Has anyone been to Braemar?

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  • Has anyone been to Braemar?
  • notlocal
    Member

    I've just been approached to join the Tourism group in the village, as I feel that Braemar has more to offer MTB riders than it currently provides.

    If you've been to Braemar (editorial staff included) :wink:, could you list what made your visit ejoyable AND what was missing in the way of trails/facilities/accommodation/food etc.

    We have some simply stunning scenery, and I would like more riders to experience the area and see just what we have to offer in terms of a wilderness experience. Manmade trails are also something I feel we have room for, but at the moment the tourism povision is geared more toward the traditional coach loads of sightseers.

    All comments will be collated and presented to the Tourism group here in Braemar in the hope of enlightening them.

    Thanks

    TandemJeremy
    Member

    Yes. At the end of a fortnights walk accross scotland. it was pouring with rain and all I wanted to do was get home – but no busses available to a train station. To avoid a night in a hotel we ended up getting a taxi to the train station.

    Not much help – sorry

    druidh
    Member

    I've been to, and through, Braemar on numerous occasions. I love the place, but more for where it is than anything to do with the village itself.

    Of course, I also like the fact that the trails are pretty quiet and that it's not over-run with other cyclists πŸ˜‰

    If I'm staying there, I want;

    * a range of accommodation
    * a few eateries that are willing to serve you after 7pm.
    * a shop that opens decent (i.e. long hours) so I can stock up with juice/crisps etc.
    * a decent pub (not mingling with the SAGA group in the Fife Arms)
    * a wee bike/outdoor type shop
    * a few route ideas

    I don't need;

    * additional way-markers
    * a "wilderness experience centre"

    So – not much different from anywhere else really.

    BTW – I appreciate that my "wants" are all market driven.

    Premier Icon Garry_Lager
    Subscriber

    I like Braemar, fabulous location. It basically shuts at, what, 7pm? This is the only real problem I've had there, trying to get something to eat after a full days hiking. I appreciate that it's a fairly remote place, and one shouldn't expect to find a 24 hr asda, but shops do seem to have restricted hours there.

    The pubs there also seem to all be hotels, IIRC. Agree with Druidh that it would be great if there was a decent boozer, but you (the OP) can hardly do anything about that.

    Purpose built trails around Braemar are a laughable idea, no offence. Who in their right mind is going to make the trip up to the Cairngorms and bother taking a spin round some half-arsed, manicured singletrack?

    Smee
    Member

    I'm of pretty similar point of view to the others above. If you are heading to Braemar, you are using it as a jumping off point to go on a wee adventure. Later opening shops and better transport links might work for some. A trail centre is the last thing I'd want there.

    notlocal
    Member

    Tandem, OUCH the bill for a taxi must have stung a bit 😯 60 miles in a taxi£££££££££

    Druidh, agree with all of your points. Places that serve food after 7pm is one of the things I intend to raise, and some of the tourist group feel the same way. No point in having B&B etc if guests have nowhere to eat after returning from a day out.

    Gary, thanks for your comments. Hopefully, with regard to shops and pubs, we'll be able to persuade the local co-op to massage their hours. As for a pub, there is a old pub next to one of the hotels. With some negotiation a form of community purchase might secure a "grey free zone" to enjoy a post ride pint. As for the trail centre idea, no offence taken. However having seen what has been achieved by the communities of Golspie and Penmacho, I feel some form of artificial trail would encourage the trail centre junkies to visit, and perhaps inspire them to try and tackle something longer/remote.

    Smee, see above.

    keep the ideas coming, and cheers guys. πŸ˜€

    TandemJeremy
    Member

    Not local – cheaper than a dinner and a hotel for the night for two.

