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Ballater is a small town in Aberdeenshire in North East Scotland, about 25 miles west of Aberdeen. It grew up as resort town in the Victorian era and in 2006 had a population of 1520. It’s on A93, the main road up the Dee Valley, and is a good base for exploring Deeside and Cairngorms National Park. This pages also covers the area around Strathdon.

Get in[edit]

Balmoral Castle

Getting here by public transport means first reaching Aberdeen, which has UK and European flights, trains from England, Edinburgh, Dundee and Glasgow, and long distance coaches.

Stagecoach North Scotland Bus 201 runs from Aberdeen Union Square via Crathes Castle and Banchory to Ballater (2 hours) and continues via Crathie (for Balmoral) to Braemar. It runs hourly M-Sat and every two hours on Sunday.

Stagecoach Bus 218 runs from Aberdeen, five buses M-F as far as Alford, 80 mins. Schooldays only, a single Bus 219 continues from Alford to Strathdon, another hour.

By car, the quickest approach is along A93 west from Aberdeen. A slower scenic route is to follow A93 north from Perth up Glenshee to Braemar then east.

Get around[edit]

Attractions are scattered, you need a car or at least a bike.


  • 1 Balmoral Castle, Balmoral Estates, Ballater AB35 5T (off A93 midway between Ballater and Braemar). April-July daily 10:00-17:00, occasional guided tours in winter. Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband, bought this land and built a grandiloquent pile of a castle, the prototype of the "Scottish Baronial" style, all mock-turrets and stags heads looming over the stairways. Completed in 1856, it remains the Royal Family's summer holiday home. You can only visit one room within the castle, the ballroom, plus an exhibition in the stables, and the gardens. The queen is usually resident in Aug and Sept, so there is no access then. See website for dates of guided tours in winter. Adult £11.50. Balmoral Castle (Q42049) on Wikidata Balmoral Castle on Wikipedia
  • See Banchory for Crathes Castle and other nearby attractions.
  • 2 Glenbuchat Castle, Strathdon AB36 8TN, +44 7713 627190. Roofless but substantial ruin of a Z-plan tower house built in 1590 for John Gordon of Cairnborrow, possibly by re-cycling stone from Kildrummy. The castle is unsafe and fenced off but you can look at it from the woodland park. Glenbuchat Castle (Q2068994) on Wikidata Glenbuchat Castle on Wikipedia
  • 3 Corgarff Castle, Strathdon AB36 8YP. Apr-Sept daily 09:30-17:00. Mid 16th century tower house castle with reconstructed 1750 redcoat barracks. Adult £6. Corgarff Castle (Q2157892) on Wikidata Corgarff Castle on Wikipedia
  • 4 Strathdon or Bellabeg is a village on A944 where the main sight is the Doune of Invernochty, a set of earthworks and foundations for a 12th century castle. It's just southwest of village centre and free to stroll. The lane up the valley northwest leads to the little settlement of Lost, which for obvious reasons can't be shown on the map.
  • 5 Kildrummy Castle, Alford AB33 8RA (on A97 near Alford). Daily Apr-Sept 09:30-17:30. This is an extensive 13th century ruin, perched over a ravine and with gardens. Adult £6. Kildrummy Castle (Q1741270) on Wikidata Kildrummy Castle on Wikipedia
  • See Huntly for sights further north, such as St Mary's Kirk and Tap o' Noth near Rhynie.


  • Golf: Ballater GC is on Victoria Rd, south side of the village. White tees 6059 yards, par 70, vistor round £45.
  • Ski at 1 Lecht 2090, Strathdon AB36 8YP (on A939 between Ballater / Strathdon and Tomintoul), +44 1975 651440. "2090" means in feet, it's only 645 metres altitude at base, with the hills above rising to 775 m. So do the maths, it's a beginners' and family-oriented resort. It has 12 lifts including a "magic carpet" for wobbly novices, half a dozen short runs on the shady side west of the road, one even shorter run on the sunny east slope. There are mountain bike trails here in summer.
  • You can also ski at Glenshee, see Aberdeenshire.
  • 2 Lochnagar, a Munro of 1155 m / 3789 ft, is the signature climb here. The simplest ascent is from Glen Muick: drive up the lane branching south from B976 at Bridge of Muick. The path from the car park is obvious, and does not cross a deer-stalking range. (Other high-level paths may be unsafe M-Sa late Aug - Oct.) Reckon 6-7 hours there and back, 12 miles / 19 km total.
  • Ballater Highland Games are held on the second Thursday in August at Monaltrie Park. The next are on Thurs 11 Aug 2022.
  • Lonach Highland Games are held in Bellabeg 7 miles north of Ballater on the fourth Saturday in August, with the next on Sat 27 Aug 2022.


It can't be far away?
  • The Farmer’s Market is held on the fourth Saturday of the month 10:00-14:00 at Church Green, Ballater.
  • Ballater shops include a Wilkies clothes shop, a Co-op supermarket and a bookshop.
  • Bike Station in Ballater Station Square does bike hire including electric (tel +44 13397 54004). They're open daily 10:00-16:30.
  • Bellabeg Spar is open M-Sa 08:00-18:00, Su 10:00-14:00.



  • Balmoral Bar, 1 Netherley Place, Ballater AB35 5QE, +44 1339 755462. M-W 11:00-00:00, Th-Sa 11:00-01:00, Su 12:30-00:00. The main bar in town has a good selection of food.
  • 1 Royal Lochnagar Distillery, Crathie AB35 5TB (by Balmoral). M-Sat from 10:00, Suns from 12:00, to 16:00 Nov-Mar and 17:00 or later April-Oct. Royal Lochnagar single malt whisky is distilled here. Standard tour £9. Royal Lochnagar distillery (Q2171061) on Wikidata Royal Lochnagar distillery on Wikipedia


Kildrummy Castle
  • Ballater Caravan Park, Anderson Rd, Ballater AB35 5QW, +44 1339 755727. Well-run camping and caravan site open Mar-Nov. Tent £12, tourer £30.
  • 1 Ballater Hostel, Bridge Square. Central, open all year. from £22.
  • Alexandra Hotel is next to the hostel.
  • Deeside Inn, 13-15 Victoria Rd, AB35 5RA, +44 1339 755413. 56 room hotel. B&B double £85.
  • B&Bs include Gordon Guest House at Station Square, Fairdene on School Lane, and Auld Kirk on Braemar Rd.
  • Darroch Learg is a hotel and restaurant at 56 Braemar Rd.
  • Further out: 2 Kildrummy Inn, Kildrummy Alford AB33 8QS. 4 room hotel with campsite. Two course dinner £28 Wed - Mon. from £80.
  • Further still, but worth the journey and the splurge is 3 Douneside House, Tarland, Aboyne AB34 4UL, +44 1339 881230. Wonderful small hotel, 23 rooms with 9 in cottages. Excellent decor, welcome and cuisine. B&B double from £200.


As of Aug 2021, Ballater, Crathes and the highway between have 4G from EE and O2, and a mobile signal from Three and (if you're lucky) Vodafone. Don't be relying on your mobile in the mountains, there's no coverage away from the main road. 5G has not reached this area.

Go next[edit]

  • Aberdeen east and Glenshee west are the obvious routes
  • The scenic A939 winds north over the hills to Tomintoul then down into the Spey Valley at Grantown on Spey.

This city travel guide to Ballater is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.