Deeside raises a glass to Prince Charles on his 70th birthday

© DC ThomsonThe Duke of Rothesay, Prince Charles, visited the new Rothesay Restaurant and Highgrove shop in Ballater in 2016.
The Duke of Rothesay, Prince Charles, visited the new Rothesay Restaurant and Highgrove shop in Ballater in 2016.

It was a week like no other in recent memory for the people of Ballater.

As hundreds of people sifted through the murky water for valuables in their ravaged homes and businesses following the catastrophic floods brought on by Storm Frank, many struggled to see how the village could recover.

More than 300 homes and 60 businesses in the village were devastated when the River Dee burst its banks on December 30, 2015.

But before people had even begun to count the cost of the damage, the Duke and Duchess of Rothesay had arrived in the village, determined to help get it back on its feet.

Now almost three years on, his efforts are being celebrated as locals and businesses toast the prince’s 70th birthday.

Through his charity the Prince’s Foundation, the duke has spearheaded a number of projects that have helped breathe new life into the picturesque royal burgh.

© PA
The Prince of Wales during a visit to a Prince’s Trust project to meet young people who have just completed The Prince’s Trust Team Programme at the Aberdeen Foyer.

First on his list was restoring and repairing the caravan park which, because of its riverside location, was one of the worst-hit businesses.

Barely a single property escaped unscathed, with caravans strewn around the grounds of the park and most, if not all, sustaining severe water damage.

It was unclear whether the park would ever be able to open again due to the insurance issues that emerged in the weeks and months after the flood,.

But recognising its importance to the local tourist trade, the duke tasked the charity with bringing it back into use.

David Coban, vice-chairman of the Ballater Business Association and owner of the Brakeley Gift Room, said: “Without the foundation’s help, I doubt the caravan park could have survived.

“They really threw a lifeline to it. It’s a major boon for the village, we can definitely tell the difference in our shop tills during the season and when it’s closed.”

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It was on his Hogmanay visit that the duke was given the idea to open a shop in the village.

He was visiting HM Sheridan – the Queen’s official butcher – which lost between £40,000 and £50,000 of stock.

Barry Florence, one of the co-owners of the butchers, suggested he should bring his Highgrove Shop to the village.

In the September following the floods, the duke and duchess officially opened the Rothesay Rooms, which also house a gift shop, providing another boost to the community.

© Supplied
The Rothesay Rooms restaurant and Highgrove Shop,

Alastair Cassie, who has run a general hardware shop on Bridge Street for more than 40 years, said the support has been invaluable.

“He’s taken a huge interest in the village and has given us a lot of his time.

“He keeps his ear to the ground and has always supported us.”

The village was already reeling before the floods arrived, as the Old Royal Station had been almost completely destroyed by a huge fire.

But the station, which would be the last stop for the royals on their trip to Braemar when the duke was a child, has now been restored and has new life as The Carriage – a tearoom, restaurant and visitor centre.

The popular Highgrove shop has also been relocated to the site since it opened.

And the foundation’s work in the region culminated with the recent opening of the Duke of Rothesay Highland Games Pavilion, located next to the Braemar Gathering arena.

It celebrates the history of the traditional sports.

Robert Lovie, director of the foundation, said the duke had not hesitated to come to the aid of Deeside.

He said: “This has all happened because of his love of Royal Deeside.

“This isn’t something that His Royal Highness dilly-dallied over. The people here needed his help.

“It’s played such an important part in his life and he recognised how important it was to others too.”

And as people across the UK celebrate the duke’s milestone, there is a buzz around the burgh once more, with more than one glass being raised in his honour today.

Bryn Wayte, owner of Deeside Books and Gifts, lost 10,000 items in the floods and was forced to close for 14 months.

He said: “It was really difficult for the village for a couple of years but it’s beginning to come back to life with things like the Royal Station now re-opened.

“Hopefully its’s going to continue.”