5 days of history and heritage on the SnowRoads

Over five days, discover the diverse history and heritage of the thriving communities dotted along the SnowRoads.

From neolithic stone circles and longhouses, magnificent castles and forts, to the myths of legends of giants, fairies, and ghosts, this is the ultimate road trip for experiencing the very best of Scotland’s eclectic culture. 

As you journey along the SnowRoads, you can’t help but notice the unique architecture of the key towns dotted along the route—including Blairgowrie, Braemar, Ballater, Tomintoul, and Grantown-on-Spey. Many of these were built in the 18th century as a result of General Caulfield’s military road. Fast-forward to today and these Cairngorms National Park towns now act as a reminder of the region’s fascinating history.


From the picturesque town of Blairgowrie, once a major flax producer, take the short walk along the River Ericht to Cargill’s Leap. Here, you can read about how the famous Covenanter Donald Cargill escaped government troops in the 17th century. 

The curious Clan MacThomas Cock Stone

Take a small SnowRoads detour to the rural Perthshire village of Alyth, which offers striking countryside views over Strathmore, to learn about the local history at the town museum. You’ll see how the region’s rich farming history has inspired the core museum collection – a wealth of pictures and objects reflecting Alyth in ‘times of old’ await!

As you continue on your journey, pause at the Wee House of Glenshee to unearth more about the history of the SnowRoads. This includes the curious Clan MacThomas Cock Stone and The Serpent’s Stone. The legend of the latter depicts stories of a witch who transformed into a snake to hide from a local laird, who blamed her for the death of his son. If you look at the stone closely, you can see several deep slashes and a twisting hole… spooky!

Image: Braemar Castle


In Braemar, you can visit not one but two castles! That includes the Kindrochit Castle, originally built by a medieval king in the 14th century, and the community-run Braemar Castle. In Braemar’s graveyard, located east of the village, you’ll also find St Andrews Chapel, which is thought to be the earliest dedication to St Andrew in Scotland.

St Margaret’s, an impressive granite church in the centre of the village, is a nationally significant Victorian gem and masterpiece of renowned Scottish architect Sir John Ninian Comper. While still undergoing restoration, the Community Trust regularly hosts a wide variety of events and heritage displays — from folk music to jazz clubs.

The world-famous Braemar Gathering is held on the first Saturday in September in The Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park. While spectating games, music and dancing, attendees will likely catch a glimpse of royalty, who regularly attend the celebration of Highland culture.

Can’t make the Gathering? Fear not. Wander through history at the World Highland Games Heritage Centre and view the display of archives, artefacts, trophies and memorabilia relating to the Braemar Gathering, which date all the way back to the very first event in 1832.

Situated just six miles outside of Braemar is the magnificent Mar Lodge, a Victorian hunting lodge originally built by the first Duke of Fife and his wife Princess Louise, Queen Victoria’s granddaughter. While at the lodge, take in the surrounding wild landscape – including 29,000 hectares of ancient forests, heather-covered moorland, mountains, and wetlands. 


The Royal Bridge and The Old Royal Station are at opposite ends of the village. Walk between them, and you’ll see lots of shopping opportunities and delightful eateries. The Old Royal Station, for one, has been newly restored and boasts a restaurant run by the Duke of Rothesay’s charitable trust. 

Ballater visitors can also visit the Gairnshiel Bridge, also known as the Bridge of Gairn. Built in 1751, this steeply arched, rubble-built bridge crosses the River Gairn and provides outstanding views and photo opportunities.

Balmoral Castle

A short walk from the village’s Old Royal Station will lead you to the ruins of Knock Castle, which sits on the south side of the River Dee, just west of Ballater. The castle is a former four-story tower house originally built for the Gordon family in the 16th century.

Southeast of Ballater, you’ll find Glen Tanar House and Estate. Originally built in the 1870s for Member of Parliament Sir William Cunliffe Brooks, this pink granite mansion was once regularly visited by royalty – including the Prince of Wales and King Edward VII. Today the ballroom, with its 600 antlers and traditional Highland decor, remains a popular venue for weddings, events and concerts.

Exploring the local scenery might help you understand more clearly why Queen Victoria fell in love with the area and decided to build Balmoral Castle nearby, just on the outskirts of the village of Crathie. Completed in 1856, this stunning building is a classic example of Scottish baronial architecture and remains the summer royal residence. 

Forbidden College of Scalan


No visit to Tomintoul is complete without a pitstop at the Tomintoul and Glenlivet Discovery Centre. This exciting new attraction offers a whisky-themed virtual reality experience, dark sky exhibition, a digital community archive, and displays featuring history and tales from the local community. Plus, find out the best things to see and do while in the area. 

A short drive away is the Forbidden College of Scalan where, in 1716, Catholic bishops established a college for priests in a remote spot at the foot of the Ladder Hills in the Braes of Glenlivet. Or choose from many other historical walking routes around the Glenlivet Estate. You can even follow old whisky smuggler routes, which are well-signposted from nearby car parks.

Don’t forget to schedule a visit to the Packhorse Bridge, too. This picturesque location is perfect for picnics and snapping a photo (or two!). 


Interested in learning about Grant clan chiefs, how logs were floated down the River Spey, or Queen Victoria’s visit to Grantown? Deepen your knowledge of Highland heritage at the Grantown Museum. Permanent displays and galleries reveal the town’s history — from its founding in 1775 during the Scottish Enlightenment to Victorian industries and interventions. With digital tools, dig even deeper into these fascinating stories. Make sure to check the website for information regarding temporary exhibitions and unique events happening year-round.

Grantown-on-Spey Museum

Uncover wild landscapes, historic tales, grand days out and more.

#VisitCairngorms to join locals and visitors on their own journey of discovery!

Join our Mailing List

Sign up to get notified of the latest deals, news and all the latest information direct to your inbox.