Follow in the footsteps of Queen Victoria in Aberdeenshire

It’s a matter of record that Queen Victoria fell deeply in love with what would become known as Royal Deeside (and the place where the current Queen is said to be at her happiest): “All seemed to breathe freedom and peace …” she wrote. It’s a sentiment that echoes through the years and still rings true today. Follow in the footsteps of Queen Victoria on your journey along the Victorian Heritage Trail:

 

Day 1:

Drum Castle

Start your trip with a visit to one of Scotland’s oldest tower houses at Drum Castle in Drumoak. Don’t miss the exquisite chapel which was built in the 1500s and marvel at the Victorian fashion before wandering around the magnificent rose garden.

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Royal Deeside Railway Station

Nearby you’ll find the Royal Deeside Railway which once served generations of the Royal Family to transport them to Balmoral Castle. During the summer you can experience it for yourself with a wee jaunt that lasts roughly 15 – 20 minutes.  Enjoy lunch at the Milton of Crathes, an award-winning Victorian railway carriage tearoom.

 

Crathes Castle

Spend your afternoon exploring the lavish Crathes Castle, a spot where Queen Victoria loved and frequently stayed. Learn about the haunting history behind the resident ghosts at Crathes Castle (the Green Lady and her infant child) which Queen Victoria is said to have seen herself!)

 

Finzean Estate

Enjoy a scrumptious meal at Finzean Farm Shop before taking a ramble through the Finzean Estate. The Farquharson family have lived here for over 400 years and Joseph Farquharson was a renowned Victorian landscape artist. Cosy up for the night with a stay at the charming on-site cottage, The Kennels.

 

 

Day 2:

Glen Tanar Estate

Start your day with a peaceful walk around the serene Glen Tanar Estate. Whether you fancy bagging a Munro as you hike Mount Keen (on the other side of the Munro you can visit an impressive stone sculpture, the Queen’s Well which marks a visit from Queen Victoria in 1861), wildlife spotting on a land rover safari or admiring the gorgeous Victorian Boathouse and gardens there is plenty to keep you entertained at Glen Tanar.

 

Extra Victorian Trail Magic: Burn O Vat

Although the Burn O Vat in the Muir of Dinnet is not officially listed on the Victorian Heritage Trail it is said that Queen Victorian even scrambled into the granite cauldron too so now is your chance to follow in her footsteps.

 

Cambus O May

Explore the lochans and woodlands as you walk through the winding trails through Scottish Pine Forests at Cambus O May. Take in the views of Deeside and the mountains beyond.

 

Ballater

A name synonymous with the majesty of Royal Deeside, Ballater is a picturesque Victorian village.  Ballater is known as ‘Royal Warrant’ town due to the number of Royal Warrants awarded to local businesses by the Royal Family. Enjoy a meal at the The Rothesay Rooms which HRH Prince Charles opened to help rejuvenate the area after floods in 2015. Check in to No 45 Guest House for a relaxing evening in front of the log fire.

Don’t miss Ballater Victoria Week taking place from 3 – 11 August 2019. The full programme has yet to be announced but previous years have included ghost tours, ceilidhs, scarecrow competitions, films, fayres and storytelling. A fun day out for the whole family.

 

Day 3

Balmoral Estate

The British Royal Family have been visiting Aberdeenshire for over 100 years as their summer holiday destination of choice at Balmoral Castle. It was purchased by Prince Albert in 1852 as a gift for Queen Victoria, she famously called her holiday home “my dear paradise in the Highlands”. It has been the Scottish holiday home of the Royal Family ever since.

 

 

 

 

Loch Muick

Loch Muick is a beautiful freshwater loch roughly 8km south of Braemar. The loch is a popular destination for locals and visitors alike due to its picturesque location and pleasant terrain.  On the western side of the loch you will find Glas-allt Shiel - a hunting lodge built for Queen Victoria in 1868. This lodge became her retreat after the death of Prince Albert. It is also known as Widow’s House.

 

Royal Lochnagar Distillery

Royal Lochnagar Distillery originally opened as Lochnagar Distillery in 1845 by John Begg. Begg invited Queen Victoria and her family to visit the distillery in 1848. Two days after the visit, Begg was awarded a Royal Warrant and the distillery gained its name as we know today. 

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It seems that @diageo have been listening. Wednesday morning brought us to Royal Lochnager having driven south across the Cairngorms from Craigellachie. And whilst I wanted to discover more about one of the lesser known Diageo distilleries, previous tours had warned me not to get my hopes up of anything special . . So imagine my surprise when we were told we could take photos anywhere in the distillery (ok, phones on flight mode, and no actual cameras, but still, a massive policy change). And that after the tour there was a tasting bar where we could purchase various exclusive drams, including some of the Special Releases for between £10 - £20 per 25ml. And then the distillery exclusive bottle - so often an afterthought by Diageo but here hand picked by the distillery staff, bottled at a decent 48% ABV and.... tasty to boot! . . What’s going on here? . . Anyway, Royal Lochnager’s strategy was perhaps even better than Kilchoman’s - build it next door to Balmoral Castle and voila, three years later, Queen Victoria has moved in and bestowed a Royal Warrant after the enterprising owner invited Prince Albert around for a tour. Talk about right place right time. . . The distillery is tiny, especially by Diageo’s standards. The single mash tun has no lid (photo 5), due to space, only the two washbacks (36000 litres each) with 110 hours of maturation and the wash still being a slight 7410 litres (low wines still an even smaller 5450). All whisky is casked on site using a mixture of first and second fill ex sherry casks. . . Also pictured is the Boby Mill and Underback - mentioned at @glendronach and now pictured in the flesh, as well as the worts tank where the yeast is added before being pumped to the washbacks, one of the only places where this happens . . We opted for the tasting tour (£13, but only £4 with Friends of Classic Malt) which provided a dram of the 12Yr and the distillery exclusive bottle at the end. So blown away by the whole thing I purchased a bottle of the DE, as well as a dram of the Select Reserve (another NAS from first fill bodegas) and a 25Yr Pittyvaich from the 2015 Special Releases, which I’ll review soon . .

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Day 4:

Braemar

Found in the heart of Royal Deeside, and in the Cairngorms National Park, Braemar is encircled by mountains, valleys and woodlands. This embracing village remains one of the area’s most popular visitor spots.

 

 

Braemar Castle

Braemar Castle had a turbulent history connected to the Jacobites but it was also a spot where Queen Victoria visited in 1849 to attend the Braemar Gatherings which she continued to patron throughout her life and the Royal Family today still attends.

 

 

Extra Victorian Trail Magic: The Fife Arms

Since The Fife Arms opened in late 2018 the hotel has raked up numerous awards and is a hotspot for those looking for quirky and luxurious accommodation – a winning combination. What you may not have realised though is that you can even come face to face with a waxwork of Queen Victoria in the library which is from Madame Tussauds. Enjoy dinner and an overnight stay as the perfect way to finish your journey on the Victorian Heritage Trail.

 

 

To learn more about Royal connections in Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire click here.

 

* Extra Victorian Trail Magic are stops which are not included in the official Victorian Heritage Trail but have a connection to Queen Victoria.  

 

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