Ballater is the perfect getaway for those looking to escape hustle and bustle. Step into one of Scotland’s most picturesque villages with this complete guide. This guide looks at the top things to do in Ballater.
Complete Guide To Ballater
Discover a town that is famous for its Victorian heritage and royal links.
If you are looking for the ideal B&B host that can give a bespoke guide to Ballater or the perfect hotel hideaway in the stunning area of Royal Deeside, we have you covered with our “Complete Guide to Ballater”.
Where is Ballater?
Head north during your next trip to Scotland and you will soon come across the Victorian village of Ballater. This hidden gem sits in the heart of Royal Deeside, Scotland.
This stunning area is only 8 miles from the Queen’s summer home, Balmoral Castle.
If you are looking for your next stop, Ballater is only 40 miles away from Aberdeen. Aberdeen contrasts with this scenic spot with its wonderful cityscapes and buzzing city centre. The perfect mix that tourists love when visiting this part of Scotland!
Top things to do in Ballater
There are many activities, hill walks, and skiing locations to choose from while you are visiting this area of Scotland, and whether you are visiting Ballater for a day, weekend or a week-long trip you will be so spoilt for choice. Choose your things to do in Ballater carefully…
To help you out we have collated a list of the top things to do in Ballater below.
The Cairngorms National Park is by far one of the best things to do in Ballater.
If you fancy a change of scenery, Ballater is the eastern gateway to one of Scotland’s most famous national parks – the Cairngorms.
Get lost in Scotland’s answer to the Lake District with lochs, woodland trails and a whole spectrum wondrous wildlife.
There are many options to choose from while you are visiting Scotland’s biggest national park. It is not only a hill walker’s dream as it hosts 55 munros, it also is a popular spot for those that want to hit up the Scottish slopes.
If hillwalking isn’t your thing, why not try skiing? On Ballater’s side of the Cairngorms the Glenshee Ski Centre (the UK’s largest ski and snowboard centre) is home to the Tiger ski run, an extremely challenging black run.
Loch Muick is a stunning loch located within the Balmoral estate. Drive up and have a walk or cycle around the loch for breathtaking views of Broadcairn and the White Mounth Munros.
If you are feeling energised, continue on to Lochnagar (another one of the excellent things to do in Ballater). Make sure you have the proper hiking gear with you though!
‘it was cold, wet and cheerless, and the wind was blowing a hurricane.’ – Queen Victoria.
Hopefully, your walk up Lochnagar won’t be as dull as Queen Victoria’s. Lochnagar is seen by many Aberdonians as a right of passage, alongside Mount Keen of course.
Stunning corries, beautiful lochans (small lochs) and views of the rest of the White Mount Munros.
This Munro can be combined with the rest of the White Mount Munros for an epic 11-hour jaunt including 4 other Munros or tackled on it’s own for a 7 hour stroll.
Lochnagar is not the easiest of Munros. Make sure you pack the right gear and know-how to use it. Also, please take care during Winter, early Spring and late Autumn as the weather can change quickly on the Scottish hills.
View the detailed route at Walkhighlands.
Glen Tanar contains part of the largest area of the native Caledonian Forrest.
Visit this glen for spectacular woodland walks, mountain biking, trout fishing and more.
There is a whole host of wildlife here and if you are lucky you could spot red squirrels, otter and Scottish wildcats (!!!).
If you are from Glasgow, you have Ben Lomond. From Inverness, you have Ben Wyviss. From Perth and Stirling, you have Ben Vorlich (Loch Earn).
Luckiest of all the cities in Scotland, when it comes to the starter Munro, is Aberdeen. In my own humble opinion of course.
Mount Keen is an absolute right of passage for Aberdonians.
Mount Keen is usually scaled from Glen Esk. However, those lucky enough to be on the Ballater side of Mount Keen can start the hike from Glen Tanar.
This is a 9 hours hike in normal conditions and proper hiking gear is essential. That being said, Mount Keen is one of the easier munros.
View the full route guide at Walkhighlands.
Please take care during Winter, early Spring and late Autumn as the weather can change quickly on the Scottish hills.
Follow Queen Victoria’s footsteps after you visit the Old Royal Station and head straight to one of Scotland’s most famous sites – Balmoral Castle.
This is one of the more iconic things to do in Ballater.
The British Royal Family have had ownership of this site since 1852 when it was purchased privately by Prince Albert for his wife Queen Victoria.
This should be on your “must-see list”. The castle grounds are open from the 21st of October to the 14th of December (Daily from 21 September – 3 November and Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturdays thereafter) and from the 1st of April to the 2nd of August.
Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve
The Scots are known for their legends and stories of pastimes filled with mystic and this spot is the perfect place for storytellers.
The Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve is just a stone’s throw away from Ballater Village. Those that visit can get lost in one of Scotland’s most secluded heaths and even dip their feet in the surrounding lochs.
Once you have walked through this woodland area and admired the sculptured rock walls that nature has created, take a visit to its neighboring visitor centre which is rated Gold as part of the Green Tourism Business Scheme.
Burn O’ Vat
Our list of things to do in Ballater is packed full of outdoor mini-adventures like Burn ‘O’ Vat.
Located within Muir of Dinnet Nature Reserve, the walk to Burn O’ Vat is a lovely woodland walk with a decent path most of the way. The pothole is a huge geological marvel.
