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This post is an ultimate guide to the North East 250 route, focusing on the section from Aberdeen to Braemar.

North East 250 | Aberdeen to Braemar

The North East 250 (NE250) is a 250-mile route around Aberdeenshire and Moray in the North-East of Scotland. This scenic circular route typically starts and ends in the same place, whether that's Aberdeen Airport, Glenshee or another location on the route.As someone who has done the NE250, I can personally vouch that the it offers some of the best sightseeing stops in Scotland including Scotland's very own pyramid, the British Royal Families Scottish Residence, loads of castles, whiskey distilleries and lovely little seaside towns. You'll want to make this your next Scottish road trip!This post will focus on the section of the North East 250 route from Aberdeen to Braemar and will cover everything from things to do, to places to eat and stay. From the key tourist sites to the hidden gems along the route, everything will be covered in this comprehensive guide allowing you to plan your own perfect trip.I will be doing a full NE250 blog post series covering every section of this route. Please subscribe to my blog to be notified when these new blog posts are released or find them linked at the bottom of this blog post.This post covers everything you need to know about the North East 250 route from Aberdeen to Braemar, ultimately allowing you plan your own trip.

This blog post covers...

The road from Aberdeen to Braemar

Aberdeen is Scotland's third largest city and the route typically starts and ends a short distance away from the city centre at Aberdeen airport. However, since the North East 250 is a circular route, that gives you the freedom to choose where you want to start and end the route, as well as the direction you want to travel in. Possible other starting points could be Glenshee, Ballindalloch or Fochabers.

It's easiest to do the NE250 in either a car, camper-van or a motorbike. If you really wanted, it is even possible to cycle or walk the NE250. However, you can't do the NE250 by train or bus as the public transport links aren't great on some parts of the route.

FYI: I'm going to base the next couple of paragraphs on your starting point being Aberdeen airport. If like me, you choose to travel in a clockwise direction around the NE250, then you will travel east from Aberdeen to Braemar by taking the A93 road. Although, you could go directly to Braemar, which would only take an hour and 15 minutes. There are loads of sightseeing spots that are located between Aberdeen and Braemar that you'll probably want to stop at and ultimately it'll most likely take you longer, even a couple of days to eventually reach Braemar.

When I did the NE250, I found that the A93 road and other roads around this area to be in generally quite good condition. On rural country roads, you might find that they are single-tracked or have sharp corners. Just slow down and be careful. Most importantly remember that British people drive on the left hand side of the road.

If you've picked to travel in the anti-clockwise direction for your NE250, you will be going from Aberdeen to Fraserburgh first. You can still follow along on my NE250 blog post series, you'll just need to flip it to go in the opposite direction.

North East 250 route from Aberdeen to Braemar
North East 250 route from Aberdeen to Braemar.

How long should it take to get from Aberdeen to Braemar on your North East 250 road trip?

It depends on how long you will be taking to complete your NE250 trip.

For a 4-day or 5-day NE250 trip

You might want to take just 2 days to get from Aberdeen to Braemar. There is so much to see on this part of the NE250, including Balmoral Pyramid, Castle Fraser, Craigievar castle and Balmoral Castle so you'll want to do a lot of stop-offs. With only 4 days, you might not be able to see everything you want to see.

  • On day 1, Aberdeen Airport to Aboyne
  • On day 2, Aboyne to Braemar/Glenshee

For a 7-day NE250 trip

You might want to take 3/4 days to get from Aberdeen to Braemar. This would give you time to possibly see other tourist attractions off the route including Aberdeen city and Dunnottar Castle in Stonehaven (not to be missed if you have spare time!!).

  • On day 1, Aberdeen Airport to Banchory
  • On day 2, Banchory to Ballater
  • On day 3, Ballater to Braemar/Glenshee

This will give you plenty of time to do lots of sightseeing.

Things to do on the North East 250

From Aberdeen to Braemar


On your NE250 route, from Aberdeen to Braemar you will pass Banchory, Aboyne, Ballater, Crathie, Braemar and Glenshee on the A93 road. These are all quaint Scottish towns and villages, so there's not tonnes to see but it's worth stopping off for a bite to eat, coffee and a wee wonder around.


