AT the end of a 50-mile trip past Glenshee on the majestic A93, a cluster of Union flags hints at a parallel universe. You are now entering Ballater on Deeside, a village rising out of ancient forests and misty peaks that seems to live for the glorification of Britain’s royal family.

Before long, you’ve counted a dozen or so flags before the bunting kicks in: little chains of red, white and blue pennants suggesting Larkhall in jodhpurs. The 23rd Psalm exists for republican socialists like me in situations like this: “Though I should walk in the valley of darkness no evil will I fear.”

Someone has placed knitted figurines of King Charles and his missus, Queen Camilla, on top of a letterbox: Wool Britannia. I home in on them, a journalist in search of an intro. Isn’t there a law somewhere about defacing the property of the Royal Mail?

The Herald: Ballater celebrates the CoronationBallater celebrates the Coronation (Image: free)

The woolly monarchs come with a message attached asking us not to move or damage them. “The paper girls in Aboyne are fundraising to buy a Tok pad for Aboyne Academy. This post box topper is helping them reach that goal. The pod will be a space to help our young people with making new friends, a place to go to work on friendship issues …”

My implacable republican heart melts a little.

I press on further behind the lines and am greeted by serried rows of shop-fronts garlanded by pictures of the new King and Queen peeking out from biscuit boxes, tea towels and recyclable paper cups. If you want your own bunting there’s a shop selling packets of it emblazoned with a crown and the legend “Three cheers for His Majesty the King.”

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You can get “right royal” paper plates for £5 a pop. Reassuringly, they come with a message of sustainability: “One is totally recyclable”. At last, a hint of self-aware wit.

When the Windsors descend on Royal Deeside for their holidays they cut about these streets like any other visitors. In England, you’d expect them to be mobbed by bands of snap-happy locals, joyous in their thrall. In this elegant wee keep, all granite rectitude, they are slow to effuse. They keep their distance: a nod perhaps; perchance a smile.

Over coffee and cakes in the Orka Café, we’re joined by the owner, Louise Smart. She says she’s “not exactly a monarchist” and, to be fair, there’s not much in the way of red, white and blue heraldry happening on the premises. It’s clear, though, that she’s fond of them.

“You’re sitting on the seat that Anne usually takes when she pops in,” she tells me; Anne being Princess Anne, the people’s royal who always seems to cut a less regal, no-nonsense pose.

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“We’ve got a lot of time for Anne in here. She’s always absolutely lovely with all our staff and exhibits no grand airs. She’s always genuinely interested in what they’ve been doing.

“Charles is the same. Whenever they’re up here they wander about the streets like anyone else. Only their security detail gives the game away and they’re hardly obtrusive. The last time he was up here I had to knock him back at the door as the place was full with a busload of foreign tourists. He’d have been swamped anyway. The locals have taken to Camilla too. She never tries to steal the limelight and conducts herself with grace and kindness. I like her.

“You won’t find anyone around here with a bad word to say about the royals. And I think people have become quite protective of them without being overly obsequious. They support this community in lots of ways that don’t get any publicity. They like Ballater and the neighbouring villages and it’s clear that they like the people. I think they feel they can be themselves here. And it’s genuinely Charles’s happy place.”

I’m tempted to say that it helps if you’re a multi-millionaire landowner with a nearby castle. But it’s not really the place or time and, besides, I can leave all that to the columns and the Twitter.

It was Charles’s great-great-great-granny, Queen Victoria who was first of her family to become enchanted by the magic of this part of Scotland. She and her husband, Prince Albert, first visited Scotland in 1842 and, having later acquired the nearby Balmoral estate and its small castle, made it their regular holiday destination, and not least because the sweeping wooded landscape reminded Albert of the forests of his native Germany.

The Herald: Ballater celebrates the CoronationBallater celebrates the Coronation (Image: free)

In the terrain occupied by apex aristocrats it’s important that your castle isn’t on the dinky side and so the royal couple had the present, much larger one built in 1856. These parts aren’t the most accessible for the rank and file, let alone Europe’s pre-eminent regal outfit. In 1848, The Great North of Scotland Railway had to assemble hurriedly a royal train carriage when inclement weather meant the big yacht was out the question for getting them all back to London.

It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship between the Windsors and Scotland’s rail authorities. The line was eventually extended to Ballater in 1866. Then, after 20 years of making Victoria share platform space with the punters they built her a personalised royal waiting-room at the station, complete with an oak table large to host lunch for 10. The ScotRail trolley service has clearly always been a bit rubbish.

The royal waiting-room has been preserved in all of its former glory, including the extravagant wooden cludgie where Victoria and Albert could park their royal fundaments while making their racing selections for the day ahead.

Happily, the décor matches that of the royal train carriage sitting still at the end of a line closed by Dr Beeching in 1966: a velvet-covered coach resembling a curious hybrid of New Orleans bordello and high-class opium den.

Back up on the main street we pop by Cassie’s Hardware store, owned and operated by Alistair Cassie and his wife Margaret. They’re both keen to point out that the locals’ admiration for the royals is rooted in something more than mere monarchical fetishism. “The family has done a great deal for this area,” he says.

“After the floods back in 2015 they put a lot of money into the recovery efforts and Charles also helped out with the caravan site and other sites through the Prince’s Trust. He also helped out when we had a fire at the station.

The Herald: Ballater celebrates the CoronationBallater celebrates the Coronation (Image: free)

"Charles especially supports many local community enterprises. His heart’s in the village. The people here really appreciate this. And when they pop in to my shop and some of the others around here I just blether away with them same as I’m doing right now.”

Ballater station is also home to the visitor information centre and library. A word of the day is posted on the wall. Today it’s ‘bardology’: excessive admiration of Shakespeare. At these big royal events, a sort of Windsorology sweeps across the forelock-tugging BBC. Their fawning presenters, masquerading as journalists, prostrate themselves before this unremarkable family to bring us exclusives about their gardens and soft furnishings.

In Ballater, where you might expect something of the same, there is something more proportionate and circumspect beyond the red, white and blue banderoles.

At Byron Bakery on Golf Road, Stef and Yvonne sell me a loaf of their famous Balmoral Bread. They’re approved suppliers to the Royal Family, a status which brings in the tourists. “That family have been good for this village,” says Yvonne, “but no one here treats them any differently than they’d treat anyone else.”

She tells me about Charles and Camilla popping in unexpectedly to support a new local chippie down the road a couple of weeks ago. “They didn’t need to do it,” she said, “but they knew it would get some good publicity ahead of the official opening.”