The tiny village of Crathie sits on the very edge of the Balmoral estate with views of majestic Lochnagar, the largest mountain in this area, as its backdrop. It is the entrance point for visitors to Balmoral Castle, summer home of the Royal Family. Midway between the neighbouring villages of Braemar and Ballater, Crathie has become a mini tourist hub thanks to its proximity to Balmoral Castle; however its breathtaking location in the Eastern Cairngorms National Park is what really makes it a ‘not to be missed’ attraction in Deeside.
With a long and fascinating history, the Church of Scotland Kirk nestles in the heart of the village and is attended by the Royal family when in residence. It was built in 1895 and overlooks the ruins of the original church that was erected in the 14th century. Its tranquil graveyard is worth a visit – as well as the gravestone of Queen Victoria’s personal servant, John Brown (subject of the film Mrs Brown), there are stunning views across the sparkling River Dee.
Nearby Royal Lochnagar Distillery provides a fascinating insight into the age old traditions and craftsmanship that produce one of Scotland’s finest malts. In 1848, after only three days of moving into Balmoral Castle, Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and their three children visited the distillery – they were so impressed with the fiery liquid that owner John Begg received a Royal Warrant of Appointment as supplier to the Queen. Today, although some things have changed, Royal Lochnagar retains its original charm with many of the distillery farm buildings still in use. A wee dram will certainly end your tour around the distillery on a high note.
Balmoral Castle is a fine example of traditional Scottish architecture, and the baronial estate extends to 50,000 acres of heather clad hills and ancient woodland. In her journals Queen Victoria described Balmoral as “my dear paradise in the Highlands”.