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Royal Deeside : Weather recording in Braemar

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On the morning of 21st October 2003 GMTV broadcast their weather forecast from the grounds of Braemar Castle. The presenter, Clare Nasir, briefly interviewed 'local sporran maker and weather expert' Alistair Colquhoun. It was a very Scottish scene with Alistair wearing his kilt and Braemar Castle as a backdrop. (Clare was well wrapped-up against a temperature of -4°C.) Pointing out that Braemar held the record for the lowest temperature recorded in Britain, -27.2 °C Alistair described what is was like to experience such low temperatures. Off-camera, Clare remarked that British meteorologists often referred to Braemar as a special place.

On this page some information on the weather and its recording in Braemar is presented.

Summary of the weather in Braemar


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The original weather recording station in Braemar was donated by Prince Albert

Braemar, an historic and pretty village in Royal Deeside, can arguably claim to be at the centre of Scotland. It can certainly claim to be the coldest village in Scotland, having twice recorded the lowest temperature -27.2°C (-17°F). However, like much of the east side of Scotland, the rainfall is not high and averages just under 900mm (35 in) per annum spread fairly evenly throughout the year.

Braemar has also one of the longest 'continuous' sets of recorded weather data in Scotland, recording starting here nearly 150 years ago. The original observatory, donated by Prince Albert in 1855, is still standing though no longer used for weather recording. The current weather station is only a few feet away from the original.

As at other stations the weather observer records the weather conditions and notes various air and soil temperatures, plus rainfall and amount of sunshine. Some summaries of these data are given on the 'weather summary' page.

A brief history of weather recording in Braemar

An observatory , consisting mostly of a large-louvred wooden erection , at the entrance to Braemar , was established in 1855 by the Prince Consort. Mr Aitken - a bank agent - was appointed the first observer. He kept up the observations, with keen interest, for more than 50 years. On completing half a century of observations in 1905, he received a letter of thanks and appreciation from King Edward VII. Soon afterwards, Mr Aitken retired from active work and the thermometers were transferred to Balmoral .Mr Aitken removed the rain gauge to his own garden - a few hundred yards from its former site, and he continued to take the record until his death in April 1908. Mr Aitken's successor at the bank then continued the rainfall readings.

In 1911 , Mr R. A. Clark - a local dispensing chemist - took up the question of re-opening the climatological station and , ultimately , a committee raised funds for its re-equipment. The Meteorological Office lent a maximum and minimum for 5 years - in order to make a comparison between the "Stevenson screen" and the "Observatory". Differences were negligible. Mr Andrew Watt from Edinburgh - taking with him a barometer - visited and approved the station on the 13th June 1912.

The records at the station were traditionally kept by the Manager or 'Agent' of the Union Bank just a few yards across the main road through the village. (The building now houses the Bank of Scotland but no bank manager resides there.) The tradition was continued through to 1980 when James Donaldson retired after being recorder for 22 years. Ricky Graham, headmaster of Braemar School, was the 'weatherman' for the next 19 years and recorded the record low temperature on 10th January 1982. (The same temperature had previously been recorded on 11th February 1895.) Since then Mike Franklin, the author of this page, and now Alistair Colquhoun have taken the records. More recently the site has been automated.

A sunshine recorder was set up in April 1929. It was moved to the top of the tower of St. Margaret's Church (45 feet or 63 steps) in 1962. In 2002 because of safety fears the recorder was move just north of the village. Although both locations are suitable for the sunshine recorder, the length of the Braemar 'day' is markedly affected by the surrounding hills. Indeed, in mid-winter the maximum sunshine is no more than about 3.5 hours!

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