I took four days to drive the new North East 250 circular route. Here are the details of day four.
Maryculter to Spittal of Glenshee
Distance: Around 66 miles.
Note, If you wanted to take in Stonehaven (it has a lovely open air pool) the route would total about 75 miles.
The final section took me west again towards the mountains of the Cairngorms and through famous Royal Deeside. This is the home of wide, winding rivers, castles, royal residencies and culturally rich towns.
By now you might expect me to be tiring of being on the road but I was still thoroughly enjoying the views and the attractions.
Having visited Balmoral castle before I thought I would take in a couple of new places, including my first stop, Crathes Castle & Gardens, at Banchory.
The National Trust for Scotland property looked to be at the start of the busy season and I was one of only a few visitors wandering around.
It is a lovely place to walk a dog and when in leaf in summer I imagine it is spectacular. There is a lovely walled garden and huge yew hedges, some planted as far back as 1702.
The 16th-century tower house is an imposing sight from the outside with turrets and mini towers. Inside there is the promise of grand oak panelling and painted ceilings.
There is also a Go Ape in the grounds if you fancy a bit of high ropes adrenaline adventure.
I was intrigued to see an old-fashioned railway terminal, Milton of Crathes. On investigation, it seems this is part of the Royal Deeside Railway and home to a number of steam trains. The line is only a mile long but it offers a scenic ride of around 15 minutes beside the River Dee.
Further west I reached the pretty town of Aboyne, where, if I had time, I would have stopped for lunch and a wander.
Another sign told me of Muir of Dinnet, one of Scotland’s national Nature Reserves, was nearby, and Forestry Scotland’s Cambus o’ May forest trails. Muir of Dinnet is home to the brilliantly named Burn O’Vat, which is in fact a deep pothole with high rock walls. A waterfall tumbles over the huge boulders.
(I really will need to drive this route again to visit these attractions…)
Heading back towards the mountains
As I continued the drive I could see glimpses of higher mountains. Royal Deeside is a rolling landscape that leads seemingly quite quickly to the foothills of the Cairngorms and then back to the mountains near Glenshee that I had driven through only days before.
With snow still on high ground the views were frequently so stunning that I had to stop, pull into a layby and take another photo.
I passed through another clearly well off village, Ballater, and then reached Crathie, where a kirk draws tourist. When the Royal Family is in residence at nearby Balmoral Castle, they are regular visitors to Crathie Kirk.
But my mind, by now, has turned to freeing Wispa – and my legs – for another run. I knew that Linn of Dee was just off the route to the west and having been there several times before to climb Munros I decided to revisit for a lower-level trail run.
The drive to Linn of Dee car park, some 6.5 miles west of Braemar village, is worth doing simply for the fabulous views of valley and mountains. The majestic landscape never fails to impress me and I took my time to drive the route slowly and carefully.
At the car park (having found the £3 for parking) I headed off to follow signs to the Glen Lui. The path heads first through wonderful woodland and then out into a wider river valley. As I ran I looked up a he magnificent snow-capped mountains ahead and felt blessed to have the place almost to myself.
It was another mild day and I decided to run for 35 minutes out and then back. The return was more of a descent so I knew I would be less than an hour.
Having exhausted the dog and tired myself I reached the van and had a quick lunch before taking to the road again. However, I realised I’d misjudged the time. The van clock had not gone forward with the clocks and I suddenly realised I might not make it back to Open Road Scotland before 5pm.
The owner, Andy, was kind and a couple of texts told him I was on my way, and then stuck in Glasgow’s commuter traffic. This was a frustrating end to what had been a truly brilliant tour of the north-east of Scotland.
As I have repeated throughout these blogs: I will be going back. There is so much more to see and do.
See North East 250.
Also check out Introduction to North East 250.