    I did find it odd that at 3 pm we could not get a bus south.

    druidh
    Member

    notlocal – The heady heights of Glenshee aren't too far away. The possibility of introducing a combined bus/chair uplift and a decent XC/DH track from Carn Aosda right down the Baddoch Burn should surely be worth a punt?

    notlocal
    Member

    Tandem, I know, buses East to Aberdeen every couple of hours. If you want to go to Perth though you're knackered. There is a seasonal "Heather Hopper" service that runs to Blairgowrie but that isn't much help outside the summer season. At least the roads department took down the "Award winning village" signs when they changed the name signs entering the village 😯

    I think I'm goig to hae my hands full dragging Braemar into the noughties and out of the 60's ski centre euphoria they still wallow in πŸ™„

    notlocal
    Member

    druidh, SNH have restricted Glenshee to using and modifying an existing landrover track up Cairnwell. haven't had a go yet, but it does't sound too promising. SNH feel that a dedicated track would be detrimental to the flora and fauna. 😯

    notlocal
    Member

    We go here for a post ride pint. Elspeth one of the owners worked as an A&E nursing sister. Handy for those bumps and scrapes 😳

    druidh
    Member

    How about a footbridge over the Dee, around NO145921? That would make some more of the trails more accessible from Braemar itself, encouraging bikers to start there rather than ride round to Linn of Quoich or Invercauld.

    heihei
    Member

    I spent a cracking week with the family in Braemar with the wife and 2yr old daughter a few years' ago. I'm with the others – the attraction is the wilderness and the need to read a map to work out where to go!

    notlocal
    Member

    Funnily enough druidh, there are plans to build a bridge acroos the Dee. I'm not sure where exactly, but it is proposed for exactly the reasons you mention. Ultimately it will all hinge on finance being in place, unless an engineering or constuction company sponsor/finance the construction. Apparently, according to my colleague last night, there used to be several rowing boats used to ferry staff to Invercauld House when it was occupied. As recently as the 50's.

    Which boat for biking? πŸ˜‰

    Notlocal, Mrs M and I have done four, two week holidays in Braemar in holiday cottages. Now living near Aberfeldy, I am coming over every couple of weeks as Mrs M has a dog training friend there.

    People have to accept that Braemar is pretty remote and very seasonal, so cannot expect too much, especially for public transport, eating places and shops.

    * Decent place/s to eat and drink. The Fife Arms is too big, noisy and blokish for wife/family. I assume the food is very basic. Something like the Inver Hotel near Crathie is about what I mean
    * For occasional bikers, need better waymarked trails, and maps of where to cycle, with grades. For reference, something like what Aviemore and Bothy Bikes do. I agree that we do not need "wilderness experiences" but less hardcore visitors do
    * A footbridge bridge over the Dee to access Quoich is a fantastic idea. The bridge walk itself would be an attraction to most "normal" visitors
    * Talking the week before last to the keeper of the Invercauld estate, he absolutely hates mountain bikers because of the damage they do, especially when they get 40+ bikers on a race. How about some funding to upgrade the paths in places where damage is most caused in exchange for them being more accomodating. I assume this would be the case for the other two big estates as well.
    * The walking shop in Braemar which does bike hire could have a small section of basic bits like tyres, tubes, brake pads, lube, brake oil etc.

    Feel free to email me (mail in profile) if you would like anything more

    Edit: how SNH can object to one downhill track at Glenshee with the area being so disfigured by lifts is beyond me. One track (or two) within the existing ski areas would be hugely beneficial and cause pretty much no extra damage

    Premier Icon Mat
    Subscriber

    I think it needs more Marquees…

    is there actually much singletrack close by to be had? Everything seems to just be long epics (not a complaint by any means).

    Live in Aboyne so it's a bit far to ride for a loop but then it feels a bit close to drive too for a ride.

