Ah Ballater, you will always have a place in my heart for a “delightful” conversation I had with my son when I told him this is where we would be going for a day. Located not too far from the Cairngorm Mountains and also pretty close to our, Hillview and not all that far from our Kirkstone Lodge properties. This is a lovely wee place that for the most part does not get a whole lot of attention because without being to unkind it just so happens to be close to some pretty exciting places that people have heard about which makes them not pay much attention to the gem that is Ballater.
Anyway along with my grumpy son, we did spend a lovely Thursday (you will find out why this random day, was the day we came here down below) here and had a good time. Well he will not admit he had a good time, but this was a pretty cool wee place and while we only got to spend a short time here I did get a very good vibe from this place and would love to spend a bit more time here at some point. Right down below I want to share with you a couple of the things we got up to and some that I wish we had the time to experience when we went to Ballater for a day.
I thought I would start on a high note and with the reason why we went to Ballater the exact day we did and with what took up most of our time. They host their own, Highland Games here each August and until recently despite just living a few hours away I had never heard of this! Anyway I have been to a few Highland Games over the years, along with the kids and we had always had a good time so that is why we came here when we did. Traditionally they take place on the 2nd Thursday of each August and there is a ton of events (or sports if you prefer) that go into this and this is the real deal by the way with all the things you would expect like tug of war, hammer throw, track events and much more. There is also a ton of little craft tables a, food places and other activities going on as well. My son does actually admit that the Highland Games were pretty cool and I am sure my youngest if he had been able to come would have enjoyed it as well, but his little friends 6th birthday party was an event that could not be missed!
Royal Lochnagar Distillery
Here is a place I was not able to go, but I would have loved to have gone and that is the Royal Lochnagar Distillery. As I had my son with my I could not do this. I did think about putting a fake goatee on him and getting him some platform boots, but on this day he was in no mood for my shenanigans and my other half possibly would have killed me had I told her I took our first born to a distillery. Anyway they make some incredible whisky here and they do offer a range of tours ranging from a quick and cheerful £7 tour which gives you an idea of what they are all about. To a more in depth and intense tour where you will learn a lot and also get to have a few cheeky wee samples. This is a distillery (and if you read my last blog post you know I love my whisky tours!) I must check out one day and if any of you guys have been here I would love to hear about it in the comments below.
Ballater Golf Club
I love to play golf…… now admittedly I am not what you would call good at it, but I still do enjoy a round of golf. Well there is actually an 18 hole golf course in Ballater and it is pretty fantastic. It is a popular golf course, their website loves to tell you that Prince Charles himself has visited the club while I am not a great golfer I actually think I could maybe take on Prince Charles. You do not have to be a member to enjoy a round and at, £30 for a weekday round and £40 for a weekend I do not think the price is that out of line with what other clubs charge guests these days. They do allow kids here so if you have any teenagers who are into golf then it is something you might want to consider looking into if you are going to be in the area or even if you are in Aviemore and want to do something a little more relaxing and get away from all the crazy activities. The only thing I wish there was, is a driving range as if there was I think we might have actually made a real effort to go here.
Wildlife Walks & Safaris
Deeside Nature Activities is something that if we had more time or if I had planned our day here better we would have certainly checked out, but the Highland Games took up most of our day here so we did not have enough time unfortunately. Anyway these fine folks put on what sound like some incredible nature exertions where you will either go on a well planned out nature walk or be driven around in a pretty badass 4 x 4 as you get to see animals like deer, grouse, golden eagle and maybe even the illusive and blood thirsty wild haggis. For sure next time we are in the area this is something we will take part in. They do say that the safaris can last for around 3-4 hours so make sure to set aside that kind of time. In my experience kids usually love things like this so I am sure it will be a very fun family activity that everyone can get into.
Ok so this right here is not actually an “activity” but this was the other place my son and I visited while we were here. Cycle Highlands is the largest bike shop in this part of Scotland and with my family being big time cycling enthusiast this was a place I had to go to and while we were only able to spend a short time here (we pretty much got here 15 minutes before closing) it was still really cool. They have so much cycling stuff in here that it is literally hanging from the roof! they have pretty much everything you would want and next time we are going on a cycling adventure round the Cairngorms I will certainly try to swing round here. They also rent bikes and offer trail guides as well so if you are new to cycling then this would be a great place to come and get some advice.
Eating In Ballater
There was plenty of little cafes and nice places to eat that I noticed while we were here and normally we would have jumped at the chance to sample some local food, especially the cakes and other sweet goodness from a couple of the wee bakeries, but we did pig out big time at the Highland Games so we did not really feel like eating even more before the drive home. One place in particular that looked very nice as we went past was The Station Restaurant which do movie and supper nights which sounds like a great way if you were staying close by for the weekend to relax in the evening after a hard day in the Cairngorms.