Want to get away but have no idea where to start? Need to know what there actually is to do? Ballater Hostel is located right in the Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands. There are so many activities to suit all abilities right on its doorstep. With 7 private rooms available, all en suite, 5 with TVs and 3 with king beds why not put Ballater Hostel on your list of places to stay on your next holiday? Read on to find just what there is to do…
Walking is by far the most popular activity in the Cairngorms National Park. There are so many walks you can do from the hostel front door, without the need for a car.
Why not start the morning with a walk up Craigendarroch (2 miles)? You get an amazing view of Ballater from the top. Or in the opposite direction you have Pannanich Woods & Craig Coillich (1.5 miles). The hill is used during the Ballater Highland Games and the famous Hill Run – if you’re feeling really energetic you could complete this run and get on our leader board! If you’d rather start the day in a gentler fashion you can meander along the river as it winds its way around the golf course (2.5 miles).
If leisurely low-lying walks are your preferred format, we have our famous 7 bridges walk which is just under 7 miles all round (although I count at least 9 bridges).
For a moderate walk we’d recommend heading towards Abergairn Castle, an eerie ruined castle, almost all gone, hidden away behind the trees (5 miles). Alternatively go hiking up Sgor Buidhe where you pop out onto the open moorland with stunning views from the top (7.5 miles). You can extend this latter route to take in Peter’s Hill if you’re feeling extra energetic (10 miles).
For those looking for a challenge we’d highly recommend walking from Ballater either south west to the Coyles of Muick, via the rather hidden (takes a compass to find) Prince of Wales cairn (11.5 miles), or south east up Pannanich Hill and along the ridge to Cairn Leuchan (12 miles) or (for an awesome 15 miler) north, up our closest Corbett, Morven.
Further afield, but all within a 30-minute drive to the start, we have the Ballochbuie Forest – one of the largest remaining areas of ancient Caledonian Pine Forest in Scotland. An amazing place to walk, right on the Balmoral estate. There’s also the Balmoral Cairns, Loch Muick (an absolute must) and don’t forget our 6 closest Munros – Mount Keen and the White Mounth Five, including Lochnagar.
There is just so many walks to do there is never enough time. We at Ballater Hostel have compiled a list of all the walks we have done (69 so far) each with an OS map, total ascent, starting grid reference, and notes on each walk. Obviously too much to send every guest but we do send every incoming guest an abridged version, from which we invite you to choose which walks you’d like to know more about.
- Ballater Paths Leaflet
- Link to walking section on our website which has PDF of 69 walks
- Glen Tanar Estate Walks
- Cambus o May Forest Trails
- Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve
The mountain crags of Lochnagar and the Creag an Dubh Loch host superb, well protected granite slabs and cracks. Lower crags are available with the Pass of Ballater and Burn o’ Vat very nearby and offer excellent climbs with minimal walking required. In winter the climbing really comes into its own with Lochnagar offering challenging ice and winter routes that are world renowned.
Two excellent websites full of all the different climbs can be found at
Whether you prefer to ride on the road, explore a mountain bike trail or just a leisurely ride away from traffic, get on your bike in Ballater and venture into our great outdoors. No matter where you end up on your cycling expedition you’ll never be far from a warming coffee and fine-piece (Doric for cake) at one of our cycling-friendly cafes.
Ballater has long been a destination for families and individuals seeking scenic days out on a bike. In recent years however the more serious and technically proficient mountain biker has come to regard Ballater as one of Scotland’s must visit destinations.
The explosion in trail building across the country has not passed Ballater by – and some trails such as Heartbreak Ridge, The Green Mile and Mastermind are on every riders bucket list. If going downhill at speed is not your style there are plenty of more gentler routes, including the forest trails at Cambus O’May, Loch Muick and along the Deeside Way (Route 195 of the National Cycle Network) – all bikeable from Ballater. Not forgetting the mountain classics such as The Capel Mounth and Streak of Lightning which has helped Ballater become an ideal base from which to explore.
If you enjoy road cycling nothing beats a ride through Royal Deeside to the Cairngorms National Park. Take on the challenge of the UK’s highest pass at the Glenshee ski centre, head towards The Lecht and test yourself on what is recognised as one of the toughest, and most spectacular, road climbs in the country.
