MP says Ballater is on track to ‘bounce back’

Stuart Donaldson MP visited the Old Royal Station in Ballater
Stuart Donaldson MP visited the Old Royal Station in Ballater

Stuart Donaldson MP believes the £3 million redevelopment of the Old Royal Station in Ballater can be a catalyst in revitalising the village.

Ballater has suffered three major setbacks in the past two years with fires at the Darroch Learg Hotel and the Old Royal Station in 2015 and the mass flooding from Storm Frank later that year.

However, after visiting both the iconic station, which is being redeveloped as both a tourist landmark and community hub, and some of the local businesses impacted by the flooding, the WestAberdeenshire and Kincardine MP is convinced Ballater is on its way back.

He said: “Ballater plays a key role in Aberdeenshire tourism, right in the heart of the ‘Can Do Country’ in Royal Deeside, and it is beginning to bounce back.

“You can do anything in Royal Deeside – you can ski, walk, cycle and there are amazing places for food and drink and great places to stay.

“It was great to visit the Old Station and to meet Patrick Johnson and his team who are in charge of restoring it back to its former glory.

“They are engaging with the community to make it a focal point for the village. Going forward it will be an important cultural and community hub.

“The flooding has impacted on a lot of businesses. Many are recovering and some are still finding it difficult but the community is playing its part in the recovery.”

The station had been leased to VisitScotland for the last 15 years and housed a visitor information centre, restaurant, museum, clothes shop and photography business.

Although much of the building was severely damaged by the fire, a replica Royal carriage survived, as well as various undamaged display cases.

Both the visitor information centre and the restaurant will return as part of the restoration and a new library and enhanced exhibition space will be created.

The iconic Royal Carriage will be installed as a main attraction – with the re-build scheduled to be completed by December.

Some 60 businesses and 300 homes were impacted by the flooding at the end of December 2015.

Local business owner Sheena Yule, a partner in the Deeside Deli, has been part of the community drive to help Ballater recover.

She said: “At the time of the floods it was horrendous for everyone.

“We were lucky as a shop that we didn’t get directly flooded by the impact on all businesses has been huge.

“We were down 20 per cent on takings last year but we have tried to stay positive and help others who were affected more than us in any way we could.”