    Any chance of being shown stuff up there, I just seem to ride the same stuff down here.

    trail_rat
    Member

    see i came through braemar before 6 and was told by the pub on your left as you enter from the lecht side that they dont serve till 6 ….do they just serve 6-7 ?

    we ended up eating in that cafe opposite the bike hire place – good grub – never seen such big fish (might not actually be all that good but it was great having bonked coming over the lecht)

    now if you could just take away the cairnwell climb id be happy πŸ˜€

    dab
    Member

    having been a glenshee skier for the last 30+ years i can tell you that braemar offers less and less every year

    it needs a more welcoming pub with family facilities
    opening up the campsite to all for hot shower / toilet access
    braemar mtn sports need to get off their high horses and realise that bike kit is worth stocking instead of some daft snowshoes or overpriced watherproof

    glenshee could become a lift served dh type set up but tbh i'd rather go to laggan or gt as the facilities and terrain are more varied

    i doubt that braemar will ever get much better for bikers until big changes are made by the landowners to welcome us a bit more

    time is better spent up pitlochry / blair athol way

    martinxyz
    Member

    snowshoes.. daft? in a skiing/mountaineering shop?

    Smee
    Member

    Trail_Rat – the Cairnwell climb is great MTFU. πŸ˜€

    dab
    Member

    martinxyz – Member
    snowshoes.. daft? in a skiing/mountaineering shop?

    doh …., what i meant was that they sell some overpriced kit thats 99% unusable in scotland then look at customers like they walked in from mars when they ask if they sell inner tubes or gear cables.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Subscriber

    TBH to me it's always been somewhere I pass through on the way somewhere better. I think it'll be a bit of a push to make it a real draw for cyclists unless there's other attractions nearby though… Maybe if the Lecht get serious. But the location's always going to be a problem, it's about as close to nowhere as you can get in the UK (and no easier to get to than, for example, Fort William)

    druidh
    Member

    It's quicker to get to Braemar than FW from Edinburgh, Perth, Aberdeen and Dundee. I don't see why Braemar couldn't be more of a success with cyclists if there was a will. However, it always seems quite content with what it has.

    trail_rat
    Member

    Trail_Rat – the Cairnwell climb is great MTFU.

    dont get me wrong its fun – but it was the last climb on a 300k ride i was doing – over the cairn o mount -the cabrach – the lecht and the cairnwell

    and 2 weeks before it i did a 200k ride over the cairn up deeside and over the cairn well …. i have reason to hate it !

    that said if the weathers nice i might attack it from the south side tomorrow πŸ™‚

    I know Braemar a bit and the area more generally better, and would echo some of the comments above. Typically it's a place I'd pass through when out in the hills (both summer and winter as its right in the middle of great riding, walking, climbing, skiing…)

    In my opinion is that its location is also it's downfall. It's never going to be able to compete in terms of (biker) visitor numbers making overnight stays with the likes of Aviemore or Fort William, which have better links (especially for non car owners like me) and a wider range of facilities/activities. Despite this, the proximity to Aberdeen, Tayside and even Central Belt means that a lot of folk are able to make day trips to the area and return home without ever needing any of the services on offer. So the difficulty Braemar has is making people want to stay (when they don't really need to and have other well-established options giving access to similar riding (which, incidentally a trail centre may not solve) that they might use instead, OR providing facilities for day-visitors to the area. As mentioned previously, Braemar appears to offer less for those out in the hills all day (ie open early to late) and suffers accordingly.

    Obviously, a wider/budget range of facilities (bike friendly showers, bunkhouses, eating, drinking, bike shop…) might encourage more people to stay, longer opening hours might encourage people to use shops and bars that are there already, but there are no guarantees. Assuming that Glenshee is off limits there is little to distinguish Braemar ahead of any other town on the fringe of the Cairngorms, though the area is fantastic for riding. If I were to look at it objectively as (say a holidaymaker) I'd more likely stay on Speyside as there are more options in and around the hills (both bike and non-bike). I don't know how the future of the tele festival is, but would imagine that a cycling festival could 'showcase' the area in a good light if the town was devoted to it. Clearly such an event would demand some kind of investment in infrastructure to sustain interest. There is plenty of good riding potential, road and mtb, and no reason that it couldn't have a better profile. The hills are great, that's why anyone goes (and would go), just unfortunately for you they don't earn you money directly.

