Scotland | How to get to the Balmoral Pyramid (Plus dinner at The Fife Arms!)

With the rise of social media (and Instagram in particular) parts of the world that have in the past been relatively secret, are fast becoming tourist hot spots. In Scotland we're fortunate enough to have many beautiful landscapes that still remain untouched and peaceful due to their remote locations. The Balmoral Pyramid is just one of these spots, and while you may have seen Prince Albert's cairn on your newsfeed a few times, you might not know there are actually 11 stone structures making up the Balmoral Cairns Walk.

Prince Albert's pyramid on the Balmoral cairns walk

Getting to the Balmoral Pyramid

To get to the start of the route, head for Balmoral Castle. Park at the nearby Crathie car park, walk past the entrance to the castle, and the sign for Lochnagar distillery (I recommend popping in here at the end of your hike) and follow the road up the hill. You'll pass a few cottages belonging to the estate, through a gate to the right after the last house and then head for the pines.

Walking through the pines on the Balmoral estate
Dogs chasing snow at the Balmoral cairns
 
It's a fairly easy path to follow from there but some of the cairns are easier to find than others. Look up the banks to the left to spot your first couple (Princess Helena's and Princess Louise's) and then a little further on take a right to find The Purchase Cairn, which commemorates Queen Victoria buying the Balmoral estate. It has an incredible view of beautiful Deeside.

Gordon and dogs, on a bench by the Balmoral purchase cairn
View of Balmoral Castle from one of the cairns on the estate

The path starts to descend shortly after this. Don't be afraid to veer off into the woods on the right - you'll find another great view from Prince Arthur's cairn! After a while you'll stumble across Princess Alice's to the left, slightly uphill, then rejoin the downhill path for what feels like a very long time...

Snowy Lochnagar - view from the Balmoral cairns walk
Stone plaque on Princess Alice's cairn at Balmoral
Two dogs on the Balmoral Cairns walk

We started to worry we were going the wrong way but stick with the higher path and follow it round. Eventually you'll come to a gate - go through this and then keep an eye out for a path heading into the trees on your left. This leads to the infamous Balmoral pyramid.

Through the pine trees on the Balmoral estate
Approaching Prince Albert's cairn - the Balmoral pyramid

The huge stone structure, resembling the Egyptian pyramids we're all familiar with, was built by Queen Victoria in 1862 in memory of her beloved husband Prince Albert. I mean, she had it built, I'm fairly sure she didn't physically construct it herself! 

To The Beloved Memory of Albert - Stone script on the Scottish pyramid
Me and the dogs being dwarfed by the pyramid on the Balmoral estate

Leave the pyramid by the path to the left of the one you came from and you'll soon find yourself back at the Easter Balmoral estate houses you passed at the beginning. Of course you could take this route up to the pyramid in the first place but I think it's a shame to miss out on the other cairns and gorgeous scenery. All in all, the Balmoral Cairns walk takes around 3 hours.

Gordon and the two dogs leaning against the Balmoral pyramid
Two people next to Prince Albert's pyramid

It's a relatively easy 10km hike with just a few steady uphill climbs and we saw 7 out of the 11 cairns. It can be muddy so wear decent walking shoes and warm layers (it snowed when we completed the walk in March), bring snacks and plenty water, and please always close gates behind you!

Entrance to the Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar

Dinner at The Fife Arms Hotel

Just a short drive from the Crathie car park is the picturesque village of Braemar. Tucked away in the Cairngorms National Park this quaint wee place is a popular base for lovers of the great outdoors. Earlier this year, The Fife Arms Hotel opened it's doors in Braemar to a huge response. 

The Flying Stag hanging over the bar at the Fife Arms

Renovated with care and real attention to detail by Iwan and Manuela Wirth - co founders of the Hauser & Wirth Gallery - the hotel is the epitome of Scottish hospitality blended with an incredible art gallery. It houses all sorts of work from unique commissioned sculptures to actual Picasso paintings! I hope to return for a full tour of the artwork soon.

Gordon sitting by the window of the Flying Stag

However, on this vist we were here for the food. The Clunie dining room and Elsa's bar are ideal for a special occasion but, clad in our hiking boots and activewear, we headed to The Flying Stag instead. Maintaining it's local pub charm, the bar serves food from 12pm-9pm every day and welcomes hikers and dogs too.

Golden retriever and black lab sleeping at the Fife Arms Hotel

With our two large pups in tow, I thought we'd be seated at the communal wooden benches by the entrance but we were actually lead through the main bar to a cosy, traditionally decorated space at the back. We got the warmest of welcomes (the service was excellent!) and felt right at home with our two tired pups snoozing by our feet.

Beer battered fish and chips at the Flying Stag

Keeping with the Scottish theme, we both opted for classic dishes from the Flying Stag menu. Beer battered fish and chips was just the refeed Gordon needed, while I tucked into a traditional haggis, neeps and tatties drizzled with a beautiful Lochnagar whisky sauce.

Haggis, neeps and tatties with Lochnagar whisky sauce in a jug

Dessert was a unique take on rhubarb and custard flavours with fresh fruit and crunchy meringue complimenting the creamy panna cotta. Sipping a gin and tonic while we watched the snow fall outside was just the icing on the cake of an already wonderful day discovering the Balmoral Pyramid in the Scottish countryside.

Pannacotta at The Fife Arms hotel

For a complete step by step guide to the Balmoral cairns walk, and others in the area, I recommend checking out the Walk Highlands website.

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