Ballater Travel Guide

Plan your trip to Ballater with our comprehensive travel guide featuring top attractions, hiking and biking routes, food and drink scene, where to stay, local culture and customs, and more.

Introduction to Ballater

Located in Aberdeenshire, in the north-east of Scotland, Ballater is a quaint village that makes for the perfect destination for a refreshing holiday. The village is nestled in the eastern part of Cairngorms National Park, which is the largest national park in the UK. From stunning natural landscapes and outdoor adventures to cultural attractions and a lively food and drink scene, Ballater has something to offer every kind of traveler.

List of Places to Visit in Ballater

Culturally Important Attractions: Museums and Historical Places

  1. Balmoral Castle: The Queen’s Scottish residence, Balmoral Castle, is one of the must-visit attractions in Ballater. Explore the castle’s vast grounds, stunning gardens, and the exhibitions that showcase the castle’s history and the Royal Family’s connection with Scotland.
  2. Braemar Castle: Located just a short drive away from Ballater, Braemar Castle is a 17th-century castle that has been transformed into a fascinating museum of Scottish history.
  3. Royal Lochnagar Distillery: Take a tour of the Royal Lochnagar Distillery, located on the banks of the River Dee, and taste some of the finest Scottish whiskies.

Natural Attractions of Ballater: Outdoor Adventures and Scenic Views

  1. Cairngorms National Park: With 4 out of 5 of Scotland’s highest peaks, it’s no surprise that a visit to Ballater is a must for outdoor enthusiasts. Explore the park’s scenic trails, spot some wildlife, and participate in outdoor adventures like skiing, hiking, and cycling.
  2. The Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve: This picturesque nature reserve features three lochs, scenic walks and hikes, and a variety of wildlife, including ospreys and otters.
  3. Loch Muick: This pristine loch located in the heart of the Cairngorms offers visitors some of the most breathtaking views in Scotland.

Hiking/Biking Routes of Ballater

  1. Lochnagar Circuit: This 11-mile circuit takes hikers along the banks of the River Dee, up to the beautiful Lochnagar summit, and back down through forests and moorlands.
  2. Glen Tanar: For a challenging hike, try the Glen Tanar to Mount Keen trail, which takes hikers through glens, moors, and forests to reach the peak of the second-highest mountain in the East of Scotland.
  3. Deeside Way: For a leisurely cycling or walking trail, try the Deeside Way, which follows the banks of the River Dee from Ballater to Aberdeen.

Best Things to Do in Ballater: Activities and Tours

  1. Bike hire tours of the Cairngorms: Hire a mountain bike and explore the Cairngorms on your own or with a guided bike tour.
  2. Whisky tastings: Attend a whisky tasting session at one of the local distilleries, including the Royal Lochnagar Distillery.
  3. Horse riding: Go on a guided horse ride of the Cairngorms National Park and take in the stunning natural beauty of the Highlands.

Week-Long Itinerary for Ballater

Day Activity
Day 1 Visit Balmoral Castle and explore the estate
Day 2 Hike up Lochnagar and enjoy scenic views
Day 3 Take a guided bike tour of Cairngorms National Park
Day 4 Visit Braemar Castle and Royal Lochnagar Distillery
Day 5 Explore the Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve
Day 6 Go on a horse riding tour of the Cairngorms
Day 7 Visit the local galleries and shops for some souvenirs

Food and Drink Scene of Ballater

Must-Try Dishes

  1. Cullen skink: A delicious Scottish soup made from smoked haddock, potatoes, onions, and cream.
  2. Haggis: A traditional Scottish dish made with sheep’s heart, liver, and lungs, mixed with oatmeal, onions, and spices.
  3. Cranachan: A traditional Scottish dessert made from whipped cream, toasted oats, raspberries, and whisky.

Local Beverages

  1. Whisky: The Scottish national drink, whisky is a must-try when in Ballater. Try one of the local distilleries like Royal Lochnagar or Glen Garioch.
  2. Real ale: Ballater has a few local breweries that offer delicious ales, including the Balmoral Brewery and the Cairngorm Brewery.

Where to Stay in Ballater: Hotels, Hostels, and Guesthouses

  1. The Deeside Inn: A cozy hotel located in the heart of Ballater offering guests a chance to relax after a day of exploring the village and surrounding areas.
  2. Hilton Grand Vacations at Craigendarroch Suites: These self-catering apartments offer visitors a luxurious stay with access to a spa, gym, and swimming pools.
  3. Haughton Country Lodge: This bed and breakfast offers comfortable rooms and stunning views of the Cairngorms.

What to Buy in Ballater: Souvenirs and Local Products to Bring Home

  1. Tartan clothing: Scotland is famous for its traditional tartan clothing, and you can find a variety of scarves, kilts, and other items in local shops.
  2. Whisky: Bring home a bottle of Scotland’s famous whisky from one of the local distilleries.
  3. Local honey: Ballater’s unique location means that local honey is some of the best in the world, so be sure to try some and take a jar back home.

Local Culture and Customs of Ballater

Ballater has a rich culture and history, which is evident in the unique local customs and traditions. One of the most famous is the annual Braemar Gathering, a traditional Scottish Highland Games event that attracts visitors from all parts of the world.

Best Time to Visit Ballater

The best time to visit Ballater is during the summer months, from June to August when the weather is mild and optimal for outdoor activities. However, the village is beautiful all year round, with each season offering a unique experience.

Do’s and Don’ts of Ballater


  1. Respect the local customs and traditions.
  2. Try the local whisky and food.
  3. Explore the beautiful outdoors with local guides.


  1. Litter or damage local flora and fauna.
  2. Ignore the local customs and traditions.
  3. Overpack for your trip; the region has stores that offer essentials.

Safety and Health

Safety in Ballater

Ballater is overall a safe place to visit, with crime rates being low. However, visitors should observe general safety precautions and take care when hiking or cycling in the mountains. It is wise to leave valuables in the hotel room or other secure places.

Health in Ballater

The local health service, NHS Scotland, offers reliable medical care for residents and visitors alike.

Getting to Ballater: Transportation Options and Logistics

Airports Near Ballater

The Aberdeen International Airport is the closest airport to Ballater, which is nearly an hour’s drive away. Other airports within reach are Inverness and Dundee, which are also about an hour and a half’s drive from the village.

Bus Stations Near Ballater

Ballater has a few bus stops and shelters, with regular bus services connecting the town to surrounding areas.

Other Options

Driving to Ballater is straightforward, with a well-connected network of roads leading to the village. Private taxis and car rentals are also available for hire.

How to Get Around in Ballater

Walking and cycling are the best ways to get around Ballater. Visitors can also take public transport, including local buses and taxis, to reach surrounding areas.

Where to Go Next from Ballater: Nearby Destinations and Excursions

  1. Braemar: This picturesque village is located about 15 miles west of Ballater and makes for the perfect day trip, with attractions like Braemar Castle and the annual Braemar Gathering.
  2. Aberdeen: The vibrant city of Aberdeen is located about an hour’s drive from Ballater and is home to attractions like the Aberdeen Maritime Museum and the stunning Footdee Village.


In conclusion, Ballater is a gem of a village that offers visitors a chance to experience the beauty of Scotland’s natural landscapes, along with its rich cultural heritage. From outdoor adventures to delicious food and drink, Ballater has something for everyone. Visitors can explore the stunning Cairngorms National Park, indulge in the famous Scottish whisky and food, relax in cozy accommodations, and discover the local customs and traditions. Plan your trip to Ballater today and experience Scotland’s unique and charming side.