    If that was all a bit negative it wasn't intended, and it has always struck me as crazy that there wasn't a bridge as suggested- good idea.

    notlocal
    Member

    Guys, keep 'em coming. By the way negative comments are much appreciated, I'm trying to shake up the Tourism group here as they seem only to be interested in keeping Braemar as an exhibit of rural Highland life.

    I want them to realise the potential of actually welcoming visitors with facilities instead of history. Mountain bikers are a small percentage of a very large market who are not being provided with quality and value for money when visiting Braemar.

    CaptMainwaring I'll e-mail you when I finish work. Thanks for the heads up about this post, been a bit busy.

    Mat some of us go out on a Monday night for a couple of hours ride, so you're more than welcome to join us. We meet @ 19:30 under the arch at the Mews outside the Fife Arms. I can't ride tonight as I'm at work until 8pm. πŸ™

    crash_gav
    Member

    We were on a travelling light route from Aviemore, Tomintoul through Braemar to Blair Athol and back to Aviemore.

    The Moorfield was brilliant with the owners washing and drying our gear for the next day. They put ours bikes in a safe place and could not have been nicer (I think the guy is on the committee Notiocal), food was excellent too. We enjoyed our Leffe's in the Fife Arms (foggies had their own place next door) with plenty of chat and banter from walkers, bikers and locals. There is a bike shop for any emergency parts/tubes which cannot be bad.
    That's the good points but where on this world would you close a hostel in the Summer???? Not exactly promoting itself with little or no information on trails etc. and as above shops/foodpaces close a tad early.

    There are a number of routes that I would like to do in the area and have taken information from this site on trails but need hostel/cheap accomadation sometimes and this was very hard to find.

    With the magical Glen Tilt trail leaving from Braemar, I would be shouting from the rooftops promoting my place. Not to mention Derry, Feshie, Lochnagar and Builg etc. 8)

    Premier Icon Sanny
    Subscriber

    Hello

    I was up that way in may and wrote up the route guide to the area in the current issue.

    Braemar is a lovely spot. However, it suffers compared to the likes of Ballater and Aviemore in terms of the quality of food on offer and the general level of service in terms of opening hours. There is nothing more galling than a "Sorry but the kitchen is shut" greeting. The cafe at the end of the town (Taste) is pretty good and worth a visit. It is the notable exception. There is nothing so unappealling to a hungry mountain biker than a sorry we're closed sign at 8.00pm at night! The local website is a good resource but discouraged me from staying in the village as some of the times for kitchens closing (8pm) are just too early in my book.

    For the first time visitor, it would be useful for the local outdoor shops to offer trail maps in the same way that Bothy Bikes in Aviemore does. No need for signage as such but for the information to be there and to hand. These should give an indication of time and difficulty so that a newbie doesn't head off up Beinn a Bhuird for their first ever mountain bike run! This could parhaps be supplemented by information on the Braemar website.

    Mountain bikers tend to have a lot of disposable income by their very nature. Contact Mark at the mag if you want info about demographics as it makes very interesting reading……good level of disposable income, willingness to travel, propensity to eat out – generally, they are the kind of clientele that any hotelier and restauranteur should be looking to encourage.

    Hope this helps?

    Sanny

    notlocal
    Member

    Gav, glad you had a nice stay at the Moorfield. Ian & Elspeth the owners have worked exceedingly hard to turn what WAS a filthy, run down hole into somewhere you don't want to leave. Great food, and beer from across the hill (Aviemore) have given Braemar another fine place to eat. The other is The Gathering Place Bistro, located under the Bank of Scotland' @ the juction with the A93. I haven't had a chance to try Braemar Lodge for a while, but the food was pretty good last time.

    You must have got bike spares from one of the clothing shops??? as there isn't a bike shop here….YET.

    I agree that peak summer is a poor time to close the youth hostel. That is the problem we have, several of the accommodation options in the village are owned or run by people that do it for a hobby, rather than because they need to financially. They're part of the "wouldn't it be lovely to live in *insert picturesque area* group". Unfortuately for those of us that rely on the village for our living, they aren't contributing to the sustainability of the tourist industry here.

