Built in 1856, Aberdeenshire’s Balmoral is the main Scottish residence of Britain’s royal family. Its 50,000 acres of land, including grouse moors, forests and hunting grounds, are a popular tourist attraction – visitable up until the end of July, when the Queen arrives for her summer holidays. If you’re not royalty and need somewhere to stay nearby, here are the best places to stay in this part of Scotland. From spa resorts to rustic Highland lodges, all are within a 25-minute drive – unless stated otherwise – so simply choose from our selection and book with Culture Trip.
Immerse yourself in culture at this 19th-century coaching house, which is now an art gallery as well as a hotel and restaurant. Over 14,000 antiques and artworks dot the property, including specially commissioned pieces such as “Cubistoid” wall art by Argentinian artist Guillermo Kuitca, located in the Clunie dining room. Each of the 46 suites is inspired by Braemar’s history and culture – book a Nature and Poetry Room for a wooden headboard engraved with words by Alec Finlay, or a Victoriana Suite for period wallpaper and antique furnishings.
Set in grounds populated by red deer, this Victorian shooting lodge offers both serviced and self-catered accommodation options. There are seven ensuite rooms in the main building, kitted out with antiques and light Highland colours, and nine log cabins in the surrounding gardens – with living rooms, covered verandas and fully equipped kitchens. Call in for a pre-dinner dram at the Malt Bar, where over 200 varieties of whisky are available, before heading to the wood-panelled restaurant for a prime Aberdeenshire steak or Highland game terrine.
Opened on the banks of the River Dee in 1720, the Boat Inn was originally a watering hole for farmers taking their cattle to market on the water ferry. It offers eight dark blue bedrooms above the pub and another eight in a Scandinavian timber boat house, many of which have balconies with river views. Kick back by the open fire or on the terrace with a craft gin, classic cocktail or a pint of Boat Inn lager. Breakfast, lunch and dinner showcase locally produced meat, cheese and dairy products.
Set in three acres of walled gardens on the banks of the Dee, surrounded by conserved woodland, this Edwardian manor boasts original high ceilings, fireplaces and sash windows. Its six ensuites feature a pale, classical decor, hardwood-floor bathrooms with free-standing tubs and walk-in showers, and views of the Dee Valley or surrounding woods. Hot and cold breakfasts, afternoon tea and sharing platters – ploughman’s, seafood and game – are served in an Edwardian-style dining room and on the outside terrace on warmer days.
Courtesy of Douneside House and Health Club / Booking.com
Ideal for a wellness break within the vicinity of Balmoral, this luxurious country resort has an indoor pool, sauna, gym, games room and all-weather tennis court. Accommodation is split over 13 elegant rooms in the main house, and nine self-catered apartments and cottages in the grounds, all with their own terraces or patios. You’ll also have access to 17 acres of gardens – complete with a kids’ play area, arboretum and croquet lawn – and a double AA Rosette-starred restaurant. It’s a 50-minute drive to Balmoral.
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Fishing enthusiasts will love this Georgian mansion’s colourful Top Notch Rooms, in which French windows open onto a patio overlooking fishermen on the River Dee. Vibrant, seasonal fare is served by a log fire during winter and on a covered terrace during summer – standout dishes include sea trout with crispy langoustines, artichoke, orange and hazelnut, and the lemon-and-garlic-roasted chicken with Moroccan spices and fine beans. Dogs are welcomed – and pampered – throughout the property. Balmoral Castle is a 50-minute drive away.
This classic Scottish inn offers 22 single, double and family rooms featuring tartan fabrics, mahogany furniture and thistle-themed wallpaper – some also have four-poster beds and balconies overlooking the grounds. Master Suites come with either a separate lounge, ensuite sauna or two-person hot tub, and there’s a self-contained, alpine-style lodge that sleeps four – a great option if you’re skiing in nearby Glenshee. All rooms are ideally placed for walks around Loch Kinord or in the neighbouring Muir of Dinnet Nature Reserve.
All rooms come with a view at this family-run four-star, whether southwards over Ballater Golf Club or westwards up Dee valley. The ground floor is given over to two amply proportioned lounges with open fireplaces, a Steinway piano, a snug bar offering over 50 single malts and a conservatory dining room. Breakfast is included and dinner is a daily-changing, four-course affair with three or four choices per course – typical dishes include Loch Fyne smoked salmon and pan roast Gressingham duck.
Set in a 6,500-acre estate founded in 1510, this grand Baronial castle is the perfect sporting base near Balmoral, offering one of Britain’s highest golf courses, a tennis court, mountain bike rental and clay-pigeon shooting. In more tranquil moments, take a dram in the bar, read in a lounge with two fireplaces or shoot pool in the wood-panelled Smoke Room. Regally contemporary rooms range in size from intimate doubles to the expansive Castle Suite, but all feature countryside views of the grounds, glens or golf course.