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Aberdeenshire Coat of Arms

May 2018

baile village + leitire Scottish Gaelic (at the) hillside.

Population - 1,446.

Aberdeenshire Coat of Arms

It's hard not to begin to be beguiled by Ballater and maybe it's the brick they used to build it when the Victorians came with the railway?

Not that's how you'll be arriving today, so-called 'Dr'  Beeching saw to the end of the line from Aberdeen although it was a fire that saw to the old station in 2015.

They're still restoring the station today but it will officially reopen as the  Visitor Centre on Monday 20th August 2018 when HRH the Duchess of Rothesay, or Camilla if you'd rather, cuts the ribbon.

It's still the end of the  Deeside Way, a not too strenuous 50-mile stroll from the Granite City on the old track bed.

It's said that a certain Mrs  Wallis Simpson alighted here for a clandestine-come-dirty weekend with Eddie VIII in 1936. As the first example of an inter-war superinjunction, this was never reported so how the sources can be so sure is unsure. Still, that's Wikipedia™ for you.

If you too have never been exactly sure where  Balmoral actually is, it's about 7 miles west of here, actually. That's why Wallis Simpson was snucking in, you see, and with the royal connection established that'll explain the higher than average number of businesses proudly advertising their Royal Warrants of Appointment.

There's one for the green-fingered Camilla's Clematis and one for the servicing of Charlie's fancy chassis. There's another for the general dealer and  off-licence that also sells fags.

They presumably got theirs from Princess Margaret when she was in town although business hasn't been quite so brisk since 2002. Still, what else are you going to do stuck up here nursing a broken heart? At least that's how it was understood in  The Crown.

  India on the green (Victoria Road)

No royal thumbs-up on show but award-winning chef Abdul Hamid has some interesting-sounding specials on the menu.

Ballater - India on the green

That's handy should Harry want to go all Hyderabady although all your old-skool favourites are there when Willie just wants a vindaloo. Prince Philip, on the other hand, will just be having an omelette from the 'European' section.

Things in this small town are largely centred around a pleasant area of greenery with Glenmuick Parish Church bang in the middle.

This neo-Gothic whopper isn't where the Windsors can be found miming to Little Donkey on Christmas Day, though, that's down in Sandringham since they only ever spend the summer here, you see.

The only real evidence of a royal visit is a cairn unveiled by Queen Elizabeth herself for some diamond work on the jubilee front.

It's just a collection of rocks, really, and, over a 100 years earlier, Victoria was celebrated with something similar near Callander.

She would have been far from amused, however, half expecting something significant like a clock, probably.

A young lady in the temporary Visitor Centre was overheard to say they weren't allowed to recommend particular places to eat. That means they're either all great or the exact opposite so a couple of Co-op™ sandwiches and a mini picnic by the River Dee it is, then.

That's why town is being left behind and in the background there, Craigendarroch Hill.

You can  get up it through the woods where the views are superb, they say. For something more strenuous, Glen Muick, itself, is about 9 miles south-west and leads to Lochnagar, one of the mightier  Munros although it just fails to trouble the top 20.

Prince Charles wrote a children's book about an old man who lives in a cave in it, or something, but he was no  David Walliams and soon turned his attention to complaining about architecture instead.

Lochnagar is now lodged in the brain because it's been borrowed by something much more familiar. It's the name of one of the two  tandooris in town.

Drop down from the bridge and head past the caravans for access to the river where things aren't always so calm for the grey wagtails, not shown, to put on a display.

In December 2015,  Storm Frank saw static caravans floating down here and the high street under 3 foot of fluid.

HRH Liz II popped into town during her next summer holidays to show some solidarity, perhaps, or to pick up some raw steak for a perpetually pregnant Kate, probably.

HM Sheridan, the butchers, was one of those affected and wouldn't reopen until the following Easter with their recent  web presence having had a, not so speedy but, modern refurb.

'Jings and Crivvens!' It's a first and belated visit but what a little belter of a place Ballater is. Yes, it's known that you know that this pair now know those exclamations of surprise are lifted straight from  Oor Wullie but only because of the talk of the River Dee.

It flows, of course, to Aberdeen and not Dundee where you're talking about the Tay but the whyfors of that will have to wait until next year when their  V&A Design Museum will have opened[1].

It's not being said, it's definitely not, that only then will Wullie's birthplace be worth a visit. It's just that, unlike the Royals, this pair don't get as many holidays.

Those can now be combined with another visit to Ballater that warrants an appointment and, just like the royals, it'll be back up here next summer.

You never know, by then, these ramblings may even have received a Royal Warrant although it's unlikely that Regina is actually reading, really.

[1] 15th September 2018, actually.