History

Victorian Heritage Trail

Royal Deeside has been a favourite holiday destination of the Royal Family ever since Queen Victoria and Prince Albert first visited and fell in love with the Balmoral Estate in 1848. Since then successive generations of the Royal Family have adopted the area as their tranquil retreat.

The Victorian Heritage Trail pinpoints many of the historic places that make the picturesque Dee and Don Valleys, in the north east of Scotland, a truly majestic place.

Transport

Days

4

Miles

76

Route

Drumoak to Braemar

Highlights

Majestic locations, royal connections, stunning castles, tour a distillery

Areas Covered

North

see full route

Day 1

overview

Drumoak

The first day on your itinerary is jam-packed with Victorian attractions for you to explore. See Victorian architecture at Drum Castle, visit the railway station used by Queen Victoria, learn about Queen Victoria’s connection with Crathes Castle and see beautiful Victorian artwork at Finzean Estate.
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Crathes Castle, Banchory © A. Karnholz-Fotolia

Drum Castle

Begin the trail at the spectacular Drum Castle, located in Drumoak just outside Aberdeen, which combines a 13th century tower, a Jacobean mansion house and Victorian architecture. Take a tour of the castle and marvel at the fascinating combination of Scottish history and Victorian fashion, and wander the grounds and the magnificent historic rose garden.

Royal Deeside Railway Station

Continue just 10 minutes down the A93 to the Royal Deeside Railway Station. This line was regularly patronised by the Royal Family and their guests to the Balmoral Estate. Experience a real, royal journey as you travel by steam train along the original track, just as Queen Victoria would have done on her visits. On arrival back at the station, enjoy a light lunch or high tea and marvel at the glorious views over Royal Deeside from the Carriage Tearoom.

Crathes Castle

Pick up the trail again and head on a five minute drive to the spooky Crathes Castle, a favourite place of Queen Victoria and one where she often stayed. Explore the wonderland grounds and marvel at the ornate gargoyles and fairytale turrets. On your tour of the castle you'll learn about the castle's intriguing history along with the story of its resident ghosts, the Green Lady and her infant child. It is even said that Queen Victoria witnessed the ghostly pair herself.

Finzean Estate

Finish your day with a leisurely stroll around the spectacular Finzean Estate the home of the Farquharson family for over 400 years. The ancestral home of Victorian painter Joseph Farquharson, or 'the Painting Laird', Finzean Estate has an incredible collection of Victorian art. Sample local treats at the Farm Shop or enjoy supper in the award-winning tearoom and take part in a host of traditional estate activities including clay pigeon shooting and salmon fishing.

Day 2

overview

Glen Tanar, Cambus o’May & Ballater

On your second day, enjoy the natural splendour of Royal Deeside with a trip to some of the favourite beauty spots of the Royal Family. Absorb beautiful views of Glen Tanar, the striking suspension bridge at Cambus o’ May and the lovely burgh of Ballater.
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Cambus O' May bridge, River Dee, Aberdeenshire

Glen Tanar Estate

Begin your day with a stunning drive along the A93, following the River Dee and passing through the Glen Tanar Forest. Your first stop is the Glen Tanar Estate, situated within the Cairngorms National Park, in the heart of Royal Deeside. Stroll around the private loch and enjoy the view from the beautifully restored Victorian Boathouse. Tour the house and marvel at the ballroom and Tower of Ess or simply enjoy a turn around the finely landscaped Victorian gardens, you could even try cycling, horse riding and fishing.

Stop 2 - Cambus o' May

Continue on the A93 heading for Cambus o' May, a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest and a beautiful example of Victorian architecture. Originally built in 1905, the Cambus o' May Suspension Bridge was famously re-opened by HM The Queen Mother in 1988 and stands as a monument to Victorian architecture and design. Take a stroll through the magnificent Scots pine and across the bridge, one of the finest examples of Victorian ironwork in Europe.

Stop 3 - Ballater

Continue on the A93 for five minutes and then spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the lovely Ballater. Wander around the burgh, perusing the shops, many of which proudly display Royal Warrants.

Day 3

overview

Ballater

Your third day on the trail takes you around some of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert's most cherished places. Explore their magnificent and much loved castle at Balmoral Estate, take in the serene beauty of nearby Loch Muick and try a taste of one of their favourite whiskies.
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Loch Muick, Cairngorms National Park © A.Karnholz-Fotolia

Stop 1 - Balmoral Estate

Continue your journey down the A93 on the short but beautiful drive to Balmoral Estate. Purchased by Prince Albert as a gift for Queen Victoria in 1852, the Balmoral Estate has been the Scottish home of the Royal Family ever since. Often called the 'heart of Royal Deeside' the Balmoral Estate covers 50,000 acres of heather-clad hills, ancient woodland and stunning gardens. The castle sits proudly amidst the Scots pines, a firm favourite with visitors and royalty alike.

Queen Victoria described Balmoral as 'my dear paradise in the Highlands' and the castle has remained a firm favourite through many generations of the Royal Family. Balmoral Castle has remained a favourite residence for HM The Queen and her family who are in residence during the summer period of August and September. You can visit the grounds, gardens and castle ballroom when the Royal Family are not in residence and marvel at the stunning scenery and magnificent architecture.

Stop 2 – Loch Muick Reserve

Take a stroll by the peaceful Loch Muick, situated on the border of the Balmoral Estate and the surrounding forest. A wide variety of birds and animals can be found around the loch, including red squirrels, red deers and oyster catchers. Follow the path down the lochside to the spectacular royal bothy of Glas-allt-Shiel, which was built for Queen Victoria and became her much loved respite. Now the bothy is a popular retreat for Prince Charles.

Stop 3 - Royal Lochnagar Distillery

Head down the road to pay a visit to another place which was dear to the heart of Queen Victoria, the Royal Lochnagar Distillery. In 1848 the owner of Lochnagar Distillery invited Prince Albert, who was an enthusiast of mechanics, to visit and inspect the premises. Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their three eldest children attended and were so impressed they bestowed a 'By Royal Appointment' warrant on the distillery. Go on a guided tour of the distillery to learn about the traditional distillation process and, of course, sample a dram of their award-winning whisky.

Day 4

overview

Braemar

Your final day on the trail will be spent exploring the charming town of Braemar and the stunning Cairngorms National Park which surrounding it. Enjoy a walk in the countryside before visiting Braemar Castle.
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Braemar, Aberdeenshire

Stop 1 - Braemar

Take some time to explore the bustling centre of Braemar, a popular tourist spot and a traditional Scottish village. There is a variety of local shops and a Highland Heritage Centre with exhibitions featuring Braemar's many royal connections. There are two castles built in the village which stand as tribute to Braemar's long history and connections with royalty dating back almost 1,000 years.

Braemar is also popular with outdoor enthusiasts and is situated in some excellent climbing country. Why not try the easy ascent of Braemar's own mountain, Morrone, and take in spectacular views of Royal Deeside. Further afield is the more challenging Lochnagar, whose north peak, the White Mount, is said to have been the inspiration for The Old Man of Lochnagar, a children's story written by Prince Charles.

Stop 2 - Braemar Castle

Finish the Victorian Heritage Trail with a guided tour of Braemar Castle, which Queen Victoria visited in 1849 to attend and patron the Braemar Gatherings, held in the grounds. It was here she is said to have developed her love for the area and for the gathering, which she continued to patron throughout her life.

Summary

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