15 Best Things To Do In Ballater, Scotland

15 Best Things To Do In Ballater, Scotland

By will

Ah, Ballater! This quaint town in Aberdeenshire, Scotland has been a popular destination for travelers for centuries. Whether you’re looking for a romantic getaway or an adventure-filled family vacation, Ballater has something for everyone.

From historic castles and grand estates to breathtaking landscapes and outdoor activities, there’s no shortage of things to do here. I’ve put together a list of the 15 best things to do in Ballater to help you make the most of your time here.

From exploring Balmoral Castle to kayaking on the River Dee, you’re sure to find something that appeals to you.

So grab your walking shoes and let’s get started!

Visit Balmoral Castle

Balmoral Castle
Photo by Malc McDonald

Visiting Balmoral Castle is an unforgettable experience that’ll leave you with amazing memories!

Located in Ballater, Scotland, Balmoral Castle is the private residence of the British royal family. The castle is situated in the breathtakingly beautiful Deeside Valley, surrounded by lush hills and forests.

The castle is steeped in history, having been acquired by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1852. Visitors can explore the magnificent gardens and take a tour of the castle, where they can get a glimpse into the royal family’s life and history. The castle has been a favorite holiday destination for the royals for over 150 years.

Visitors can marvel at the beautiful interiors of the castle, with its grand halls, ornate furniture, and priceless works of art. The castle also offers a variety of activities such as guided tours, exhibitions, falconry displays, and the chance to spot red deer in the grounds.

With its stunning views and rich history, Balmoral Castle is a must-visit for anyone looking for an unforgettable experience.

Wander Around the Ballater Old Bridge

River Dee, Ballater
Photo by Malc McDonald

Strolling across the Old Bridge, you can’t help but marvel at its beautiful stone arches and stunning views of the River Dee. Built in 1786 and designed by John Gibb, the bridge serves as a reminder of the town’s rich history.

It’s a popular spot for visitors, who come to take in the stunning views of the River Dee and the nearby countryside. On a sunny day, the water sparkles and reflects the sunlight, making it a truly magical experience.

The bridge has become a symbol of Ballater and its people, as it remains one of the most iconic landmarks in town. The bridge has been featured in many films and photographs, and its beauty has been admired by countless visitors throughout the years.

Whether you’re looking for a scenic stroll or just want to take in the views, the Old Bridge is the perfect spot.

Enjoy a Boat Trip on the River Dee

Boat Trip on the River Dee
Photo by Jeff Buck

Exploring Ballater’s countryside from the River Dee is a unique experience that can’t be missed. Taking a boat ride from Ballater is the perfect opportunity to discover the stunning natural beauty of the area. You’ll be able to admire the picturesque landscape as you travel along the river, which is surrounded by majestic mountains and lush green forests.

Plus, it’s a great way to get a different perspective on life in Ballater. The River Dee is also home to many species of fish, birds, and mammals, so there’s always plenty of wildlife to observe during your trip. Plus, you can even rent fishing gear, so you can try your hand at catching a few fish. This is sure to be an unforgettable experience, and you’ll be able to take home some great memories of your time spent in Ballater.

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Explore Balmoral Estates

Lochnagar, on the Balmoral estate
Photo by Alan Findlay

Take a journey through Balmoral Estates and marvel at its breathtaking beauty.

Spread across 50,000 acres of land, Balmoral Estates is a sight to behold.

Established in 1848, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert purchased the estate for a summer residence.

Today, the estate is still owned by the royal family and offers a variety of activities for visitors, including guided tours, fishing, and a garden café.

On a guided tour, you can explore the many historical sites located throughout the estate.

Highlights include the Balmoral Castle, the Ballroom, and the Church of Scotland.

The Ballroom, which was added in 1870, is the largest room in the castle and is home to some of the most elaborate furnishings and decorations.

The Church of Scotland is a popular destination, where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were married in 1847.

After your tour, you can explore the grounds of the estate and take in the spectacular views of the River Dee.

Sample Local Cuisine at the Ballater Deli

Treat yourself to the delicious fare of the Ballater Deli and sample some of the local specialties. This cozy deli located in the center of Ballater is a great spot to sample some of the area’s finest cuisine.

Whether you opt for a light lunch or a scrumptious dinner, the Ballater Deli offers an array of traditional dishes that will leave you with a full stomach and a satisfied taste palette. From tasty sandwiches and savory pies to fresh salads and hearty soups, the deli has something to satisfy every appetite.

