Queen Victoria and Macbeth become tour guides to give you the chance to discover a new side of Deeside

Two of Royal Deeside’s most famous inhabitants will take up new roles this week as tour guides in two villages with the launch of a new, free app.

The Discover Deeside app, which has been funded by Aberdeenshire Council, takes users on interactive historical journeys around the villages of Ballater and Lumphanan with Queen Victoria and Macbeth, King of Scotland as guides.

The free app uses augmented reality technology to give users the chance to discover more about the area’s royal links and was launched this week to coincide with Ballater’s Victoria Week.

Deeside’s links with the British Royal Family are well-known and the family has visited Ballater frequently since the time of Queen Victoria, whose husband, Prince Albert, purchased nearby Balmoral Castle in 1852.

Macbeth is best known as the subject of the tragedy by William Shakespeare but what is perhaps less well-known is that the King of Scotland, who ruled from 1040 until his death in 1057, died in Lumphanan.

Informative panels with details of the two village’s royal links are being placed in key locations, including Ballater’s Station Square and village green and the Peel Ring and Macbeth Stone in Lumphanan, with the app detailing where visitors should head to next on their journey around the two villages.

Chair of Aberdeenshire Council’s Education & Children’s Services Committee, Cllr Gillian Owen, said: “Ballater and Lumphanan are small places with big histories and the Discover Deeside app is an excellent cultural guide around two of the most popular tourist destinations in the heart of Royal Deeside.

“Using augmented reality gives visitors as well as local people easy digital access to the stories and cultural heritage of the area, making sure they are captured and not allowed to be forgotten.”

“The app can be downloaded onto the viewer’s device, for example a smartphone or tablet, from the Apple App Store or from Google play by searching for Discover Deeside.

“Once you’ve downloaded the app, open it and point your device at the panel you’re standing in front of to begin the interactive video.”

Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside councillor, Geva Blackett, added: “This has been an excellent of partnership working in the area and local community groups and volunteers have been heavily involved in the creation of Discover Deeside, compiling historical research, scriptwriting and acting.

“It could not have happened without the support of Ballater Business Association and Lumphanan Heritage Society, amongst others, and I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in creating such a visual and interesting app.

“I very much hope it will be rolled out across Aberdeenshire as an innovative tool in our tourism offer as well as a great learning opportunity for visitors and locals alike.”

Chair of Lumphanan Heritage Society, Pete Goddard, said: “We were really pleased to help get the app off the ground. Between us we had the local history knowledge and community contacts and we’re very excited because it will give wider exposure to the Macbeth connection to Lumphanan as well as raise awareness of other historical events such as the witch trials.

“It was a real joint effort and we see it as an opportunity to encourage young people to learn about Lumphanan’s local history through the app as well as attract people to visit the area. It’s been a really interesting process for everyone involved.”

Chair of Ballater Business Development Group, Michael Colleta, said: “Aberdeenshire is surrounded by heritage and culture that most of us take for granted, yet the visitors to our area are genuinely interested in our history and in many cases are seeking to rediscover their own past.

“I am delighted that Aberdeenshire Council feels as passionately about the project as I do. The Discover Deeside app is the first step towards combining 21st century technology and the rich social history of our rural communities, bringing to life the stories of our past.

“Too often rural Scotland is left behind when technological advances are being made and I hope this trials proves that perceived barriers to introducing technology are easily overcome if there is the right team, subject matter and community benefit.”

Philip Farquharson of Invercauld, great nephew of the sixteenth Laird Alwyne Farquharson, said: “This is a brilliant innovation that is easy to use and will certainly get tourists, young and old, talking about Royal Deeside and Ballater and Lumphanan in particular.

“I look forward to watching the project develop because technology has so much to offer all ages and we need to be at the forefront.”