  • Castle Fraser, near Westhill - Located about 20 minutes off the main North East 250 route to the west of Aberdeen Airport, this beautiful castle is not to be missed! Read my blog post below which contains all the need to know information for visiting Castle Fraser.
Castle Fraser
Castle Fraser is one of the largest tower houses and nicest stately homes in Scotland. It belonged to the Fraser family for over 400 years!
  • Drum Castle, near Drumoak - A stones throw away from the North East 250 route, this castle dates back to 1280 and is steeped in history. In fact it's one of Scotland's oldest surviving tower houses! Read my blog post below, which contains everything you need to know for visiting Drum Castle.
Drum Castle
Drum Castle is one of the three oldest surviving tower houses in Scotland and has remained unaltered for 700-800 years.
  • Crathes Castle, near Crathes - You won't have to deviate far off the North East 250 route as this castle is located just outside Crathes and Banchory. This castle has something for everyone; sightseeing, wildlife spotting and a woodland adventure play park for the younger ones. Also did I mention?...the castle is said to be home to two resident ghosts, so there might be a spot of ghost hunting too! Read my blog post below for more information.
Crathes Castle
Crathes Castle is a magnificent L-plan six storey castle set in the rolling hills of Aberdeenshire. It is every bit the classic tower house.
  • Craigievar Castle, near Alford - Like Castle Fraser, this one is also situated 15-20 minutes off the main North East 250 route. This stunning pink castle is one of the highlights in Aberdeenshire. Read my blog post below for all the need to know information before you visit!
Craigievar Castle
This iconic pink Scottish castle is said to have inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle. Read this blog for all you need to know before you go!
  • Balmoral Castle, Crathie - The Scottish home of the British Royal Family is located in Crathie, right on the North East 250 route. The estate is also home to Prince Alberts Cairn, aka Scotland's pyramid. Neither of these are to be missed! Read my blog post below for more information.
Balmoral Castle
Balmoral Estate is the Scottish home of the British Royal Family since 1852. Read this blog for all the need to know information before you go!


  • Grampian Transport Museum, Alford - This award-winning transport museum is located 25 minutes away from the main North East 250 route in Alford. It has an impressive range of vehicles, including from the 1800s and the museum even has some of the fastest cars ever made. An adult ticket (age 16-59) to the museum costs £12 and a child ticket (age 3-15) costs £5.
  • Alford Heritage Museum, Alford - This museum is also located in Alford and has an extensive collection of artefacts relating to farming and rural life, showcasing the heritage of the North East of Scotland. It's open from 1st April 2023 through to 29th October 2023, Thursday to Sunday only from 12pm to 4pm. An adult ticket costs £7.50 and a child ticket costs £4.
  • Ballater Gallery, Ballater - This art gallery is located right on the North East 250 route. It was opened in 2018 and showcases established Scottish artists, who have gained international recognition. The art is sought-after but affordable. Definitely worth a visit if art is your thing!
  • Braemar Highland Games Centre, Braemar - This museum focuses on and tells the unique story of the Braemar Gathering, aka the highland games (which takes place every year on the first Saturday of September). The museum is open from April 5th 2023 until the end of October, Wednesday to Sunday. from 10am to 4pm. An adult ticket costs £5 and a child ticket (age 5-11) costs £1.
Braemar Highland Games Centre
Braemar Highland Games Centre


  • Royal Lochnagar Distillery, Crathie - Situated just one mile from Balmoral Castle, this distillery was granted the title of 'Royal Lochnagar' in 1848 following a visit by Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. You can't come to Scotland and not go on a whiskey tour! For £20, you can get a tour of this distillery and taste four of their specially selected single malts or for £40 you can enjoy a tutored tasting of four rare cask whiskey samples from their warehouse.
Royal Lochnagar Distillery
Royal Lochnagar Distillery


  • East Aquhorthies Stone Circle, near Inverurie - Thought to have been constructed 4000 years ago, this is one of the most impressive recumbent stone circles to exist to this day. Recumbent (or lying down) stone circles are only a thing in the North-East of Scotland and no one really knows the real reason why they were built. So, as you wonder around, you can let your imagination run wild thinking about the original purpose for the stone circle. The stone circle is free to visit and open year-round.
East Aquhorthies Stone Circle
East Aquhorthies Stone Circle
  • Dyce Symbol Stones, Dyce - The Dyce symbol stones can be found on display at the ruined kirk of St Fergus in Dyce. The older of the two stones date back to between 600-700AD. Both of these stones contain strange carvings, one of which is in an Ogham script and what it says to this day is still a mystery. The Ogham script was introduced to the Picts by Irish missionaries. The symbol stones are free to visit and open year-round.
Cullerlie Stone Circle, near Westhill - This recumbent stone circle was constructed around 4000 years ago and is thought to have been used as a cremation site. The stone circle is free to visit and open year-round.
Cullerlie Stone Circle
Cullerlie Stone Circle
  • Tomnaverie Stone Circle, near Aboyne - This recumbent stone circle surrounds a burial cairn dating back to 4500 years ago and was used up until 1600AD. The stone circle is free to visit and open year-round.