    Once again folks, much appreciated. I'm beginning to get the general theme in most of the replies you've left, and to be honest, you have all confirmed my views on what is needed in Braemar.

    A shop that opens for provisions before 8am, that closes later than 7pm, to take advantage of long days on the hills.

    More, accommodation options with pricing options to suit campers upto 4* hotel.

    Much better transport links to the South.

    Improved access to areas surrounding Braemar, with information available on routes.

    Restaurants and bike friendly cafes that have extended hours.

    A dedicated bike shop, or somewhere to buy spares.

    A pub with some atmosphere for that all important rehydration/epic trail story.

    Oh, and showers/bike wash, so we don't smell horrible or have to put a dirty bike in the car.

    Thanks

    notlocal
    Member

    Sanny, thanks. I assume his e-mail is just mark@singletrack….etc.

    I would love to get those figures to use in my presentation to the Tourist group.

    Gav, sorry, Ian is on the committee and has spoken to my biking friends and me on several occasions. I raised the issue of poor facilities a couple of years ago after the singletrack team did the Glen Tilt route and stayed in Braemar. Needless to say……………..it was shut. πŸ™„ πŸ™„ πŸ™„ πŸ™„ πŸ™„

    case
    Member

    I stayed at the Cairngorm club hut at the Linn of Dee a few years ago and have passed that way on a couple of occasions doing big loops of the Cairngorms but have normally used Aviemore as a base rather than Braemar.

    I think the deciding factors on that for me are the possibility of doing shorter half day routes in Rothiemurus, Glenmore,Inshriach forests if the weather is bad whereas I would see Braemar more as a starting point for big back country rides.

    The choice of accommodation, pubs and eateries and having a couple of good bike shops and outdoor shops on hand in case of emergencies also tips things in favour of Aviemore. Having said that Aviemore is not the prettiest of places and isn't without its faults.

    One thing I do remember from one of my brief visits to Braemar was getting some amazing venison sausages and burgers. Given the trendyness of local/seasonal food this is something to emphasise as a selling point as well as smaller/quieter/prettier alternative to Aveimore as a base for exploring the Cairngorms.

    Premier Icon kennyp
    Subscriber

    I've been to Braemar loads of times as a jumping off point for trips up into the Cairngorms, both walking and biking. I'm going to sound very selfish here, but I wouldn't want any more visitors, and certainly wouldn't want any man-made trails. There are already enough of those in the country.

    Only thing I'd like is for some of the drainage channels on existing trails to be made more rideable by covering them, or at least reducing the gap.

    I appreciate that "no more visitors" isn't what the local tourist board want to hear, but I thought I'd at least be honest! Same applies to all of Scotland really.

    messiah
    Member

    Good luck dude!
    I've only passed through Braemar in the last few years when accessing the mountains, but in the glory days of the nineties I lived in the village over the winter and worked up the hill. Even then it was all about certain "vested interests" and in-fighting between the "summer" and "winter" groups.
    I always disliked seeing the Shearings "Come and see Scotland and die" tour busses. You knew the end of the ski-season had arrived when the buses started parking outside the hotels. I take it the tourism committee is full of people who make their living off of this and thus arn't interested in any new ideas?
    By Braemars very nature stradling a highland pass most tourists end up being on a "pass through" route, ticking boxes rather than immersing themselves in an area and enjoying it fully. It's difficult to change that since there seems on the surface to be not a lot around to make it a centre to stay and spend a while.
    Compare with Aviemore – which is bursting with middle class couples with young children spending great wads of cash! It blows me away every time I am up there how many Q7's and Rangies you see full of families enjoying the outdoors πŸ™„
    I would love to come up and spend some time in Braemar as I've had some of the best times of my life there – I looked at buying a house and moving up a few times but I like the sea as well as the mountains. These days I am in the young family club which means my Mountain Fix is either day trips or staying in Aviemore with the family. The Landmark Centre at Carrbridge, highland wildlife park, folk heritage museum and even Laggan/Inverness being not far away make Aviemore family easy.
    Braemar is only just over an hour from home for me which seals the deal – not far enough away to stay overnight.

