WITH warmer months and longer days ahead, a scenic expedition accompanied by delicious food and drink may be well overdue. Taking you through winding paths along glens and disused railways, here’s a guide of gastronomic recommendations along with a few unforgettable sights along the way, if you ever find yourself on a trip from Aberdeenshire to Braemar.

Many of them are family-run businesses with some of the friendliest people that have managed to survive the pandemic.

Aberdeen and neighbouring areas

YOU can start with lunch at the chic bistro Moonfish Cafe in Aberdeen to savour some salmon before heading east. If you fancy an insightful tour into farming, Grace Noble at Aberdeenshire Highland Beef is one of the leaders in this industry and she will gladly talk you through the production of high-quality beef. You also get to see majestic Highland cattle at this working farm against a beautiful backdrop of views.

Banchory

FOR a break in your journey, the dog-friendly Ride Coffee House in Banchory has ample outdoor and indoor tables and the menu includes vegan and gluten-free options. If you’d like to stay the night here with a possibility of exploring Crathes Castle or other remarkable sights such as spotting the salmon leap between September to November at the Falls of Feugh, then Banchory Lodge is a classic choice with its picture-perfect riverside location. If you’re after superb Scottish game meat or venison and seasonal produce from the sea to the mountains, look no further than the restaurant at Tor Na Coille Hotel.

Finzean

AFTER Banchory, you will come across Finzean, where there is an impressive farm shop and tea room with spectacular views of the southern mountains on a nice day. They offer taster plates ranging from cured meat, fish and an array of cheeses.

The staff are wonderfully welcoming and will gladly recommend what would suit your needs. On the estate, they have options to stay at one of their quaint cottages that have been restored and are heated using renewable energy.

To the north of Finzean, the Bee Cabin is a fine spot to learn about and bees and watch them at work from an observation deck. It sells beekeeping supplies to locals and home-made preserves and various beeswax products to visitors.

Aboyne

ON the outskirts of the east Cairngorms, is Aboyne where the Glen Tanar estate towards the south provides an idyllic escape. There are many scenic spots here that are ideal for walks, fishing biking, horse-riding, wildlife photography or sipping some Haroosh.

Aboyne also has a dog-friendly, cottage-style pub, The Boat Inn by the River Dee, serving scrumptious soups and smoked haddock from the North Sea.

Ballater

SPOTTING the historic black and yellow AA Call Box at Cambus O’May (box 472 to be precise) just around the corner from the suspension bridge is a great little piece of history to add to your trip.

From here, the Courie Courie bakery and cafe is well worth a stop to dig in to their Danish pastries. The cafe’s homely and rustic feel definitely do its name justice.

Deeside Inn presents a delectable afternoon tea by an open fire. For a night under the stars, the Howe of Torbeg is an easy drive from Ballater and serves as a tranquil getaway. There are glamping pods, bonfires and hammocks to sit back in and experience the serenity of the Cairngorms. Camping friendly cookware and dining sets are available on site.

Crathie

I WAS thrilled to try rowies (or butteries) for the first time. These light, flaky rolls were meant for fishermen to take to sea to sustain them for the day with their high energy source. You are spoilt for choice in this region to get the best butteries in Aberdeenshire.

In Crathie, make sure you get your fill at Highlanders Bakehouse where you can sit in the gazebo (blankets are provided) for a lovely breakfast amidst lush greenery. This enterprise initially started as an honesty box on the roadside and the owners have now have built a successful cafe beside their house.

After you have taken in the terrific views near the Prince’s Pyramid, do stop by for an exceptional cup of coffee and babka with fresh figs at the Tarmachan Cafe.

For the whisky fans there’s the Royal Lochnagar Distillery near Balmoral Castle for whisky tasting and tours that can be booked in advance.

Braemar

BRAEMAR has become a foodie haven. Farquharson’s Bar and Kitchen near St Margaret’s Church will serve you hearty casseroles and pies along with local beer. Up the road from here, Instagrammers will love the façade of the abandoned

Great North of Scotland Railway bus depot which will make you feel like you are in a Wes Anderson film.

The Fife Arms is certainly a popular choice to dine, drink and spend the night, but a personal dining favourite is Ghillie’s Larder, a farmer’s market that shines a spotlight on some of the best artisan makers in the area. Expect locally farmed beef and pork, premium smoked salmon, fresh vegetables, jams, drinks and so much more.

According to Federica Bertolini, one of the business owners at Ghillie’s Larder, visitors are taking a keen interest in experiences such as foraging and the provenance of top-quality organic ingredients.

Hazelnut Patisserie opened in April 2021. It combines Mathilde Lacouriere’s skills in French patisserie with Ros Evans’s expertise in running a successful cafe for 18 years.

Together, they make beautifully crafted cakes (with ingredients including foraged fruits) inspired by the seasons of Scotland. To complement these, they offer speciality coffee from a roastery down in North Berwick and a vast selection of hand-picked wine.

The perfect, sweet end to this culinary journey would be at the Braemar Chocolate Shop. Each handmade chocolate in this quaint shop is inspired by the stunning surrounding landscape with a unique Scottish twist.

Using diverse ingredients such as whisky, bread and cheese (yes, cheese) they offer a taste of Scotland through chocolate made right in front of you. Some of the luxurious ganache-filled bars range from Speyside Raspberry Gin to their hugely popular Cairngorms caramel, or Caithness rum and raisin.

To plan your trip visit www.visitabdn.com and www.bothiesandbannocks.co.uk