  • Falls of Feugh, Banchory - The Falls of Feugh are easy to get to as they are located only a short walk from the Bridge of Feugh car park just outside Banchory. If you're lucky you'll be able to spot salmon making their way up the falls during spawning season. The best months to see this are September to November and February to March. There's also the award-winning Falls of Feugh restaurant nearby if you're wanting a refreshment or something to eat.
  • Dess Waterfall, near Aboyne - It's approximately a 7km circular route to reach the waterfall and will take you around 1.5-2 hours. The waterfall is beautiful and well worth the lovely but relatively long trail to get to it. The journey starts at the old smiddy in the village of Kincardine O'Neil.
  • Linn O'Dee, near Braemar - Linn O'Dee is a 15 minute drive from Braemar. When you get there, walk over the bridge which is minutes from the Linn O'Dee Car Park. You'll see the river Dee squeezing through a narrow channel between the rocks and dropping to the pools below. The Linn O'Dee was actually a favourite picnic spot of Queen Victoria. There's also waymarked trails and an orienteering route if you want to do some exploring.
  • Burn O'Vat, near Dinnet - This waterfall is actually located in the Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve, which is only minutes from the main North East 250 route. Park at the car park in the Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve and then take the waymarked path for less than a mile to the waterfall.
Burn O'Vat
Burn O'Vat


  • Scolty Woodland Park (and Scolty Tower), Banchory - Scolty Woodland park is located just 5 minutes from Banchory. You can climb up Scolty hill to Scolty Tower and even, go up the tower for some panoramic views over Royal Deeside and the Grampian Mountains. This 2-mile climb would take around 45-minutes from the Scolty Woodland Car Park. If you don't fancy climbing the hill, then the website I've linked has a route map and some excellent trails for you to follow:
Scolty - Forestry and Land Scotland
Forestry and Land Scotland is the Scottish Government agency responsible for managing Scotland’s national forests and land.
  • Glen Tanar National Nature Reserve, near Aboyne - Located only 10 minutes south of Aboyne, this nature reserve contains some lovely waymarked paths through the woodland. It also contains benches and picnic areas by the river or overlooking viewpoints where you can stop and have a bite to eat.
  • Craigendarroch Oakwoods, Ballater - Craigendarroch is a small hill with an ascent of roughly 315m. It's a 2.5 mile round trip from the Ballater Tourist Information/ Old Railway Station and will take between 1.5 and 2 hours in tota;. Once, you reach the Craigendarroch Hill Viewpoint, the views are superb and will be worth the steep hike. Just be careful and keep close supervision on children or dogs as there is a steep cliff infront of the viewpoint. For more information on the hike and route, follow this link:
Craigendarroch oakwoods, Ballater
Craigdendarroch may be a small hill, but it has a big place in the affections of Ballater folk. Its oakwood-clad flanks are steep making its ascent an enjoyable but arduous little walk. The views are superb.
  • Mar Lodge Estate, Braemar - Mar Lodge Estate is one of Britain's largest National Nature Reserve. The estate is a whooping 29000 hectares and actually contains 15 munros (a Scottish mountain over 3000 metres). So, if munro bagging is your thing, you won't want to miss this. You can also go on lovely walks around the estate and try spot some iconic Scottish wildlife.
Mar Lodge Estate
Mar Lodge Estate

Adventure Sports and Excursions

  • Adventure Aberdeen, near Aberdeen Airport - If you are feeling adventurous, Adventure Aberdeen offers canoeing and kayaking, coasteering, gorge walking, rock climbing and mountain biking. Sure to get your blood pumping! Check it out here:
Adventure Aberdeen Kingswells - Sports Venues - Sport Aberdeen
Sport Aberdeen adventure venue at Kingswells caters for school trips, team building and more. Try gorge walking, paddle boarding and more.
  • Battle Grounds Adventure Activity, near Banchory - Located only 10 minutes from Banchory, this adventure activity centre offers paintballing, laser tag, knife and axe throwing, bubble football or archery. Guaranteed to be a fun day out! Here's a link so you can check it out for yourself:
Activities | Battle Grounds Paintball Aberdeen
View our range of exciting activities and book online today, including Paintball, Airsoft, DTV Shredders, Laser Tag and much more!
  • Braemar Highland Experience, near Crathie - Offering 5-star luxury bespoke guided tours of the local area including off-road tours, guided walking tours, vehicle tours or even, whisky tastings. They tailor their tours to suit you! The tours can be quite expensive, you can contact them via their website below for more information:
5 Star bespoke, off-road and guided walking tours in Scotland
Braemar Highland Experience offers bespoke, off-road and guided walking tours in the Cairngorms National Park and Scotland.
  • Glenshee Ski Centre, near Glenshee - If skiing or snowboarding is your thing, then you'll want to visit Glenshee Ski Centre. It has hills to cater to beginners and the more advanced too. Depending on the weather, you should be able to ski/snowboard here for the winter months and very early Spring.
  • Golfing - Scotland is known for having some of the best golf courses in the world. If you fancy doing a spot of golfing on your North East 250 journey, then you will be spoiled for choice. There is golf courses in all the main towns and villages you pass through including Banchory, Aboyne, Ballater and Braemar.

