Teetering near the edge of the Aberdeenshire boundary, the Victorian village is a popular tourist spot. Surrounded by stunning countryside, castles and revelled in royal connections, consider every hour of your time accounted for. Oh and food, conveniently enough I have a hits up my sleeve to see your way through your visit.
Bridge House Cafe
The Bridge House Cafe is your stop for a brunch to fuel your day. This rustic chalet-like cafe has a bumper selection of all-day brunch items for guests to enjoy. From pancake and waffle stacks with an abundance of savoury and sweet toppings to open toasted croissants and vibrant smoothie bowls – consider yourself spoiled.
And it’s not just us humans that are well looked after here, dogs are equally welcomed guests too. Ramsay will most definitely be cloud canine with Barkin’ Brunch on offer.
Sometimes breakfast simply calls for a freshly baked pastry and coffee. The riverside hut of Courie Courie has made its name as the home of fresh pastries and quality coffee in the area. Open Saturday to Tuesdays, expect pastry classics along with fresh breads, cakes, speciality pies and substantial scones. The day its honey buns and garlic swirlys make a return, send me the Batmobile to get me there at lightning speed.
Take a seat right on the platform of the former Royal Station of Ballater where phenomenal lunch and dinner options are plated. Now known as The Rothesay Rooms, this was the final stop on the Deeside Railway Line for the Royal Family before alighting for Balmoral Castle.
The menu pushes the boundaries to play homage to Scottish cuisine through variations expertly crafted by executive chef Ross Cochrane. Bringing guests a field to fork experience, the menu is shaped by seasonal produce to embody the wealth of local flavours. Each course is meticulously plated and the attention to detail here is sublime with no jus, dusting or herb a speckly out of place.
Combine stunning tastes, awe-inspiring platings and a fascinating setting, it’s really no surprise it makes the Michelin Guide.
If it has been a day of hiking hills or doing the rounds of loch sides, the Scottish hideaway of the Clachan Grill for a hearty feed. Take a load off in the confines of this converted steading finished with tartan, stag horns and warming touches to make you feel right at home.
Diners explore Scotland by taste through its menu shaped by sustainably sourced produce from near and far. Consider it a celebration of Aberdeenshire with quality meat supplies from Braemar’s Menzies Butchers, seafood from the markets of Peterhead and fresh vegetables from Deeside Deli in Ballater. And cheese lovers are well catered for with the best in the game sourced from Cambus O’May just around the neuk and the Isle of Mull and Arran on the West Coast.
I’m glad to see the chicken liver parfait with homemade chutney and brioche still going strong on the menu since my last dine in 2019. I’ll be ordering that along with the pork belly and black pudding gratin when I return.
Orka Artisan Cafe and Bistro
Aberdeen’s popular Cafe Orka made moves to open another cafe and bistro to give Ballater a slice of the action last year. The eatery adds even more pretty to Ballater painted in powder blue and greenery dressing its exterior.
It’s an ideal spot for lunch with soups, quiches, paninis and specials served seven days a week. The bakery selection at its flagship cafe in Aberdeen has hooked locals so expect to see its freshly baked scones, tarts and cakes make an appearance too.
An essential stop for the picnic supplies is Deeside Deli if you’re on the move. Grab cheese and meats from its deli counter, bread supplied by Wild Hearth Bread and fresh fruit from its grocery selection to keep that picnic hamper full.
The Auld Kirk
The spire of The Auld Kirk stands tall above the Ballater skyline inviting guests in for a moments peace… and an enticing slice of cake. The converted Scottish Free Church dates back to 1859 and today operates as a four-star B&B and welcoming coffee house.
Afternoon tea proves popular here with an elegant display of homemade biscuits, sausage rolls and individual victoria sponge cupcakes. Any afternoon tea that has cheese straws included, gets my vote.
If you’re not fit for an afternoon tea, there’s plenty of daily homebakes to choose from. Its outdoor seating area is a prime spot on the warmer days. Take in views of the Craigendarroch (i.e. the big hill that overlooks the town) from its sun-trapped picnic benches to top up the Vitamin D levels.
Ballater is one of the many glorious towns to visit here in Aberdeenshire. Take advantage of the Hidden Scotland inspiration tool to find out what else awaits you in the North-east of Scotland and beyond.
To keep up with my food escapades, follow on Instagram, read the blog and listen to the Dishin’ It podcast.