in the Castle, the Ballroom.
Crathie kirk is a small local church and is known as being a regular place of worship for the royals when they are visiting Balmoral Castle. Crathie Kirk yard is the resting place of Queen Victoria’s well known highland servant John Brown whose name you may recognise from the film Mrs Brown.
Drum castle is one of Scotland’s oldest tower houses and has many wonderful attractions worth seeing other than the castle building itself, the historic art inside, old oak trees or the wonderfully aromatic rose garden. We personally recommend visiting the rose garden whilst the sun is setting for the most beautiful experience.
This castle is a cliff top ruin with a stunning sea view. It is located on the east coast of Scotland around 2 miles south of Stonehaven. The surviving parts of the ruin are thought to be from the 15th century. This photogenic landmark is full of Scottish history, Visit their website for directions and opening times.
There is so much to do in Ballater, from visiting heritage sites, discovering wildlife, sampling the local larder and shopping. The Victorian village of Ballater is bustling with art galleries, delis and gift shops. Whether you are looking for a souvenir of your time, some new country boots or equipment for your adventure, we have listed some of our top tips below. Scroll through to see our must-do recommendations for Ballater.
The old royal station in Ballater is at the heart of the village, and is now used as the tourist information office. The last passenger train to go past the station was in 1966. The royal station tragically burnt down in 2015 but was rebuilt and reopened in 2018.
Outside of 1852 and The Ghillies Bar, there are many local cafes and delis where you can sample the taste of Royal Deeside.
The Roaring Stag - local family run roasters.
Shorty's Ice Cream Parlour - homemade ice cream and milkshakes,
Dee Valley Confectionary - a delightful sweetie factory with a wide range of chocolates, sweets and ice lollies.
Byron Bakery - producers of the classic Balmoral bread along with wonderful pies and cakes.
Deeside Deli - sellers of fresh fruits, vegetables and a selection of home bakes, cheeses and antipasti.
There is an array of local shops in Ballater, offering everything from crafts, country attire, art and much more.
Strachan's of Deeside - stocks a wide range of crafts and gifts.
MacNabs - Perfect to pick up equipment for fishing or shooting. Also great for wellie boots (a must to embrace the rain).
The Outdoor Store - Lots of outdoor clothing in stock, perfect for all adventures.
Wool and Wool - Here you will find a delightful collection of furnishing, ceramics and paintings.
Deeside Deli - sellers of fresh fruits, vegetables and a selection of homebakes, cheeses and antipasti.
Throughout the year, walkers, hikers and mountain bikers follow trails and maps across the region, rewarded with views of lochs, mountains and forests and glimpses of local wildlife. In the winter season, skiers and snowboarders flock to nearby Glenshee and The Lecht within the Cairngorms National Park for seasonal snow sports. With so many walking routes and trails on offer, we've listed some of the best walks near Ballater in Aberdeenshire.
There are a range of options open to visitors from gentle walks around the glens of the River Dee, up to more challenging routes which often see visitors traversing a munro, such as the famous Lochnagar.
There are many opportunities for anglers in Ballater, from catching wild brown trout in the misty mountain lochs, to bagging salmon or seeking rainbow trout in one of the many lochs close to Ballater.
Hunters can stalk deer in the woodlands or heather-clad moorlands in Ballater, with roe deer available in both the hills and high seats in the woodlands on the estate’s lower ground. Large red stags are considered to present an excellent hunters challenge. There are a few estates in Royal Deeside that offer organised grouse shooting by car or foot, as well as red and roe deer stalking trips.
Balmoral Arms, Ballater is located near Glenshee Ski Centre and The Lecht.
The area offers the option of road touring, to challenging mountainous routes for mountain biking. At Balmoral Arms we are located opposite Cyclehighlands, Scotland's number one Santa Cruz dealer and demo centre.
You can also visit the Bike Station on Station Square who have a variety of bikes, including e-bikes for hire.
