Taking place in venues throughout the Aberdeenshire valley, the initiative brings together local food producers, businesses and musicians to showcase the area’s culinary and musical talents. Organised by Visit Royal Deeside, the celebration of food and music will runs from Friday the 2nd October until Sunday the 18th October.
Now in its third year, the two-week festival is expected to draw visitors from across Scotland keen to experience the area at the start of one of its most spectacular seasons. A programme of around 60 events has been put together to cater for all musical and gastronomic tastes. Additional events are still being added to the festival’s programme.
The cultural and culinary celebration includes food demonstrations, farmers markets, live music sessions, special afternoon teas, exhibitions and concerts. Many of the area’s cafes, restaurants and inns are also creating special menus for the festival to showcase the breadth and depth of produce available locally.
As Royal Deeside begins to display its autumnal colours, visitors can explore its farmland, forestry and moorland aboard a Land Rover Safari organised by Glen Tanar Estate on Sunday, 04 October, which includes a venison barbecue lunch.
Those wishing to discover the area on foot can join local historian Ian Murray on a guided walk on Saturday, 17 October. Acclaimed local fiddler Paul Anderson will provide live fiddle music along the route, before participants enjoy more music and a two-course dinner at Ballater’s Riverside Cottage Cafe. The venue will also host an opera dinner on Saturday, 10 October.
For foodies, Glendavan House at Dinnet is serving up a Highland hamper and bagpipe breakfast on Saturday, 03 October, while on the Tuesdays and Wednesdays of the festival Cambus O’ May Cheese will open its factory doors and allow visitors to see its award-winning artisan cheeses being made.
Wark Farm at Cushnie, an organic farm butchery and meat retailer, will be holding food and farm experience days on Sunday, 04 and Monday, 05 October. The sessions will include a farm walk followed by an informal lunch of meat reared on the farm and vegetables grown in its kitchen garden. Visitors will also get the chance to learn some butchery skills during an afternoon demonstration.
Art and food will combine throughout the festival. On the opening night, Friday, 02 October, the renowned Butterworth Gallery will host an artistic taste evening. The event will feature local produce including local cheeses from Cambus O’ May Cheese and beers from Deeside Brewery. Meanwhile, on Thursday, 08 October, the 230 ceramic fish exhibits from the much-admired River of Fish installation, created by the Heckleburn Quines, will be auctioned off at Banchory’s Woodend Barn.
Moira Gash, Visit Royal Deeside project co-ordinator, said: “Royal Deeside is an area steeped in a rich musical and culinary heritage and the next two weeks will showcase the best of this. The 2015 festival programme features a diverse range of events, with things to appeal to people of all ages, interests and musical tastes. Local businesses have fully supported the Food and Fiddle Fortnight once again and have created some fantastic events.
“As Royal Deeside becomes carpeted in its autumnal shades of gold, russet and ochre, the area really is a stunning place to visit. A great way for all the family to discover more about it is to use the Explore Royal Deeside GeoTour to complement any of the Food and Fiddle Fortnight events. The GeoTour is Scotland’s only official geocaching tour and is a fantastic way to get active and hunt out some of Deeside’s attractions.”
To inspire visitors to explore the local area even further during the Food and Fiddle Fortnight, Visit Royal Deeside has put together an A to Z of things to do and places to visit. The list highlights some of the more unusual activities on offer, including lessons in tractor driving, gliding and driving a train on part of the old Deeside line.
Moira added: “Royal Deeside has a huge amount to offer visitors. Our A to Z aims to highlight some of the more unusual and quirky activities and places to visit, while also reminding visitors about some of the iconic sites and attractions that the area has to offer. We hope it will give some inspiration to those visiting Royal Deeside in the months ahead.”
The A to Z of things to do on Royal Deeside:
A is for Art: The landscape and wildlife provides a lot of inspiration to the area’s artists whose work is showcased in many local galleries, including the Lost, Butterworth and McEwen Galleries.
B is for Balmoral Castle: Built for Queen Victoria, the castle is the private residence of Her Majesty The Queen and is open to visitors daily between March and July.
C is for Cambus O’ May: Home to a stunning suspension bridge that spans the Dee and also the name of a tasty handmade artisan cheese maker.
D is for The Dee: Stretching for 87 miles, the river is the backbone of Deeside. It provides salmon fishing, canoeing and kayaking and features beauty spots such as the Linn O’ Dee.
