Scenic Walks, Rugged Hikes on the Queen's Balmoral Estate in Scotland

Deeside with Balmoral Castle
Lochnagar towers over Deeside and Balmoral Castle (lower left). Jonathan Smith/Getty Images

Walking the Balmoral Estate offers the chance of royal watching, royal history and Scotland walks - it's a knockout combo. 

Scotland is made for walking vacations and a walking break around the Balmoral Estate combines several favorite pastimes:

  • exceptional scenery
  • a glimpse of Scotland's Victorian Royal Heritage and
  • a chance of some Royal watching.

Walks on and around the Balmoral Estate range from easy, guided walks only available when Balmoral Castle and Gardens are open to the public, to challenging mountain and loch hikes, available year-round, weather permitting.

Ranger led walks around Balmoral Castle and Gardens

Every Wednesday from April through July, Balmoral's rangers lead two-hour guided woodland walks around the estate. The walks cover two to three miles and are included in the price of admission to Balmoral but must be booked in advance. The rangers also lead several themed walking and hiking events throughout the summer and fall. These range from gentle walks to ascents of Lochnagar. The schedule changes annually and prices vary. Visit the Balmoral Ranger Service webpage to find out more. Or, to book a walk or find out the latest Ranger Walks information telephone Fiona at The Spittal of Muick Visitor Centre on +44 (0)13397 55059.

Hike around Loch Muick

Loch Muick, on the Balmoral Estate at the base of Lochnagar, is surrounded by relatively easy tracks and is also the start of several longer, more challenging hikes into the hills to the south or up Lochnagar itself. The hike around Loch Muick is about five miles and passes a cottage built for Queen Victoria near a waterfall, the Glasalt falls.

The Loch is at the head of Glen Muick, accessible for walks, cycling and car touring, off the South Deeside Road near Ballater. There is a small car park at the end of the public road at the Spittal of Glen Muick Information Center. The center is open every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Rangers are available to help at any time, by appointment. To book a ranger appointment, ring the estate office on +44 (0)13397 55059. Walking Highlands, an organization that promotes walking in Scotland has the most detailed information about walks in Scotland, including Ordnance Survey maps of walking routes. Check out their Loch Muick circuit page. 


Lochnagar is one of the mountains referred to in Scotland as The Munros. These are mountains that are more than 3,000 feet tall. The mountain was the subject of a poem,Lochnagar by Byron, and a children's book, The Old Man of Lochnagar, by Prince Charles.

There is an 8 mile hiking circuit, to the summit of Lochnagar and back from the Spittal of Glen Muick Visitors Centre. The route is moderately challenging in warmer weather - taking about seven hours. From November to May the route is usually covered with snow and ice and should only be attempted by experienced walkers, equipped and skilled with crampons and ice axes.

The Balmoral Cairns

The Balmoral Cairns were erected in the 19th century by members of Queen Victoria's family to commemorate various events. They are often described as historic but they are not ancient - simply family commemorations of various sorts. This walk, which is over unmarked paths and tracks and is steep in places, is about six miles long. Its chief attraction is that it offers good views of Deeside and overlooks Balmoral Castle itself. When the castle is open to the public, there are paths through the grounds to the cairns. But, it is possible to follow the path, from a road left of the castle entrance, when Balmoral is closed. As ever, Walking Highlands has a good description of the walk and directions. Though it rarely happens, if the royal family is in residence, you could be asked to leave the part of the walk that overlooks the castle.

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