The scenery, wildlife and range of activities in Ballater and Royal Deeside have attracted visitors since the time of Queen Victoria. Red squirrels, black grouse, Scottish wildcats and golden eagles call the local Highland wilderness their home.
Ballater offers plenty of walking for your dog. The hills and trails of the Cairngorms National Park are easily accessible and shorter walks are available directly from our dog friendly inn, in Ballater. A number of our guestrooms are dog friendly and we can accommodate a maximum of two dogs per room at a charge of £20 per dog per night. Guide and assistance dogs stay free of charge and we make a charitable donation for every one that stays.
Doggy Rules – The Bare Bones:
- We ask that you keep your humans on a lead while in public areas
- We have a dedicated dining area for you in The Ghillies Bar when you and your humans get hungry.
- Not eating but want to relax? Join us in the Lounge.
- If you need a lie-down, we ask that you keep your humans on the furniture and you take prime position by the fires, the comfy rugs or our dog beds.
- Keep the barks down.
Travelling from the south on the A93, follow the road to the centre of Ballater and turn right on to Victoria Road. Balmoral Arms sits on the left hand side of the road. From Aberdeen and the east, follow the A93 into Ballater, driving alongside the River Dee on Tulloch Road. At the end of Tulloch Road, turn right on to Bridge Street, then take a left turn into Victoria Road, where Balmoral Arms sits on your left. The nearest railway station is Aberdeen. From there you can take the Stagecoach bus to Ballater. For full information on public transport links to and from the area, visit www.travelinescotland.com.
Set within the heart of the Cairngorms National Park, bursting with adventure and exploration, a relaxing bar area, cosy suites and rooms, the Balmoral Arms is the perfect Inn in Aberdeenshire.
Explore our suites and rooms, and check our available dates. With adventure on our doorstep, our rooms are in high demand, so we would recommend booking your hotel break in advance to save disappointment.
Where in Scotland is Ballater?
The Victorian village of Ballater is located in the county of Aberdeenshire, 36 miles west of city Aberdeen and 76 miles north of the capital, Edinburgh. The village sits in the heart of Royal Deeside at the eastern gateway to Cairngorms National Park, so makes it a very popular destination for tourists.
Who built Balmoral Castle?
The current Balmoral Castle was built in 1856 by William Smith for Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. The previous buildings that were enhanced by Sir Robert Gordon were taken down in 1855. The original Balmoral Castle dates all the way to 1390, built by Sir William Drummond who was a famous Scottish poet and diplomat.
Can you walk around Balmoral Castle?
Balmoral Castle is due to reopen in April, where rangers lead two-hour guided walks around the estate. This walk is included in the price of admission, but must be booked in advance.
You can still visit the Balmoral Estate through the winter, with the gates open and no admission fees during October, November and December.
Does Ballater have a train station?
Ballater does not have a train station, however there are regular buses (the 201 service) that passes Victoria Road and Golf Road in Ballater, which takes you between Banchory, Ballater and Braemar, from Aberdeen which itself has train services.
How do I get to Ballater Scotland?
You can take a train to Aberdeen, then either hire a car from there and drive to Ballater, or take the 201 bus to Braemar, which stops at Victoria Road or Golf Road in Ballater.
By air, Aberdeen Airport (ABZ) is under a 20 minute drive or taxi to Aberdeen Train Station, and the airport is a few miles from Dyce train station with transfer options, the train from Dyce takes less than 10 minutes to reach Aberdeen Train Station. The First Bus X27 also travels between Dyce station and Aberdeen City Centre. The railway station in Aberdeen is helpfully located right next to the bus station.
Otherwise, if you are visiting in a car, put Ballater in your satnav and enjoy the scenic journey through the gorgeous Aberdeenshire countryside.
Dogs always welcome
Variety of wildlife from eagles to deer
Balmoral Castle nearby
Cairngorms National Park
Fishing, hiking and stalking
Dirty wellies/boots welcome
Keeping you connected
Live traditional music
Royal Lochnagar Distillery
Glenshee and The Lecht
Local produce specialities