    From memory the loss of the Invercauld "Climbers" Bar was sorely felt (when Shearings bought the Invercauld) – I believe people have tried to buy this off them before but were told it was not for sale. The Morefield is a bit out of town and I hope the new owners do more to get it a reputation than "Morefield Mike" used to πŸ˜†

    On the biking front I think you have to be careful what you promise or wish for. Bikers tend to ask for things and when offered them decide not to use them. The access to showers thing and late opening of the Spar shop would be examples. I can see that if these were offered there would not be a huge take up – handy as these things may seem. If Spar thought it could make more cash by being open longer it would… end of story. Once in your car at Linn of Dee it's easier to keep going than stop. It's only if you can get people to stay overnight that the cash registers will start to ring… and when your choices to saty seem at first glance to be the "Fife" or the "Cauld" which a full of bus loads of oldies it's simply not what our age group wants. We also don't want a hostel usually – I don't even know if Braemar has a hostel other than the YTH???
    Braemar simply does not sell itself to our age group which is such a pitty. Bizzare thought of the day… would Braemar like to be the centre of Hen and Stag parties that Aviemore can be at weekends?

    It should be possible to come up with some route maps like Bothy Bikes have. There is good riding in Ballochbui but getting to it means riding along the main road or going round the Lions Face Path… and then riding along the main road, or park at Keiloch (pay and display) – not ideal. Alternative is duckpond and Birkies which from memory is very wet (it was usually winter). I've also been followed through Ballochbui by blacked out landies which is always fun… and nearly run over by chinless morons in Rangies which is off putting. A bridge over the river would be fantastic and would upen up all sorts of stuff around Cullardoch and quich – not sure what the owner of Invercauld house would have to say mind?

    I struggle to find positives to help. Route advice is a big draw and if the rouet's in Aviemore are anything to go by the easier the better. All the route's I ride near Braemar are the

    messiah
    Member

    More…

    All the route's I ride near Braemar are the real mountain (or)deal. True mountainbiking and wilderness stuff which I'm not sure most people are up for (or up to). I.e. How can someone complain about having to step off the bike to climb over stepping stones or hop over a rain bar? If those "features" where not there on the trail the trail would wash away – if that is the kind of muppets your trying to entice then all your going to get is complaints. Wilderness areas are never going to have trail center type routes.

    It's a fantastic area and there is huge pottential to get people to come, stay, and spend the all important cash. I doubt the tourism board will be of much help… but if your serious about doing something the first move has to be scoping out suitable trail networks and getting maps made. Then get people riding them and take on the comments to improve what you have. Don't expect any help and simply do the work for yourself and for fun, if you make it good it will all fall into place and word of mouth on forums like this will have people coming to Braemar.

    P.S. I have the opposite problem since I have no interest in getting people to come and ride where I live, I spend my time trying to keep the trails quiet and keep people away :o)

    Hal
    Member

    I was riding the trails round B mar last weekend and it was the Muts Nuts, single track with fantastic views, fast grassy sections with natural jumps, technical accents and descents a couple of hours of great mountain biking, I would rather spent a couple of hours around the trails in B mar then spend Β£20 and a couple of hours at the Lecht, Oh and the soup and cakes at the Taste was yummy, As Arnie says "I'll be back"

    ozzo
    Member

    Hmmm – to be honest I always stay at Ballater which is not far away mainly because of the issues already mentioned – there's nothing open after 7PM

    Hal
    Member

    I live in Ballater and its worth the drive to Braemar for a change of scenery, but yes Ballater has more to offer then a pee and a postcard.

    Premier Icon Mat
    Subscriber

    Didn't know you were on stw Hal! so your back riding now?

    Hal
    Member

    Mat ???? Have we met:?:

    Premier Icon Mat
    Subscriber

    Are you not Iain from the distillery?

    I'm the kid from Aboyne with the orange handjob

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