A VICTORIAN railway station which was used by members of the Royal Family travelling to Balmoral Castle has been badly damaged by fire.
Emergency services were called to the Old Royal Station in Ballater, Aberdeenshire, at about 2am yesterday.
At the height of the blaze, approximately 50 firefighters, with five fire engines and five special appliances, were at the scene in Station Square.
But the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service said that 90 per cent of the building, which includes a museum and restaurant, had suffered serious damage.
The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay visited the museum in 2008 to officially open a reproduction Victorian railway carriage, an exact replica of the one used by Queen Victoria in 1869 to travel between Windsor and Ballater. Firefighters managed to save the replica royal carriage.
The project was commissioned by VisitScotland.
During his visit, Prince Charles reminisced about childhood journeys to Ballater, which is near Balmoral Castle.
He said: “I have incredibly special memories of arriving and departing from here as a child. It is wonderful to see it brought back to life.
“I hope it will make an enormous difference to Ballater and this part of Scotland in terms of its attraction.”
Yesterday the A93 between Ballater and Braemar was closed and drivers were asked to use the Pass of Ballater, but the main road was later re-opened.
The station was opened in October 1866 by the Great North of Scotland Railway and was the nearest station to Balmoral Castle, eight miles along the River Dee to the west.
In 1886 the Royal Waiting Room was built to a design approved by Queen Victoria.
But in 1966 the station fell victim to the “Beechings cuts” when it was closed by the British Railways Board.
The fire service said it was too early to say how much damage has been caused to the contents.
John Morgan, group manager, said: “It’s very much an icon within Ballater centre so the local crews from Ballater and the Deeside area obviously were aware of the importance of the property and wanted to work as hard as they could to try and protect it and save as much as possible.
“On the actual contents of the museum, it’s very hard to make any kind of judgment as to what has been damaged and what hasn’t.”
Fire crews had the blaze under control by 5:20am but will remain at the scene to extinguish any hot spots and prevent further fire spread.
There were no reports of any injuries.
Philip Smith, VisitScotland’s regional director, said: “The building has been very badly damaged and the restaurant appears to be all but destroyed.
“The visitor information centre is badly damaged and while the royal carriage in the museum seems to have survived, the museum has been badly damaged.
“Once the fire service were made aware of the museum’s contents they did their best to save it.”
A spokeswoman for Aberdeenshire Council said: “The Old Royal Station is a council-owned building which has been leased to VisitScotland for a number of years.
“The council understands the importance of the building both historically and in terms of the local economy and will be supporting VisitScotland in ensuring the visitor information centre and undamaged displays can relocate to a suitable venue nearby.”