With its rich heritage, breath-taking scenery and welcoming community, Braemar is certainly one of the north-east’s most precious treasures.
The small Deeside village might not seem like the obvious choice to settle in for some – but the beautiful views of the Cairngorms mixed with the sound of pipes from the Highland Games can easily prove otherwise.
Braemar has been named as one of the best places to live in the UK in this year’s listing by The Times, getting the better of other Scottish competitors like Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Hailed as the spot where “Scotland is at its most rugged, dramatic and beautiful”, it is among seven places in Scotland to make the list and the only representative of the north.
And for locals in Braemar, the news was no surprise.
‘Braemar is everything you can possibly want’
Gareth Johnston, who has been born and bred in a family deeply rooted in Braemar for hundreds of years, praised the close-knit community in the village as its main asset.
The 35-year-old butcher said: “I might be a bit biased, but I love it here – the countryside, the community spirit, there is almost everything you can possibly want from a small village.
“There are plenty of facilities like playparks, and then you have the woods and the hills to go on your bike. You can just go out and about and you don’t really have to worry about anything.
“It’s hard to say why it’s such a good place when you’ve grown up here because you just accept it as normal. But compared to other places I’ve stayed, here it’s much more like a whole community and folk are always willing to help you out – everyone looks out for everyone.”
‘It’s a stunning place – even on a dreich day’
For 55-year-old Iain Fowler and his wife Gillian, Braemar was the hidden gem that had everything they wished for.
The couple moved to the village from Surrey in 2018 after spending eight years exploring Scotland to find their perfect home.
Mr Fowler, who now works at Braemar Mountain Sports, said: “It’s a stunning place to live, even on a dreich day – that’s why I moved here. My wife and I have been all over the country just to see where we could live in Scotland and it took us eight years to find Braemar.
“There is so much going on in the village and the people are really friendly. There are so many people willing to put themselves out to put things on – from craft fairs, concerts, mountain sports, and then you have the famous games as well. It’s just a great place.”
One of the most popular events drawing thousands to the village every year, is the Braemar Gathering — a kilted feast of caber-tossing with roots dating back to the Middle Ages, which takes place on the first weekend of September.
Queen Victoria loved coming to Braemar so much, from Balmoral nine miles away, that she bestowed royal status on the local Highland Games – with members of the Royal Family still among the regular attendees of the event.
Meanwhile, a number of local groups – ranging from scouts to forest rangers and youth clubs – are also hard at work all year round to keep residents and visitors entertained.
Fantastic scenery makes Braemar top holiday destination
And while others said they probably wouldn’t necessarily move to live in Braemar, it remains one of their top destinations to visit.
Gillian and Ivan Cunningham often leave their home in Buckhaven, Fife, to take a breath of fresh air and enjoy the mesmerising scenery of Royal Deeside with their friends Moira and Colin Angus.
Mrs Cunningham, 55, said: “It feels like it’s really far away from where we live, although it’s not, because it’s such a different air, different scenery, different pace – it’s like a proper holiday destination even though it’s only a few hours away.
“It just slows you down and you’ve got all the local cafes and restaurants, the scenery is just fantastic for walks and everybody is so welcoming and lovely.”