E is for Equestrian: Trekking along the miles of bridle paths and trails in Deeside is a perfect to way to enjoy the peace and tranquillity of the area. The World Horse Welfare charity has a rehoming centre near Aboyne with a fascinating visitor centre.
F is for Finzean: The home of Victorian landscape painter Joseph Farquharson, Finzean Estate offers country sports and has a superb farm shop and tearoom.
G is for Go Off-road: Head for the hills and explore Deeside’s dramatic landscape as part of an organised Land Rover safari and possibly catch sight of red deer and birds of prey.
H is for Hill walking: Deeside’s rugged landscape provides varied hill walking for all abilities. Gentle climbs like Scolty, Corbetts such as Kerloch and Munros like Mount Keen deliver breathtaking vistas.
I is for Indigenous species: The area is home to over 100 species of rare and endangered plants and animals, many of which are indigenous to Scotland. Capercaillie, golden eagles, otters, pine marten, red deer, red squirrels, Scottish crossbill and even wildcats can be spotted in this magnificent landscape.
J is for Jack and Jill: They went up a hill, but children will enjoy going down to The Den and The Glen which has a large indoor play area and a magical world of fairy tales and nursery rhymes outside.
K is for King of a castle: On Royal Deeside you can be a king in your own castle and spend a night, or a week, staying in some impressive castles and historic houses.
L is for Lochnagar: A rugged Munro, a fine whisky and a famed story about an old man penned by Prince Charles, Lochnagar’s beauty has inspired generations.
M is for Mountain biking: Mile upon mile of trails through the Deeside countryside delivers fantastic routes for mountain bikers of all ages and skills.
N is for Nine Stanes: One of around 70 stones circles in Aberdeenshire, Nine Stanes, near Banchory, is a 4,000-year-old recumbent stone circle – a style unique to the region. Visitors can journey round these Neolithic sites on the Stone Circle Trail.
O is for Outdoors: Spectacular scenery and fresh air is in abundance on Royal Deeside giving the ideal conditions for any sport. Archery, canoeing and kayaking, climbing, field sports, fishing, golf, horse riding, on and off-road cycling, snow sports, water skiing and much more can all be tackled.
P is for Picnic spots: Pack a flask and some sandwiches as regardless of the time of year Deeside offers plenty of perfect picnic spots. From riverside to lochside, castle gardens to woodland settings, or even watching gliders soar skywards, the choice is yours.
Q is for Queen Victoria: In 1848, Queen Victoria and Price Albert first visited Balmoral Estate and fell in love with Deeside. Their connection with the area is marked by the Victorian Heritage Trail – it’s a journey through Deeside in the monarch’s footsteps.
R is for Railway: Step back in time and enjoy the bygone era of train travel aboard the Deeside Railway. Steam and diesel services operate during summer on part of the old Deeside line. Charters and train driving lessons are also available.
S is for Scott Skinner: Music has always been an important part of Deeside life and the area has produced many talented musicians. One of its most famous is fiddler James Scott Skinner, whose life and works are celebrated in Banchory Museum.
T is for Tractor driving: If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to get behind the wheel of a tractor you can find out at Deeside Activity Park. It is one of the many varied activities on offer.
U is for Up, up and away: Take to the sky and experience the thrill of flying. Learn the art of gliding at Deeside Flying Club or enjoying an exhilarating helicopter flight with HJS Helicopters.
V is for Burn O’ Vat: A geological marvel carved out at the end of the last ice age, Burn O’ Vat is an impressive giant pothole that will amaze all generations.
W is for Deeside Way: Stretching 41 miles from Aberdeen to Ballater, the Deeside Way is a long distance path that follows much of the old Deeside railway line. Suitable for walkers and cyclists, it’s an excellent backbone from which to explore the area.
X is for X marks the spot: Explore Royal Deeside using Scotland’s only GeoTour. Let GPS be your guide as your head off on a geocaching adventure to uncover some of the areas hidden gems.
Y is for Yards of fairways: Deeside boasts some of the finest parkland golf courses in north-east Scotland. From picturesque courses like Banchory on the banks of the River Dee, to the highest course in Britain at Braemar, all present their own unique challenge.
Z is for Zip wire: Release you inner gorilla and swing through the trees on the Go Ape course at Crathes Castle.
• The Food and Fiddle Fortnight takes place in venues across Royal Deeside between Friday, 02 and Sunday, 18 October. A full programme is available at www.visitroyaldeeside.com or by searching for Food and Fiddle Fortnight on Facebook.