Braemar is a small village in the Grampian region, located close to the River Dee and 10 miles southeast of Ben Macdui. The village is a popular tourist destination due to the number of outdoor activities on offer, with hikers using the village as a base to explore Glen Tilt, Glen Dee, Glen Derry, and Glen Feshie.

Braemar in Aberdeenshire


The Cairngorms National Park is home to a wide variety of outdoor activities that attract a huge number of visitors throughout the year. Whether it’s mountain biking on the Glenlivet Estate, snowboarding at the Glenshee ski centre, sailing down the River Dee, or climbing Ben Macdui, you’re bound to find something that at least one member of the family is going to enjoy.

The number of tourist attractions in this part of Scotland makes it difficult to decide where to go if you’re just visiting for a quick break, but one place that I keep returning to time and again is the area surrounding the picturesque village of Braemar. This part of Aberdeenshire is sparsely populated yet easy to get to, with the city of Aberdeen only an hour and a half away and Dundee and Perth more or less the same.

Hill walkers will have a great time on the many trails that criss-cross Braemar’s countryside, while kayakers will enjoy the waters of the River Dee which meanders its way past the village from the slopes of Ben Macdui to its final destination at Aberdeen Harbour. The region surrounding the river is known locally as Deeside – or, to be more exact, Royal Deeside – as it’s the area where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert holidayed and where they eventually set up their semi-permanent home at Balmoral Castle.

The village is approached on the A93 from either the east or the south, with the southern part of the road passing through Glen Clunie and the Cairnwell Pass and the eastern stretch passing Balmoral Castle, but both routes offer stunning views at every twist and turn.

If you’d rather explore the area on foot, you’ll be able to reach it from the west by walking through Glens Tilt, Dee, and Feshie, or you can embark on a bit of a tricky hike from the Spittal of Glenmuik which lies to the east. In summer, these routes offer some of the best hikes in Scotland, but in winter, they’re only an option for the most hardened hillwalkers due to the climate.


The weather in Braemar is chilly, to say the least, and it is, in fact, the third-coldest place in Britain and holds the crown for having the lowest winter temperature since records began, with an astonishing -27°C recorded in 1982. Summer temperatures, meanwhile, average a balmy 25°C, but even so, the average annual temperature only hovers around 7°C. Coupled with more than 150 rainy days each year and a micro-climate that brings in biting winds from the mountains, a winter walk in the wilds of Braemar definitely needs to be approached with caution.

If you intend to drive to Braemar, you’ll find a decent-sized paid car park in the village centre, with toilets nearby and a couple of local shops around the corner. A little way up the road is the bridge crossing the Clunie Water, and across the road is The Fife Arms hotel and a bike rental shop.

The Fife Arms and the Invercauld Arms are typical traditional hotels that are furnished with Highland memorabilia, and both offer traditional Scottish food and impressive collections of Scotch whisky. If you’re staying overnight at either hotel, you’ll have ample opportunities to explore the surrounding area, and in addition to the too-many-to-mention walking trails, you’ll find a collection of fascinating castles within a short drive.

Braemar Hotel

The Highlights

1: While Braemar is a nice village, it’s the surrounding countryside that’s the real attraction. The stunning mountain scenery, thick woodland, and sweeping hills make for a superb outdoor getaway. Take a look at the official Cairngorms National Park website for further details.

2: Braemar Golf Club, founded in 1902, is a must-visit for golfers. The 9-hole course overlooks the scenic Clunie Water and welcomes all visitors. The clubhouse has a complete list of equipment available for hire and is open for food and drinks daily.

3: The Highland Gathering is one of, if not the, best Highland Games events in Scotland. Tickets are a wee bit pricey though, so bear that in mind if you have a large family (seated tickets are around £25 per person).

Visiting Tips

1: The road heading south on the A93 towards Braemar is quite steep, and in winter it’s often very slippery with snow and ice. I’m making this point as I nearly careened into the verge a couple of years ago.

2: There are a couple of nice wee cafés in the village centre, and as the prices are fairly reasonable, I wouldn’t bother taking your own food if you’re just there for the day. If staying overnight, I recommend the Fife Arms which has a decent restaurant.

3: You’ll find a good walk from Braemar along the River Clunie and the Queen’s Drive – so-called because it was Queen Victoria’s favourite carriage drive.

Braemar in Aberdeenshire

Tourist Information

The village centre features the ruined Kindrochit Castle, which, to be honest, is just a few ruined walls, while the much more impressive Braemar Castle is located close to the River Dee, around a mile to the north of the village centre. The Earl of Mar constructed Braemar Castle in 1628, and it’s now a community-run tourist attraction that’s open for guided tours.

The much larger Balmoral Castle is located nine miles from the village further along the A93, but unfortunately, the royal’s private residence isn’t always open to visitors, so it’s necessary to check the official website before leaving home. While the majority of the castle is closed to the public, a fair-sized section is set up for exhibitions, including the enormous grounds and gardens.

