Braemar: Scotland's Quintessential Highland Village|
by Barbara Ballard
Braemar, a tiny village in the Grampian Highlands, is the Scotland you expect to see - rivers rushing over ancient rocks, hills of heather, a turreted castle, mountains reflecting purple in the distance. To top it all off, it's the setting for the annual Braemar Gathering, the Highland Games at their best.
The Braemar Games were established in 1832 and received royal approval from Queen Victoria in 1848. The royal family continues to attend today. On the first Saturday in September massed pipes and drum bands cry out with centuries old music, presenting a spectacle for eye and ear. Pipe and drum competitions, highland dancing, caber-tossing, shot putting, hammer throwing and other traditional events take place.
Braemar is full of history. It was the site of the Jacobite Rising of 1715 where the standard was raised to put the house of Stuart back on the British throne. The actual spot is now the Invercauds Arms Hotel. Robert Louis Stevenson wrote the first part of Treasure Island in a Braemar cottage in August, 1881. Today, many of these historic cottages offer bed and breakfast accommodation.
Two castles add to the atmosphere of the village. Kindrochit Castle, built in 1390 and now a ruin, stands in the centre of the village. Nearby Braemar Castle is an L-plan tower house built as a hunting seat by the Earl of Mar in 1628. It burned 60 years later and was rebuilt with turrets and crenellations surrounding the original tower house.
A visit to the Highlands Heritage Centre located in the village is an informative and interesting journey through Braemar's tradition and history.
Within a short distance are twenty hills with peaks over 3000 feet, mountain and hill trails, skiing in winter, fishing, and the Queen's castle, Balmoral, is just eight miles up the road.
Scattered in a mountain valley at the junction of three glens and the rivers Clunie and Dee, it is the quintessential Scottish Highland village, a wonderful place to relax amidst unspoiled scenery.
To reach Braemar from Edinburgh follow the A90 over the Forth Road bridge to the M90 heading north to Perth. Just before Perth take junction 10 to junction 11, take the A93 exit to Braemar (approximately 90 miles from Edinburgh).
Braemar Tourist Information Centre
The Mews, Mar Rd., Braemar, Scotland Tel. 013397 41600. Advance Reservations Service, Aberdeen and Grampian Tourist Board, Bridge Street, Banchory, AB315SX. Tel: 441330 825917
Tickets for the Highland Games must be booked for in advance through The Bookings Secretary, Coilacriech, By Ballater, Aberdeenshire, Scotland AB35 5UH
Braemar Highland Heritage Centre
Located on Mar Road, Braemar. Tel: 013397 41944. Open all year, daily Apr-Sept 0900-1800, (July-Aug until 2000), Oct-Mar 1000-1700. Exhibits feature the Highland Gathering, Queen Victoria, Balmoral Castle and the history of the area. It contains a clan heritage shop.
Located north of Braemar on the A93, is open April 10 to October 31, Saturday through Thursday from 10 to 6.