The Gaelic Bràigh Mhàrr properly refers to the area of upper Marr (as it literally means), i.e. the area of Marr to the west of Aboyne, the village itself being Castleton of Braemar (Baile a' Chaisteal Bhràigh Mhàrr).
The village is overlooked (from roughly northwest) by Carn na Drochaide (818 m), (from roughly northeast) by Creag Choinnich (538 m), (from roughly southwest) by Carn na Sgliat (690 m), and (from roughly southwest) by Morrone (859 m).
The use of Braemar to specifically refer to the village dates to around 1870. Previously, two independent hamlets existed on the banks of the Clunie Water named on the West bank; Auchendryne, on the East bank; Castleton, the name referring to Kindrochit Castle (within the modern-day village) rather than Braemar Castle (immediately south of the village). The names Auchendryne and Castleton are clearly marked on the current Ordnance Survey maps below the larger and bolder Braemar.
Traditionally, Malcolm III with his first Queen came to the area in around 1059, and according to legend held a great gathering at the original settlement of Doldencha, situated under the present-day graveyard. He is also credited with having built a timber bridge across the Clunie and the original Kindrochit Castle, the siting of which was derived from a strategic relation to the crossings of the Grampian Mounth. The ruins of Kindrochit Castle on the east bank of the Clunie Water, slightly upriver from the bridge in Braemar, are considered to be largely of 14th century origin replacing the presumed timber-construction of the original castle. The name Kindrochit (bridge end) is the source of the name Castleton being Bail Chasteil.
In 1795 a Roman Catholic chapel was built on the high-ground to the west of Auchendryne giving the name to Chapel Brae which, according to Wyness, was being used as a school.
Into the 20th century the village was virtually completely owned and divided by the adjoining estates of Mar – Auchendryne, and Invercauld – Castleton. To some extent the inter-estate rivalry lead to the building of the Fife Arms Hotel in Auchendryne, and the Invercauld Arms Hotel in Castleton. Interestingly – the Invercauld Arms was built over the mound where John "Bobin' Jock" Erskine, 6th Earl of Mar raised the Jacobite standard in 1715.
Auchindryne (to use the spelling by Wyness) from ach' an droighinn (field of the thorn) belonged to a branch of the Farquharsons until it was forfeited in the aftermath of the Jacobite Rising of 1745. Later that century is was acquired by William Duff, 1st Earl Fife.
Catholicism has traditionally been strong in the Braemar area, and the bones of Saint Andrew rested in Braemar before being taken to the place now known as St. Andrews. The Catholic church in Braemar is dedicated to Saint Andrew was built in 1839.
In 1746 the Act of Proscription stopped all clan gatherings, but following its repeal in 1782 the old enthusiasms for such events returned. About 1826 the Braemar Highland Society was created; the first modern-day games taking place in 1832. On the 14th September 1844 Queen Victoria attended the gathering at Invercauld. In 1866 Royal was added to Braemar Highland Society and in 1906 the Duke of Fife gifted 12 acres of Mar Estate to the Society and The Princess Royal and Duke of Fife Memorial Park, the current home of the Braemar Gathering, was created.
The Morrone Birkwood Nature Reserve is a nature reserve on the edge of the village reached from the car park at the top of Chapel Brae.