If you arrive and find the castle closed, there are lots of alternatives to visit on the Aberdeenshire Castle Trail which covers the majority of the Cairngorms. Even if you don’t explore the countryside around Braemar, the castle trail is worth following as some of the best historic attractions in Scotland can be found along the route.

Another reason to visit Braemar is the Braemar Gathering, which is held annually on the first Saturday of September. This world-famous event is the highlight of Scotland’s Highland games calendar and features a collection of pipe bands, Highland dancers and athletes, food stalls, music, and craft stalls, but it’s the Highland athletes that are the star of the show.

The Braemar Gathering has a history dating back over 900 years, but its modern roots can be traced to the Victorians who founded the Royal Highland Society in 1832. Due to Balmoral Castle’s close proximity, Queen Victoria became the society’s patron in 1848, and to this day, members of the royal family attend the games each year. Note that it gets booked up early so you won’t get in unless you book well in advance, but if you do manage to secure a ticket, you’re guaranteed to have a memorable day.

pipe band

Things to Do

Braemar Castle Exploration: Step into Scottish history at Braemar Castle with its unique star-shaped outer wall. This 17th-century fortress offers guided tours through rooms filled with period furniture and historical artefacts. The castle also hosts various events throughout the year, making it a great destination for families and history buffs alike.

Walking in the Cairngorms National Park: Braemar is a gateway to the Cairngorms National Park, an area of outstanding natural beauty. With trails suitable for all fitness levels, walk through ancient pine forests, across open moorland, and up craggy hilltops. Spot wildlife, take in breathtaking views, and enjoy one of the most beautiful regions in Scotland.

Highland Games at The Braemar Gathering: Experience one of the best annual events in Scotland, The Braemar Gathering. Taking place on the first Saturday in September, witness the spectacle of caber tossing, hammer throwing, tug of war, and Highland dancing. The Royal Family frequently attends the event, which draws visitors from all over the world.

Skiing at Glenshee Ski Centre: Just a short drive from Braemar, Glenshee Ski Centre offers the UK’s most extensive skiing and snowboarding facilities. Featuring the UK’s largest lift system, skiers and snowboarders of all ability levels can enjoy runs that extend over 3 valleys and 4 mountains. In the summertime, the area is a great place to go hiking.

Exploring Kindrochit Castle Ruins: Discover the ruins of Kindrochit Castle which dates back to the 14th century. The ruined castle, located in the centre of Braemar village, was once a royal hunting lodge but is now open to visitors.

braemar castle

Things to Do Nearby

Ben Macdui. Ballater AB35 5YJ. 5-hour walk.
The 4,295-foot mountain offers a good choice of walking trails to the summit. Ben Macdui is the second-highest mountain in Scotland after Ben Nevis.

Braemar Castle. Braemar, Ballater AB35 5XR. 13-minute walk.
A 17th-century castle located a mile outside Braemar village. Originally the home of Clan Farquharson, it is now a community-run tourist attraction that is open for guided tours.

Lecht Ski Centre. Cock Bridge, Strathdon AB36 8YP. 40-minute drive.
A ski centre that offers runs for children and adults from beginner to advanced level. The centre has a young children’s learn-to-ski park, ski lifts and an equipment hire shop.

Glenshee Ski Centre. Old Military Rd, Ballater AB35 5XU. 13-minute drive.
An expansive ski centre that features multiple ski runs for all experience levels, a snow sports school, cafés and equipment hire facilities.

Balmoral Castle. Balmoral Estates, Ballater AB35 5TB. 13-minute drive.
A Scottish baronial-style castle that is the royal family summer home. Balmoral Castle and its grounds are open for public tours when royalty is not in residence. Visitors can also enjoy safari tours, a gift shop and a café.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Braemar so cold?

Braemar is located in the Cairngorms National Park at the centre of a large bowl-shaped mass of mountains. Due to the topography of the surrounding landscape, cold air rolls into the village but is unable to escape, keeping the ambient temperature lower than it would otherwise be.

How high up is Braemar?

Braemar is situated 1,100 feet above sea level.

How much snow does Braemar get?

Braemar has an average winter snowfall of 12 inches, though 28 inches was recorded in 2021. The village has an average of 102 days of frost annually, and 153 days of rainfall.

Where are the Braemar Games held?

The Royal Braemar Gathering is held annually on the first Saturday of September in Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park in Braemar.

What does Braemar mean in Scottish?

The name Braemar originates from the Scottish Gaelic phrase ‘Bràigh Mhàrr’ which translates into English as ‘Upland of Mar’, a reference to Baremar’s location in the historic Earldom of Mar.

Craig Neil

Craig Neil is the author, photographer, admin, and pretty much everything else behind Out About Scotland. He lives near Edinburgh and spends his free time exploring Scotland and writing about his experiences. Follow him on Pinterest, Facebook, and YouTube.