All about Braemar in the Cairngorms National Park holiday cottages

All about Braemar in the Cairngorms National Park

Jemima Kirkwood 18 September 2020

Braemar in the Cairngorms National Park is an all-year-round delight with its woodland scenery, fine Grampian Mountains and its network of wonderful walks. 

It is the eastern gateway to the vast range of mountains on offer throughout the National Park. You will find around 24 Munros, 65 miles of high-level walks, beautiful lochs and fast-flowing rivers. This is a lovely place to come and holiday, whether you are visiting with family or are planning a romantic break.

With so much on offer, you will never be bored, and with its link to the royal family, you are sure to feel like this is a special break unlike any other. Read on to discover all the great things the village of Braemar can offer the avid traveller.

What to see and do in and around Braemar

Braemar Castle

This is a 17th-century castle which was built by the Earl of Mar in 1628. Since then, it has been put to use as a hunting lodge, a fortress, a garrison, and a family home. Home to the chiefs of Clan Farquharson, it is beautifully furnished with memorabilia, furniture and personal belongings of the family and boasts wonderful turrets and even a bottle-necked dungeon – you wouldn’t want to get stuck down there! Today it is in the hands of the small Braemar community who work endlessly to raise money for the continuous conservation projects which help to keep the castle standing.

You can visit the castle and look around its rooms which include a grand dining room, a drawing room, a morning room, bedrooms and Victorian bathrooms. You will enjoy learning of all the people from the past who have lived and visited here, including John Erskine, the second Earl of Mar who was a childhood friend of James VI.

Prices: Adult: £10, Child: £4, Student: £7

Location: AB35 5XR

Mar Lodge Estate

Mar Lodge Estate lies in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park and is made up of more that 29,000 hectares of wonderful Scottish landscape. Think heather-covered moorland, towering mountains, Caledonian pine forest and the Quioch wetlands which are home to hundreds of species including waders and otters. The estate is one of the most important areas of nature conservation in the British Isles and in 2017 it was awarded National Nature Reserve status, making it the largest in the UK!

If you are into hill walking and mountaineering, you will be thrilled to hear there are 15 Munros (mountains over 3,000ft) here. Hours can be spent walking up them to get the tremendous views from the top and, whether you decide to do one or three, there is always somewhere nice for you to grab some grub at the bottom!

Some species you will find here include:

  • Red squirrels
  • Pine martins
  • Black grouse
  • Red deer

It is a hot spot for landscape conservation including projects in woodland regeneration, footpath repair and reducing woodland damage caused by red deer. Those who are into wildlife and the outdoors will just love it here.

Glenshee Ski Centre

Braemar is a popular base for those looking to spend quality time with their skis, snowboards and ski suits! This is the place to go if you want to spend your days going up and down mountains, enjoying views and the invigorating feeling one gets from partaking in snow sports. Glenshee offers the most extensive skiing and snowboarding in Scotland with a mixture of pisted and off-piste slopes and open bowls and narrow gullies. It also offers up a wide variety of ability routes, ranging from easy and relaxed to difficult and daring.

Here are some sports you can try:

  • Sledging
  • Skiing
  • Ski touring
  • Snowboarding
  • Hill walking
  • Climbing
  • Cross-country skiing

Glenshee is not just for winter - the centre is there to enjoy all year round with lots of activities on offer for school groups and families also. There is also a café which serves up delicious meals, hot drinks and light snacks which is the perfect stop for recharging the batteries. Braemar sits a short 12-minute drive from the ski centre, making it the perfect base during your stay. With plenty of options for eating out, you can plan fun full days out with the promise of a good meal to come back to.

Location: AB35 5XU

Braemar Highland Games Centre

This is a wonderful space where you can come and enjoy exhibitions and galleries celebrating the history of Braemar and the surrounding area. The exhibition explores the living traditions of the Highland games, which is a prevalent cultural feature of our history in Scotland. The Braemar gathering has been a highlight of the sporting calendar in Scotland since at least 1832, drawing huge crowds from all over the globe to come and enjoy the atmospheric event.

This centre celebrates all things Highland games with a special focus on the Royal family and their connections to the area and traditions. There is a pavilion which can be hired out for weddings, parties and private corporate events and there is also a café which you can enjoy light snacks, hot drinks, and home baking – yum.

Location: AB35 5YX

Take a drive through Royal Deeside

As well as these great places to visit when staying in Braemar, it would also be worth exploring further afield to some of the other idyllic Scottish towns nearby. There is a lovely network of villages and towns in this part of Scotland, linked by smaller country roads creating perfect opportunities for a laid-back road trip or energetic cycling adventure – just be careful on some of the blind corners!

Here are some towns, in order of a suggested trip, which you could visit when staying in the area…


Lying half an hour east of Braemar by car, Ballater is a beautiful town which is well worth your time. The town sits in the heart of majestic Royal Deeside and is Victorian village full of cosy cafes, quality restaurants and great shopping!