The staff are friendly and will gladly help you find the perfect meal.

The Ballater Deli is also a great place to pick up some local produce. Here, you can find locally-sourced produce, such as fruits, vegetables, meat, and dairy products. This is the perfect opportunity to try some of the regional specialties, like the renowned Aberdeenshire beef and the famous Highland cheese.

The deli also offers a wide selection of beverages, including tea, coffee, and alcoholic drinks.

So, come to the Ballater Deli and enjoy all the local cuisine it has to offer.

Visit the RSPB Abernethy National Nature Reserve

Immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Abernethy National Nature Reserve by visiting this stunning stretch of land in Scotland. Located in the Cairngorms National Park, the RSPB Abernethy Nature Reserve offers over 4,000 hectares of protected habitat for a variety of wildlife.

The area consists of woodland, bogs, lochs, and open moorland, and visitors can enjoy a range of activities from hiking to birdwatching. It’s a great spot to spot a variety of birds, including black grouse, red deer, and ospreys, as well as other species of plants and animals.

The reserve also offers a range of guided walks, allowing visitors to learn more about the area and its wildlife. For the more adventurous, there’s the opportunity to take part in a variety of activities such as guided canoe trips, mountain biking, and wildlife photography.

Whether you’re looking for an exciting outdoor adventure or a peaceful nature experience, Abernethy National Nature Reserve has something for everyone.

Take a Hike in the Cairngorms National Park

Explore the breathtaking scenery of the Cairngorms National Park with a hike through its rolling hills, lush forests, and tranquil lochs.

Located near Ballater, this national park is the perfect place to spend a day in the outdoors.

The Cairngorms offer plenty of different walks, from gentle strolls to challenging treks.

Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner, you’ll find a route that’s just right for you.

Cairngorms National Park is the largest national park in the UK, and it’s home to an abundance of wildlife.

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As you hike, you may spot red squirrels, golden eagles, and wild deer, and you might even get a glimpse of the elusive Cairngorm reindeer.

Make sure to bring your camera to capture the stunning views, and don’t forget to stop at the visitor centers to learn more about the park and its inhabitants.

Shop at the Victorian Market

After getting some exercise exploring the Cairngorms National Park, it’s time to head to the Victorian Market in Ballater for a spot of shopping.

This historic market hall was built in 1892 and is the perfect spot to pick up a souvenir or two. It’s also a great way to get a feel for the local culture and take in the unique atmosphere of this charming town.

The Victorian Market has a wide variety of local and artisan goods, from handmade jewelry and crafts to food from local producers. It’s the ideal place to find a unique gift that you won’t find anywhere else.

There’s also a selection of cafes and restaurants, so you can take a break and relax while you shop. Plus, the market is open seven days a week, making it easy to fit into any schedule.

Take a Tour of the Old Royal Station

Take a journey back in time and step into Ballater’s history with a visit to the Old Royal Station.

Built in 1866, the Old Royal Station is a stunning example of Victorian architecture. It served as the main train station for Ballater until 1966, when the new Royal Station was completed.

Today, the Old Royal Station is a popular tourist attraction, offering guided tours of its grandiose interior. The tour takes visitors through the station’s main hall, which features beautiful wooden archways, stained glass windows, and ornate fireplaces.

Guests can also explore the station’s old ticket office, baggage room, and passenger waiting room, as well as learn about the station’s royal history.

The tour also takes visitors to the station’s old platform, where they can get a glimpse of the old steam trains that once passed through.

The tour is a great way to learn more about Ballater’s history and get an up-close look at a stunning piece of Victorian architecture.

See the Fife Arms Hotel

Perched atop the hill in the center of the town, the Fife Arms Hotel stands as a stunning reminder of the Victorian era. Built in 1874, the hotel has retained much of its original charm. From its grand façade to its intricate stonework. Inside, the hotel is full of unique features. Including a grand staircase, an ornate fireplace, and a marble-floored lobby.

The hotel is also home to a number of historic artifacts. Such as the original paintings and the stunning stained glass windows. Visitors can also enjoy a range of activities. Such as dining in the award-winning restaurants, taking a dip in the luxurious spa, or simply having a drink in the bar.

With its stunning views, the Fife Arms Hotel is the perfect place to stay or visit. And is sure to provide a memorable experience.

