Overlooked by the majestic Cairngorm mountain range, Braemar is one of the larger settlements in Royal Deeside and the Cairngorms. Best known for its Braemar Gathering – a traditional Highland Games that takes place annually – and as the gateway to Scotland’s largest ski centre, Glenshee, this rural town attracts visitors all year round.
Braemar has long been the playground of kings and nobles. In 1059, King Malcolm III and his queen came to the area and according to legend, held a great gathering at the original settlement of Doldencha. He is also credited with having built a timber bridge across the River Clunie and the original Kindrochit Castle, which was used as a base for royal hunts. The ruins of Kindrochit Castle are considered to be largely of 14th century origin replacing the presumed timber-construction of the original castle.
Into the 20th century the village was almost completely owned and divided by the adjoining estates of Mar, with Auchendryne and Invercauld on one side, and Castleton on the other. Auchendryne belonged to a branch of the Farquharsons until it was forfeited in the aftermath of the Jacobite rising of 1745. Later that century it was acquired by William Duff, 1st Earl Fife.
Beautiful Braemar still has the royal seal of approval since it lures members of the British Royal Family every year to watch the Braemar Gathering (www.braemargathering.org.) This family event, which takes place annually on the first Saturday in September, attracts thousand of visitors from all over the World, in particular the USA. As well as enjoying highland dancing and piping displays, spectators can watch international athletes battle it out in events such as tossing the caber, throwing the hammer and the tug of war. The village now also hosts a Junior Highland Games (www.braemarjuniorgames.com ) as part of the annual Braemar Gala Week in July.
On the edge of the village lies the Morrone Birkwood nature reserve, which is one of the finest examples of ‘downy’ birchwoods in the UK and with vast areas of juniper.
As well as attracting winter sports enthusiasts, including “Munro-baggers” to the snow-capped mountain range, the rugged landscape of the surrounding estates of Mar, Invercauld and Balmoral play host to visitors from all over the world for walking, deer stalking, grouse hunting and fishing. Golfers who play a round on Braemar Golf Club’s course can claim to have played on the highest 18-hole course in the UK. Although set well over 1000ft above sea level it is not a hilly course as it stretches along the banks of the Clunie Water which is mostly flat. Braemar Castle, Mar Lodge and the Braemar Highland Heritage Centre are all open to the public.
The village itself features charming gift shops selling locally grown produce and unique crafts. The diversity of eateries is excellent offering tasty pub grub as well as the opportunity to sample local game such as venison, pheasant and rabbit.