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Braemar Castle aims to get 10th anniversary off to a flying start with a win at Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards

Braemar Castle Credit Angus McNicol
A Deeside visitor attraction run entirely by volunteers hopes to get its 10th anniversary celebrations off to a flying start by picking up one of the region’s top tourism awards. Braemar Castle is in the running for the visitor attraction of the year accolade at the Aberdeen City and Shire Tourism Awards (ACSTA), which will be announced next week.

It would top off an incredible run of successes for the ve nue, which is operated as a not-for-profit charity by the community for the community. Locals were granted a 50-year lease on the property in 2007 and have almost tripled the number of visitors since its first season.

This season12,045 visitors walked through the doors of Braemar Castle – compared to just over 4,000 in the opening season – and it hopes to hit a target of welcoming 20,000 people to the historic property by 2020.

ACSTA judges shortlisted Braemar Castle for the award after learning how the community had transformed the property, which had closed in 2004, into a focal point to provide entertainment and education to tourists, and bring business into the village. The group responsible for running the castle has been able to appoint a full-time manager – while still undertaking the lion’s share of work – and have also raised over £440,000 to carry out repairs to the roof and chimneys.

Doreen Wood, vice chairman of Braemar Community Ltd, says everyone is keeping their fingers crossed for the big awards night taking place at Ardoe House Hotel in Aberdeen on Friday, November 25.

The castle will battle it out in the best visitor attraction category with Royal Lochnagar Distillery and the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses in Fraserburgh. The winner will go on to represent the region in that category at Scotland’s national tourism awards – The Scottish Thistle Awards – which are announced in the spring.

Doreen adds, “We want to give our visitors the very best experience of Highland Scotland in an authentic setting.  And we want the Castle to act as a magnet to bring visitors to this area.  

“The castle is operated by the community for the community and its success is down to the hard work and commitment of our local volunteers.  With our 10th anniversary on the horizon, it’s a real accolade to be recognised and shortlisted for this award.”

Visitors who arrive at the castle can have a personal guided tour with a local volunteer, and an audio tour in both English and German is also available. They find the rooms presented as though the occupants have just stepped out – they can handle the artefacts and sit on chairs as though they were guests.

Volunteers work in partnership with local tourism businesses and events to cross-promote the area, and also stage exhibitions at the castle which change on an annual basis. They held re-enactments and events to celebrate the 300th anniversary of the 1715 Jacobite uprising, and even found time to revive a local hill race.

In addition, the castle has been awarded a Certificate of Excellence by interactive travel forum Trip Advisor, and has been rated the top thing to do in Braemar by the site’s many users.

“Over the past eight years we have refined our brand and we are confident in our distinctive product,” says Doreen. “We aim to support and complement the current and future village offerings to establish Braemar as a destination.”

ACSTA aims to celebrate the very best of tourism businesses and individuals who help make stays in the region a memorable experience for guests. Awards will be presented in 15 different categories from most hospitable hotel to friendliest pub and from regional tourism ambassador to rising star.

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