Visit the Invercauld Estate

After visiting the Fife Arms Hotel, it’s time to head over and explore the Invercauld Estate. This historical estate has been a home for the Farquharson family since the mid-16th century and is located on the banks of the River Dee in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.

I’m always impressed by the beauty of this estate, which includes a Georgian mansion, extensive gardens, and even a castle. The mansion is now open to the public and offers tours and events throughout the year.

The gardens offer breathtaking views of the River Dee and the surrounding countryside. There are also a variety of activities to enjoy, from woodland walks to water sports.

The castle has been restored to its former glory and is open to visitors, with many interactive displays and activities.

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With so much to see and do, Invercauld Estate is a must-see destination.

Go Fishing at the Loch Muick

Head to Loch Muick to experience the thrill of fishing in a stunning setting! As you cast your line, take in the majestic views of the surrounding mountains and glistening waters.

Loch Muick is a great spot for anglers of any skill level. Whether you’re an experienced fisherman or a beginner, you’ll be sure to catch something in the loch’s abundant waters. The loch is stocked with a variety of fish, including brown trout and perch. You can even spot the odd salmon or sea trout if you’re lucky!

Not to mention the breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains and valleys. If you’re looking for a peaceful place to spend some time outdoors, Loch Muick is the perfect spot. Enjoy the fresh air, peacefulness of the loch, and the thrill of casting your line into the still waters.

It’s an experience you won’t soon forget!

Enjoy a Pint at the Old Bridge Inn

Having enjoyed a peaceful morning fishing at Loch Muick, I decided to take in some of the local culture and food by visiting the Old Bridge Inn.

This inn was built in 1867 as a coaching inn and is still standing today. It has a beautiful atmosphere, with its wooden furniture, cozy fireplaces, and traditional pub food.

The Old Bridge Inn has a great selection of ales, lagers, and ciders. They also offer a selection of fine wines, spirits, and soft drinks.

The staff is friendly and always willing to help you find the perfect drink for your taste.

A visit to the Old Bridge Inn is a great way to relax after a day of exploring Ballater and a great way to enjoy some authentic local cuisine.

Go Horse Riding at the Glen Tanar Estate

Set off for the Glen Tanar Estate and experience the exhilarating thrill of horse riding amidst the stunning landscapes of the Cairngorms.

Located just 8 miles outside of Ballater, the estate is brimming with picturesque trails and beautiful landscapes.

The estate is home to the Glen Tanar Riding School, where you can take riding lessons and enjoy a leisurely ride through the grounds.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced rider, you can take part in a range of activities such as treks, hacks, beach rides, and games.

For those seeking an adrenaline rush, the estate also offers guided trail rides and cross-country rides.

The Glen Tanar Estate also offers a range of accommodation, from camping sites to luxury lodges.

There’s also a range of activities available such as clay pigeon shooting, archery, and orienteering.

The estate also hosts a variety of events such as equestrian competitions, Highland games, and live music events.

So, if you’re looking for an adventure-filled day out, make sure to add the Glen Tanar Estate to your list of destinations when visiting Ballater.

Take a Kayak Trip on the River Dee

Experience the beauty of the River Dee in Ballater from the seat of a kayak and immerse yourself in the tranquil stillness of nature.

You can take a kayak trip on the river for a few hours or even a day.

The scenery is stunning and the wildlife plentiful.

You can paddle your way along the river, taking in the spectacular views of the surrounding hills and mountains.

Along the way, you’ll have the opportunity to spot a variety of birds, fish, and even the occasional otter.

The stillness of the river and the surrounding area is calming and peaceful, providing the perfect backdrop for a leisurely kayak trip.

With the right equipment and experienced guides, you can make the most of your kayak trip on the River Dee in Ballater and have a wonderful day out.

Conclusion

I’ve had an amazing time exploring Ballater. From Balmoral Castle to the River Dee, there’s something for everyone.

I particularly enjoyed exploring Balmoral Estates and sampling the local cuisine at the Ballater Deli.

I’m looking forward to returning soon to enjoy the Old Bridge Inn, go horse riding at the Glen Tanar Estate, and take a kayak trip on the River Dee.

I definitely recommend visiting Ballater if you’re looking for a unique and memorable experience. It’s a place full of history and culture, and you’ll be sure to have an unforgettable time.

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About the author

Will is an avid hillwalker and traveler. You may find him surfing in Cornwall or hiking in the Yorkshire Dales.