The Rivers Muick and Gairn join the Dee at Ballater. Ballater is famous for the Pannanich Wells said to cure arthritis amongst other ailments. The railway reached Ballater in 1866, and served the town for about 100 years. For many years the Royal Family used the line, but it was never extended to Balmoral as planned – because of Queen Victoria’s desire for privacy. The area around the old station is now a favourite for shopping.
The small village of Crathie sits on the edge of the Balmoral estate. It is famous because, when in residence, the Royal Family regularly attend the charming village Church. The village has a long history, dating back at least to the early Christian saints. It is said that John Brown, Queen Victoria’s famous servant, was born at Crathie. The village lies about midway between Ballater and Braemar. The surrounding countryside is typical of the beautiful scenery of the Cairngorms National Park with the River Dee flowing and sight of Ben MacDui, the second highest mountain in Scotland.
The Balmoral Estate, the Scottish home of our royal family, was purchased by Queen Victoria in 1848. The castle, designed by architect William Smith of Aberdeen, was completed in 1856. Set amongst magnificent scenery in the shadows of Lochnagar, the estate is just over 50,000 acres. Do you remember Jackanory? In 1984 Prince Charles read his own story “The Old Man of Lochnagar” on TV and Robbie Coltrane joined in as the hermit for a BBC film of the story. Queen Victoria described Balmoral as “my dear paradise in the Highlands”
There is also a castle at Braemar – originally a hunting lodge for King Robert II. The present castle was built in 1628 by the Earl of Mar. Braemar stands at over 1000 ft above sea level, but that did not put off the Jacobites in 1715. There have been gatherings here since the 11th Century and the world famous Braemar Gathering is still held on the first Saturday in September, with International Athletics as well as pipers and dancers.
In 1881 “Treasure Island” was written by Robert Louis Stevenson whilst staying in a cottage in Braemar. So if you fancy some toasted cheese, or a barrel of rum (yo ho ho) then the Fife Arms or Invercauld Arms are both waiting for you!