This would be our suggestion for your next stop, just 16 minutes from Ballater. There is a lovely big square here which is bordered by shops, cafes and pubs and the town is a great starting point for river walks. The Deeside Activity park offers clay pigeon shooting, archery, and quad biking among other adventurous sports.


Experience a smaller village and take a stroll around Torphins, a simple 10-minute drive from Aboyne. It lies 3 miles south east of Lumphanan which is where Macbeth was killed on 15th August 1057!


Heading back west, you will come to Tarland – here you will find good food, excellent walking, mountain biking, a playpark, wildlife and lots more. Take your bikes here and take on the Tarland trails – a popular attraction in the area.


This would be our suggested final stop before returning to Braemar after your mini road trip. Just 20 minutes from Tarland, you travel through farmland, woodland and hills taking in the lovely Aberdeenshire scenery. Strathdon is steeped in history; visitors can discover stories of the past at Corgarff and Glenbuchat Castles and explore the Doune of Invernochty.

This area really is rich in scenic beauty, and sometimes that is best taken in whilst clocking up the miles in your car. You can read all about some more Scottish towns in our informative guide to the Highland towns of Scotland

Walks in and around Braemar

If you prefer getting into the wild, there are plenty of Braemar walks and trails to take on whilst staying in the area. Whether you want to stroll alongside the River Dee or taking on the Lairig Ghru, there is something for every interest and ability. If you are travelling with young children there are many woodland tracks to wander along or take the bikes on, letting them take in all the nature, pine forests and red squirrels. Braemar is one of Scotland's highest villages and being the southern gateway to the Cairngorms, it is a superb centre for hill walkers.

Here are some walks to keep in mind:

Linn of Dee circuit

This short waymarked walk begins with a visit to the beautiful Linn of Dee, where the river cascades through a narrow chasm, topped by an old stone bridge. It then heads up the lower reaches of Glen Luibeg, passing more waterfalls and through beautiful old pinewoods. Distance: 3km

Queen's Drive and River Clunie walk

This beautiful circular walk leaves Braemar along the River Clunie before picking up the Queen's Drive - a carriage drive once favoured by Queen Victoria. This gently gains height and gives excellent views before a steeper descent through the woods leads back to Braemar. There are good footpaths along this route and the ascent is steep yet gentle. Distance: 4.5km

Linn of Quoich to The Punchbowl

This is a more challanging route, but it is worth it for the picturesque stopping point. Queen Victoria was very fond of this place and it became a popular attraction, but nowadays it is much quieter than the nearby Linn of Dee. The route is easy to Linn of Quoich but onwards from there is rough and caution should be taken on route up to the Punchbowl. Distance: 4.5km

Where to eat and drink in Braemar

Food plays such an important role during any holiday; it gives those amateur chefs among us a real break from the mundane daily routine and the chance to taste good cooking that you haven’t had to prepare. It also offers up the chance to try local delicacies and new tastes in an exciting new environment.

Mix up your week with some chopping and changing between cooking in your self-catering cottage and eating out! Here are some Braemar restaurants that you could try during your next stay…

The Flying Stag

This is an unusual bar/pub in the Fife Arms Hotel, a five-star hotel in Braemar. With antlers all over the walls and cool interior design, this makes for an interesting and atmospheric place to enjoy tasty food. Location: AB35 5YN

The Bothy

This is an alternative coffee shop serving breakfast, lunch, coffees and hot drinks. This is a dog-friendly setting with a great outdoor seating area which has wonderful views! Location: AB35 5YP

Braemar Lodge

This is your typical Scottish pub serving up delicious pub grub catering for all palates including vegetarian and vegan. We have heard the fish and chips are fantastic. Location: AB35 5YQ

The Cairn Grill Restaurant & Bar

This is a great restaurant serving up delicious meaty meals from sirloin steak to tasty mussels. It offers a sophisticated option for eating out and the reviews are great. Location: AB35 5YP

Stay in a holiday cottage in Braemar

Our highlight holiday home in Braemar is Downies Cottage which is a truly unique property sitting amongst heather-covered hills above the village of Braemar. Abandoned between the world wars, this Grade A-listed cottage has been lovingly and sympathetically restored with the help of Historic Scotland into a five-star holiday home. From the outside it looks like your typical Scottish cottage, but the inside will impress with its lovely blend of exposed stone walls, traditional fabrics, quirky layout and trendy furniture.

  • 1 king-size bedroom
  • Wood burner
  • Underfloor heating throughout
  • Hot tub
  • Sauna
  • Large walled garden with furniture and BBQ
  • 2 dogs welcome by arrangement

Read all about Downies Cottage and book your stay today. Come and explore the amazing of Braemar, Scotland.

Here are some more options for your Braemar accommodation.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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