There are two bike hire places in Ballater – Cycle Highlands and Bike Station. Between them they have a range of bikes to hire out for the day, including e-bikes (really great fun if you’ve never tried them). They both also have a shop so if you’re missing a part or something’s broken on your bike, just call in. They both have a wealth of experience on where the best places are to cycle – don’t be afraid to ask!
- The best website to check out all the routes from Ballater is Trailforks
- Cambus o May Forest Trails
- Deeside Way
- Cycle Highlands
- Bike Station
Nature provides the ingredients for Aberdeenshire’s “water of life”. Whether it’s the toasted barley from the fertile farmlands, the ice-clear mountain water from burns and springs, the smoky peats and heather honey from heath and moors, or simply the sparkling fresh air – the whisky distilleries are busy bottling the essence of this beautiful place. To be called Scotch whisky it must be aged for at least three years. There are over 100 working distilleries operating today (and counting!), each making whisky in their own unique way.
Neighbouring Balmoral Castle, and just a few miles from Ballater, Royal Lochnagar Distillery is the perfect place to discover how Scotch Whisky is made. Watch as their team of operators tend to the traditional mashtun, gleaming copper stills and fill casks at the traditional distillery, which retains much of its original charm.
A little further afield, but encircled by some of the finest scenery you could wish to see, there are a several beautiful distilleries to visit. The award-winning Glenlivet Distillery, Glenfiddich, Cardhu and Balvenie can all be visited from Ballater. If gin is your preferred tipple you can find the home of Caorunn nestled deep in the stunning landscapes of the Cairngorms.
The distilleries all differ in their individual charm and fascinating historical links and are here to be discovered!
For more info on Scotch Whisky head to the Scotch Whisky Association or Malt Madness do a superb map of all the distilleries in Scotland.
There are over 260 castles in Aberdeenshire. Some are still lived in, some are just ruins, whilst others show no trace of ever being there. Some are open to the public, whereas others are private.
Just 8 miles from Ballater is one of the most famous castles in Scotland – Balmoral – the Scottish holiday home to the Royal Family.
From April – July and in the winter months you can take a tour of the castle and its grounds. Between August – October the grounds, gardens and exhibitions are closed to the Public as The Royal Family are in residence.
Another castle very close by is Braemar Castle (16 miles from Ballater).
Why not don your boots and head out to discover two ruined castles very close by? Knock Castle south of the River Dee or Abergairn Castle just west of Craigendarroch.
The River Dee is known as the world’s top spring salmon river with catches in Deeside generally higher than anywhere for Atlantic salmon. Good angling or fishing beats are available at Banchory, Kincardine O’Neil, Aboyne, Ballater and Braemar with fishing guides (ghillies) to assist from February to October. Fishing the prestigious River Dee can be booked through “Fish Pal”.
Some top and very reasonably priced local angling / fishing can be had at the following:
Invercauld Estate – Fantastic salmon fishing on the River Dee. Also trout fishing on the River Gairn.
Deeside Activity Park – offers private access to salmon fishing beats on the Dee and the Don and can provide tackle & waders, ghillies for private fishing instruction, transport and accommodation.
Glen Tanar Estate – 4 fly-based salmon fishing beats can be booked by the week, part-week or the day. Fishing with a ghillie is mandatory in the spring, but optional during summer. Also offer fly-fishing from boat for rainbow trout on own well-stocked private loch.
Loch Kinord Hotel at Dinnet – has an association on the River Feugh for fishing and Ghillie who will pick up from the hotel and return back. The Feugh opens 1st June but usually has daily availability when the Dee is fully booked. It is also a good trout river.
More info can be found at Fishing the Fly, which covers the River Don and Still Water fishing. While Fish Pal which gives a lot of info on fishing on the River Dee.
- Invercauld Estate
- Deeside Activity Park
- Glen Tanar Estate
- Loch Kinord Hotel
- Fishing the Fly
- Fish Pal
Established in 1990, the Glen Tanar Equestrian Centre offers safe, high quality horse riding on riverside, woodland and hillside trails, all within the peaceful surrounds of Glen Tanar. The original stable block of Glen Tanar House now houses the Equestrian Centre.
They offer rides from 1 hour to a whole day. Professional tuition, in small groups or individually, on well-schooled horses and ponies, for the first-time rider to the very experienced.