It’s no wonder that Braemar is such a huge draw for tourists.
The village is surrounded by mountain and woodland scenery, houses a community run castle, and hosts annual events including The Braemar Gathering and Braemar Creative Arts Festival.
It is also situated close to Glenshee, Ballater and Crathie.
But outwith the dates of these events – and when the sun isn’t shining or the school holidays have come and gone – how do local businesses fare?
Tourists after more eateries, but local opinion differs…
On the food and drink front, you’ll find The Clunie Dining Room and The Flying Stag at The Fife Arms, on Mar Road, Gordon’s Tearoom and Restaurant, Farquharson’s Bar and Kitchen and The Bothy Braemar, to name a few spots, in the village.
But, despite its population (aka permanent residents) standing at less than 1,000, tourists want more.
On a recent social media post – where I asked what residents and tourists thought of the Braemar food scene – Halina Ann Parsons commented: “As a visitor I absolutely love Braemar and all it has to offer, however I feel it could do with some more evening eateries.
“Very sad that the Braemar Lodge [Hotel] was lost.”
Fellow respondents said similar, with one writing: “I’d love to see more eateries, especially in the evening.”
Sometimes a Co-op sandwich feels like the only option
Another told us: “At busy times, there isn’t enough capacity for the number of folk trying to get food. Short opening hours and days.
“Often end up buying sandwiches in the Co-op and we eat them on a bench in the Mews [tourist information centre]. However, we know that this is due to the unavailability of staff for eateries, not a willingness to serve customers.”
I caught up with a former Braemar hospitality business owner, too, who asked to remain anonymous. Their opinion on adding more food and drink options to Braemar couldn’t have been more different.
They said: “Of course people want more food, however in Braemar, [it’s] totally unachievable.”
‘Business dies after The Gathering and does not pick up until late spring,’ says former business owner
“The problem I foresee is that they would all like more restaurants, be it pizza, Italian etc,” they went on to say.
“They can’t see the expense side of it, nor would they frequent them on a regular basis. That is the bottom line!”
The Bothy, Braemar,
described by Hidden Scotland as "A bright and charming spot in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park …" was the best thing so far on this short break 'up north'.
The atmosphere was friendly, the prices fair and the food fabulous ♥️⚘️♥️ pic.twitter.com/nemRM4X6YS
— Pauline 🧏♀️ (partially deaf)🎗( Endometriosis ) (@P_M_nosmohT) October 7, 2023
The anonymous source owned a local bistro from 2006 to 2015. However, they “realised in the first two years” that it was not sustainable.
“This is the challenge anyone would face, business dies after The Gathering and does not pick up until late spring.
“How could a business be successful? Look at Edinburgh, restaurants [are] shutting on a daily basis.”
Local councillor shares thoughts on Braemar food scene, which could be improved by staff recruitment
Aberdeenshire councillor Geva Blackett has lived in Braemar for more than three decades.
Geva, who represents Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside, mentioned that the area has a staffing issue.
When asked how she would improve its food and drink offering, she said: “I would like to see everyone working together to make sure we have Monday nights covered.
“Currently there is very limited choice for visitors – with staff recruitment difficulties.
“Obviously everyone needs two days off a week, but everyone [local restaurants and cafes] doing Monday night is not great.”
Monday dining options include Farquharsons Bar and Kitchen (open from noon to 11pm), The Bothy Braemar (open from 9am to 5.30pm) and The Fife Arms.
However, Geva – who appeared on BBC One’s MasterChef last spring – had a lot of positive things to say about the Braemar food scene, as well.
“We are starting to have a real diversity of offerings,” she went on to say.
“I think Braemar, Crathie and Ballater are becoming more sophisticated in their offering. Take Tarmachan Café and The Highlanders Bakehouse as examples.”
Residents continue to mourn loss of Braemar Lodge Hotel
A number of villagers witnessed a tragedy in March 2022 when a huge fire broke out at Braemar Lodge Hotel, leaving it destroyed.
“We don’t really have enough places to eat, mainly because the Braemar Lodge fire took out an 80-cover restaurant,” adds the councillor.
“The impact of the Braemar Lodge loss isn’t really understood and unfortunately there has been no indication, almost two years on, as to what might happen on that site.
“[Nevertheless] we have a world class destination and that includes our food and drink.”