Discover Royal Deeside
Set in the Victorian village of Ballater, the Balmoral Arms is just two streets away from the River Dee, surrounded by boutique shops and cafes. Pack your walking boots, for there are countless stunning hikes to be enjoyed in these parts, including the picturesque Loch Muick, the Lochnager Munro and trails within the Cairngorms National Park (maps and guides are provided in rooms).
Outdoor pursuits, such as winter skiing (Glenshee Ski Centre is a short drive away), fishing, archery and stalking are plentiful and the Ballater Golf Club is but a stroll away. Wildlife enthusiasts can spot red squirrels, black grouse, capercaillies, wildcats, golden eagles and more.
But of course, a visit to the Royals’ summer residence is a key part of a peak season stay in Ballater; the Castle can be reached in a little over 10 minutes by car, with the option of a detour past the more diminutive Knock Castle en route.
This property is part of the Crerar Hotels group, which offer luxurious accommodations across Scotland and have been offering exceptional service since 1902. Guests can experience the wild and inspiring landscapes, an abundance of wildlife, outdoor adventures and local produce with properties stretching from Loch Fyne and Oban, across to Mull up to Glencoe, Nairn and down to Ballater.
Read our review of the Crerar Lock Fyne Hotel & Spa here
After days exploring the Cairngorms, you can cosy up in one of the Ballater Arms’ bedrooms and suites, all with organic bath products provided by the Highland Soap Company and locally sourced goodies. Soft tones, with touches of tweed, country-chic patterned headboards and wood panelling create a soothing, all-Scottish backdrop for your break.
The premium category of guest rooms comprises the River Dee, Loch Muick, Balmoral and Birkhall suites; these come equipped with Nespresso coffee machines, a dram and shortbread in the room and nods to their local namesakes.
The Lochnagar and Crathie junior suites also benefit from Nespresso machines, alongside Tunnocks treats and pure wool bedding for some Scottish hygge. Book a bedroom from the Feature Room category for a roll-top bath, or a Coorie Double on the top floor for rooftop views across the village. Those planning to spend most of the time out and about may prefer one of the wallet-friendly (but still supremely comfortable) Cosy Doubles, or Classic Rooms with twin, double or king beds available.
Our Suite During Our Stay Was The Balmoral Suite.
During our stay we were hosted in the best suite in the hotel, the Balmoral Suite. This gorgeous suite offers plenty of space to spread out and faces the front offering a cute view overlooking the church.
The bathroom comes with an indulgent roll top bath, a separate walk in shower and amenities by the Highland Soap Company.
We were left a beautiful selection of chocolates by the Braemar Chocolate Shop and they were so good, we made a detour via the shop on the way home to stock up on more.
There was a Nespresso machine too and plenty of tea options and biscuits too.
Dining & breakfast takes place at the in-house brasserie and grill, 1852, whose name celebrates the year in which Balmoral Castle was acquired for Queen Victoria by Prince Albert (and marks a long lineage of monarchs in residence). And the Royal connection doesn’t end here; game from the Balmoral Estate makes an appearance on the 1852’s menu, thanks to the head chef’s stellar connections.
Additionally, farm-assured meats and minimum 28-day-aged steaks are acquired from the award-winning Gilmour Butchers and Sheridan in Ballater, with deer from Crerar Home Farm and indigenous wild salmon. Ingredients are often infused with nearby Pinewood Conservation Gin, enhancing the taste of the Cairngorms. And guests can pair their dishes with a matched glass of something special from de Burgh Wine Merchants.
Our Dining Experience
We loved the adjoining lounge with open coal fire, so decided to retire there for desserts and a final drink for the evening. There are a selection of board games to enjoy and even a piano too
Am indulgent affair, all served à la carte, pick two options from the larder and one from the hot choices which served to your table.
The Ghillies Bar and the Lounge
For more casual meals, drinks and some live music, there’s The Ghillies Bar, a homage to a role both embedded in tradition and integral to the Highland way of life (the ghillie is responsible for maintaining the land and educating visitors in its ways).
Order a draft ale by the Inveralmond in Perth or from the Royal Deeside Brewery; choose from a collection of 40 whiskies; opt for a pudding cocktail; or a classic serve with a Scottish twist (such as the “Wild Margarita”). Candle-lit lanterns, plump plaid cushions, sheepskin throws, fairy lights and rustic wooden furniture create a homely atmosphere encouraging patrons to settle in for the evening.
The Balmoral Arms also serves a traditional Victorian afternoon tea in the lounge, beside the roaring fire. Finger sandwiches, scones and cakes arrive on a silver stand, with tea in bone china cups, this is also the ideal place for a cosy post-dinner nightcap.
Ishga Spa Treatments
A stay at the Balmoral Arms enables you to experience the local area on a multi-sensory level — tasting the produce, seeing the landscapes, listening to the Desside rush of wind and water, and feeling the touch of Scottish seaweed on your skin. Treatments at the hotel’s treatment rooms make use of Ishga skincare products, containing ingredients from the Hebridean Isles. Whether a massage, a wrap, or a facial, this is a wonderful way to unwind, switch off, and literally soak in the goodness of this region.
Welcoming Four-Legged Guests
Rolling hills, mountains, rivers and an all-around outdoorsy culture is just made for dogs and their owners. So naturally, the Balmoral Arms welcomes four-legged guests with open arms, catering for up to two dogs in many of the rooms (more may be accepted by arrangement). Pooches receive complimentary Wow Dog Beer Bones, created using spent grain from BrewDog’s Aberdeenshire brewery, along with other local ingredients. And as they’re lactose, soy, meat, salt — and alcohol—free, the teats are kind on more sensitive canine stomachs. Dogs can join their humans in a special area of The Ghillies Bar, and in the Lounge, with comfy rugs and snuggly beds provided for snoozing by the fireside.
Whether for winter skiing, spring walks, summer tours of the Royal Estate, or to experience the majestic autumnal colours, a Highland holiday in this pocket of Aberdeenshire, is a rejuvenating experience. One that’s likely to have you falling in love with Deeside.
This hotel is included in our guide to the best luxury hotels in Aberdeenshire
Address: 13-15 Victoria Rd, Ballater AB35 5RA