Other Attractions

  • Royal Deeside Railway, Crathes - The Royal Deeside Railway (aka Banchory Station) is located in Crathes. It's a steam and diesel train, which runs along the River Dee. The steam train only runs at specific dates and times. I've linked their website below so you can check if its running when you visit.
Royal Deeside Railway Home page
The Royal Deeside Railway is a standard gauge steam and diesel hauled heritage railway, in a beautiful setting running alongside the River Dee. The line is currently about one mile long and the return journey lasts about 15 to 20 minutes. At the Milton of Crathes, we have a railway carriage tearoo…
  • Visitscotland Ballater iCentre, Ballater - Ballater Railway station is a former station located on Station Square in the village of Ballater. The station was closely connected with the British Royal Family, as it was the closest station to Balmoral Castle. It was sadly destroyed by a fire in 2015, but reopened in 2018 after extensive renovation work to return the station back to it's former glory. The interior now houses an information centre, restaurant and tearoom, a public library and a replica of the Royal waiting room and carriage.
Ballater Railway station
Ballater Railway station
  • Balmoral Pyramid, near Crathie - Scotland has it's own pyramid?! Well, kind of. It may look like a pyramid but it is in fact a cairn, which is a Scottish term for a mound of rocks built as a landmark or memorial. This one is located on the Balmoral Estate and is dedicated to Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert. Read the blog post below for all the need to know information on how to visit the pyramid!
Scotland Pyramid
Yes, you did in fact read that title correctly! Scotland has its very own pyramid, also known as Prince Albert’s Cairn or Balmoral Pyramid.
  • Crathie Kirk, Crathie - A beautiful small parish church located in Crathie on the North East 250 route. It's actually the place of worship for the British Royal Family when they are in residence at the nearby Balmoral Castle. So, if you're lucky you might just get to spot some Royal's! I luckily managed to get a glimpse of Queen Elizabeth and other Royals at Crathie Kirk when I visited!

Places to Eat on the North East 250

From Aberdeen to Braemar


  • Birdhouse cafe, Banchory - This little cafe in Banchory looks lovely and serves speciality coffee and tasty food options for breakfast, brunch and lunch. It's also comes highly recommend!
  • Spider on a bicycle, Aboyne - This unique cafe is located in a restored railway station in Aboyne, with a wood burning stove, delicious coffee and food. The cafe looks even cosier during winter time too! The cakes and sweet treats at the cafe are mentioned in several reviews, so make you get one when you visit.
  • The Highlanders Bake House, Crathie - This cafe is as local as it gets, the cafe is actually a converted garage attached to the owner's house in Crathie. The cafe has rave reviews! Serving craft coffee, artisan homemade bakes and hot food, it has everything you need for a busy North East 250 trip.
  • Bean for Coffee?, Ballater - This local family-run cafe is a nice place to stop-off for some delicious coffee, homemade food and sweet treats.
  • The Bothy, Braemar - If you're after incredible views, then this little cafe is a must-visit. The cafe has the river Clunie streaming below and views over the surrounding hills. It's also dog-friendly too!


