Royal Deeside is one of the most picturesque parts of Scotland with its lush woodlands and dramatic peaks.
It is easy to see why this area has long been such a favourite with the Royal Family. Balmoral, their Scottish home, is situated here amid magnificent scenery.
Purchased in 1848 by Queen Victoria, Balmoral Estate extends to just over 50,000 acres of heather-clad hills and ancient Caledonian woodland. Careful stewardship has preserved the wildlife, scenery and architecture which is available for all to enjoy.
Balmoral is partly open to visitors from April 1 to July 31. The private rooms of Queen Elizabeth II are not open to the public but you can see the ballroom – the largest room in the castle.
Here, visitors admire works of art by Sir Edwin Landseer and Carl Haag, silver statues by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm, Minton China and artefacts belonging to kings and queens through history. In 2009 a collection of royal dress belonging to Her Majesty, including the outfit worn to the opening of the Scottish Parliament, went on display in the ballroom.
A recently-restored Victorian cot, part of the ballroom exhibition, was found in the castle. It’s possible that it was used by some of Queen Victoria’s children.
Braemar Castle is an impressive fortress built in 1628. It was used by Hanoverian troops after the Jacobite Rising of 1745 before being transformed into a residence.
If you hope to see members of the current Royal Family, don’t miss the annual Braemar Royal Highland Gathering.
To explore further, follow in the footsteps of royals past and present and take the Victorian Heritage Trail and discover a truly majestic landscape.
Drum Castle is the oldest intact building in the care of the National Trust for Scotland. Complete with its 13th-century tower, the castle was home to the Irvine family from 1323 to 1975.
Crathes Castle is a magnificent 16th-century tower house and is also known for its magnificent gardens, described as the Sissinghurst of Scotland. The castle was occupied by the Burnetts of Leys for over 350 years and was a childhood home of the Queen Mother. The castle interior is full of treasures including the Horn of Leys, given to Alexander Burnard by Robert the Bruce in 1323.
Next to Crathes Castle, the Royal Deeside Railway at Milton Arts and Crafts Village is an exciting restoration project. For over 100 years, the Deeside Railway carried passengers and goods from Aberdeen into the heart of Royal Deeside. Closed in 1966, a section of the line is now being brought back to life by the Royal Deeside Railway Preservation Society.
The visitor centre, housed in two railway carriages, is open at weekends.
The spa village of Ballater is a favourite with the Royal Family. Royal warrant “by appointment” can be seen on many shop fronts. This is one of the best places to start the official Victorian Heritage Trail.
In August, the village holds Victoria Week with Highland Games, a parade of vintage and classic cars and floats, competitions, guided walks, history tours, musical events, ghost tours and much more.
The former royal station at Ballater has been turned into a visitor centre and includes the Royal Waiting Room built in 1886 for Queen Victoria.
Balmoral Castle photo (main): Louise McGilviray / Fotolia
Ballater photos: Alan Hendry