Apparently one of the many hiding places used by notorious Scottish outlaw Rob Roy.
View the full walk on Walkhighlands.
Another one of the outdoorsy things to do in Ballater, The Balmoral Cairns are another brilliant walk on Walkhighlands.
This walk takes in the Cairns erected in remembrance of members of the Royal Family.
Most of these cairns were erected by Queen Victoria.
Old Royal Station
It all started in Ballater with a railway station. This small station near Balmoral Castle leaves a huge mark on Scotland’s royal history as it hosts Queen Victoria’s waiting room.
This unique destination that dates back to 1866 has an interesting past, as it suffered major trauma after a fire in May 2015.
Visitors can now enjoy the grounds of the original station and its replica during their time in Ballater. The Old Royal Station still to this day has its famous carriage which complements its tearoom, which is run by The Prince’s Foundation.
Royal Lochnagar Distillery
Time for a tipple? After visiting Balmoral Castle, you can whet your appetite for delicious scotch malt whisky at the Royal Lochnagar Distillery.
Discover how scotch malt whisky is made in the heart of Royal Deeside and see first-hand the art of whisky-making in action.
tend to our traditional open-topped mash tun, gleaming copper stills and fill casks at our beautifully historic distillery, which retains much of its original charm.
Craigendarroch hill sits at the back of Ballater and can be scaled in under 2 hours in normal conditions.
Set amongst stunning oak trees this hill gives decent views of Ballater. There’s even a wee bench up the top to rest your legs after the hike.
View the full hike on Walkhighlands.
Cambus O May
This is a brilliant woodland walk with stunning views up Deeside. The walk featuring a couple of cool little lochans (lochan means small loch).
Simply park at the car park and follow the waymarks!
Ballater Highland Games
Did you even visit Scotland if you did not attend at least one highland games?
If you are looking for things to do in Ballater check and see what week the Ballater Highland Games are on.
Ballater Highland Games have it all – bagpipes, royal family members, hammer throws, highland dancing, the list goes on.
Ballater Highland Games are held every year on the second Thursday in August.
Accommodation and Hotels in Ballater
If you are planning your next visit to Scotland then, there are several sweet spots to stay near and around Ballater.
You will find that most hotels in Ballater are reasonably priced, however, there are many options for you to choose from.
Any one of these hotels is the perfect base for checking off the many things to do in Ballater mentioned above.
Hotels in Ballater Star Pick: Deeside Inn
Our top pick for those booking hotels in Ballater is the Deeside Inn.
If you are looking for traditional Scottish hospitality during your time in Ballater, secure your place at this AA-awarded four-star inn well in advance.
This hotel is a golfer’s favourite as it is only a short walk away from the course. At the end of the day, you will find visitors here enjoying the homemade cuisine from the Deeside Inn cooks and tired tourists lounging back beside its open fires.
If you are looking for pet friendly hotels in Ballater, then the Alexandra Hotel is your best bet. Furry friends are welcome at no charge, making it the ideal holiday hideaway for dog walkers that want to explore the surrounding woodlands areas and Munros.
Visitors also rate it for its friendly service and beautiful location – what’s not to love?
Gordon Guest House
If you are not after hotels in Ballater, a B&B is a great choice if you plan on visiting for a short stay. The “Gordon Guest House” is at the top of our list!
Located in Station Square guests don’t need to travel far too many tourists spots we have mentioned above.No 45
Visiting Ballater during the winter months? We can see you here sipping on a freshly made hot chocolate, accompanied with biscuits of course.
No 45 is a 4* guest house located within a 5-minute walk of the village centre. It is a popular spot and it has been rated highly by guests that have stayed here.
The Auld Kirk
Every town has a wild card option. Of all the hotels in Ballater, the Auld Kirk is definitely the wild card. Constructed from local granite, the Auld Kirk is a must-see spot within the historic village of Ballater as it looks onto Craigendarroch (the hill of oaks).
You will find comfortable accommodation but get in there quick as it only has seven guest bedrooms on site.
This is a great option for those looking for accommodation in Ballater, close to the beautiful Cairngorms National Park.
With so much to do while you are visiting Ballater, you may want to consider a self-catering base in Ballater. We have cooked up a couple of options for you below.
Howe of Torbeg
Ever wanted to stay in one of those funky glamping pods everyone is talking about? Your trip to Ballater could be the perfect opportunity.
Howe of Torbeg offers the peace and tranquility of camping in the Cairngorms with some of the creature comforts we all love.
On-site facilities include bathrooms, electrical heating and even a hammock! All within 5 miles of Ballater.
Ballater Hostel is a cheap and cheerful option for those looking for self-catering accommodation in Ballater.
This hostel in Ballater can get busy during the summer months. This is due to its desirable location and excellent facilities for backpackers. It has a large open plan kitchen, dining room and lounge with a wood-burning stove.
Antlers Cottage, Glenmuick Estate
If you prefer a home away from home while you vacation, imagine yourself in Antlers Cottage. This cosy cottage has an open fire, Wi-Fi and a Digital TV with DVD player. Its hosts provide all linen, towels, and logs. What more do you need for a Scottish escape?
If the Cairngorms are calling you and you want to see the sights of beautiful Ballater first-hand, make sure this spot is on the list for your next Scottish adventure.