  • The Cowshed Restaurant & Takeaway, Banchory - With floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the countryside, this stunning restaurant is definitely worth the visit. The Cowshed uses locally sourced and organic produce to serve up high-quality Scottish cuisine and the menus are often subject to change. If you fancy a takeaway instead, they also own Banchory Fish and Chip Shop too!
  • The Boat Inn, Aboyne - This 18th century coaching inn, located on the banks of the river Dee serves up delicious, freshly prepared and locally sourced seasonal cuisine, which caters to everyone including gluten or vegan options.
  • Rothesay Rooms, Ballater - Rothesay Rooms has a few royal connections! The restaurant was first set up by HRH the Prince of Wales and it is located in the Old Royal Station in Ballater. It only serves breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea options (including a meat-free option). So, you won't be able to get dinner here but the restaurant itself gets great reviews and its even been showcased on the Michelin guide website! It's only open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am to 4pm.
  • Clachan Grill, Ballater - A lovely restaurant with rave reviews providing the finest locally and sustainability sourced food, meaning the menus are subject to seasonal change. You can choose to sit inside at their bar, which is dog friendly or sit in their cosy restaurant or even, sit outside, if the Scottish weather permits!
  • The Fife Arms, Braemar - This gorgeous 5-star hotel has several bars and restaurants to choose from including the drawing room, where they have different options for afternoon tea. They are actually doing an afternoon tea for the King's coronation in May and the menu looks amazing! If you fancy fine dining, then the stunning Clunie dining room is where you'll want to go and its even been showcased on the Michelin guide website! The hotel also has several bars if you are just looking to grab a drink. You can stay at the hotel too, but it doesn't come cheap at roughly £600 per night.

Places to Stay on the North East 250

From Aberdeen to Braemar

There's not loads of accommodation to choose from around the North East 250 route so make sure you book up in advance!

Budget (£0-£75 per night)

  • Near Aberdeen Airport or Banchory

This is where we stayed for doing the NE250 and I'd highly recommend. It's so cheap! We went in April and paid £40 per night with breakfast included. Also, the beds are super comfy!

★★★★ Holiday Inn Aberdeen West, an IHG Hotel, Westhill , UK
A 10-minute drive from Aberdeen city centre and Aberdeen International Airport, this modern and stylish hotel offers the best and latest in Holiday Inn…
  • Near Aboyne
Firhurst, Aboyne, UK
Firhurst provides accommodation in Aboyne. The property is located 18 km from Craigievar Castle. Free WiFi is available.
  • Near Ballater/Braemar
Howe of Torbeg, Ballater, UK
Howe of Torbeg provides glamping accommodation near Ballater, within the Cairngorms National Park.

Mid (£75-£150 per night)

  • Near Aberdeen Airport or Banchory
Bogenraith House, Banchory, UK
Located in Banchory, 22 km from Beach Ballroom, Bogenraith House provides accommodation with a garden, free private parking and a terrace.
  • Near Aboyne
★★★★ The Lodge on the Loch, Aboyne, UK
You can glimpse majestic ospreys plunging into the loch, relax in the sumptuous spa, or take on two 9-hole golf courses amidst idyllic scenery at The…
  • Near Ballater
★★★★ No 45, Ballater, Ballater, UK
No 45, Ballater is a guesthouse set in an acre of gardens and is just 5 minutes’ walk from the centre of Ballater.

High-end (£150+ per night)

  • Near Aberdeen Airport or Banchory
★★★★ Tor-Na-Coille Hotel, Banchory, UK
Set in acres of gardens, Tor-na-Coille Hotel offers free Wi-Fi, free parking and a restaurant serving local Scottish produce.
  • Near Aboyne
The Boat Inn, Aboyne, UK
On the banks of the River Dee, The Boat Inn in Aboyne offers accommodation, a cosy bar and restaurant.
  • Near Ballater/Braemar
★★★★★ Balmoral Arms, Ballater, UK
Balmoral Arms is situated in the picturesque village of Ballater, in the heart of Royal Deeside.

Additional Places to Visit on the North East 250

From Aberdeen to Braemar

  • Dunnottar Castle - If you have time, you NEED to visit Dunnottar Castle. It's located 30 minutes south of the North East 250 route and even, if you've just got a couple of hours spare, I'd highly recommend that you take a little detour to visit this one-of-a-kind castle.
Dunnottar Castle
Dunnottar Castle is one of Scotland’s most famous castles, perched dramatically on a 160-foot rock with a history spanning over 1000 years.
  • Aberdeen City - Aberdeen is Scotland's third largest city and it's got lots of things for you to do! I've complied a list of the top 10 things to do in Aberdeen, which you can read below. I'd say that you ideally need 2 days to do some sightseeing around the city, but you can get a good gist of what the city is about in 1-3 days.
Top 10 things to do in Aberdeen
Aberdeen is a city with a rich history. Here’s top 10 things to do in Aberdeen to help you plan your trip to Scotland’s 3rd largest city.
Optional places to visit from Aberdeen to Braemar
Optional places to visit from Aberdeen to Braemar.

Whew! That took forever to put together but I really hope it helps you to plan your North East 250 trip. Please consider subscribing to my blog to be kept up to date with new posts or sharing it to help others!

Kirsty x

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