Braemar
Braemar
The Aberdeenshire village of Braemar is best known as the site of the most prestigious and largest Highland Games, the annual Highland Gathering. The Gathering takes place in the first week of September each year. The tradition of Games at Braemar date back to around 1060, when King Malcolm Canmore came to the area on a hunting trip. He held a large festival at Doldencha, and awarded prizes for feats of strength.
There is much more to Braemar than the Highland Gathering however; its a gem of a village, set in wonderful scenery beside the River Dee. On the eastern outskirts of the village stands Braemar Castle, a lovely Jacobean fortress. The castle was built in 1628 by the Farquharsons of Invercauld. As with so many Scottish baronial homes, Braemar Castle lapsed into decay, but it was thankfully rescued, restored, and is now open to visitors during the main tourist season. Also in Braemar is the Highland Heritage Centre, a museum and cultural exhibition centre devoted to the culture and traditions of the region.

Just over the bridge across the Cluny are the ruins of medieval Kindrochit Castle. The castle was built in the 14th century, though tradition says that an earlier wooden fortress was built there by Malcolm Canmore in the 11th century. Kindrochit was built mainly as a centre for royal hunts, but it also served as a defensive structure guarding the main route to Perthshire across the Cairnwell Pass, and north towards Angus.

In 1715 the Earl of Mar raised the standard for James Stuart (The Old Pretender) on the site where the Invercauld Hotel now stands.

There are wonderful walks into the hills above Braemar; to the west is the nature reserve of Morrone Birkwood, which afford fantastic views north towards the Cairngorms.

A short drive west along the River Dee brings you to the Linn o' Dee, a famous beauty spot favoured by Queen Victoria, where the river drops down precipitously between steep-sided cliffs. The road continues on, looping back to follow the Dee eastward, ending at the Linn o' Quoich, another lovely waterfall with footpaths going up into the surrounding hills, much of which is part of the Mar Lodge estate.

Five miles to the east of Braemar is Balmoral Castle, the country home of the Royal family since the days of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, while a drive north brings you to enigmatic Corgarff Castle, a brooding tower house set in a stunning landscpe below steep hills.

Braemar is one of the prettiest and most beautifully situated villages in Royal Deeside, and though it can be a touch touristy at times, it makes a wonderful centre to enjoy the area.