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Have you tried?: The North East 250

Written by Fiona

April 20 2018

I wrote about the new North East 250 route – for drivers and cyclists – in my recent Sunday Mail column. Read the full story below or see the pdf.

I have also written a series of six blogs, starting with The new North East 250 route.

Take the scenic route: NE250

What is it?: The North East 250 (NE250) is a new tourist trail in the north-east of Scotland.

The 250-mile circular road trip is aimed at drivers but it would also be a great route for cyclists.

The journey heads through Royal Deeside, the Cairngorms, Speyside and along the coasts of the Moray Firth and Aberdeenshire.

Tell me more: The NE250 follows in the footsteps of the very successful North Coast 500, located in the north-west of Scotland.

The idea for the new route was conceived by the owner of Ballindalloch Castle, Guy Macpherson-Grant, whose family roots in the north-east date to the 16th century.

He said: “I believe the North East 250 offers visitors the very best that Scotland has to offer.

“I am excited by the potential of the route to bring more visitors to our area and with them a boost to the local economy.

“I also hope that more businesses along the route will get behind it and help make it the success I know it can be.”

Jo Robinson, regional director at VisitScotland, sees the NE250 as a welcome asset to the north-east.

She said: “It’s hoped this new route will simulate the success of other similar routes around Scotland, especially the NC500, and that it will bring economic benefit to the area and its tourism businesses through increased visitors.”

Spey Bay on a sunny and calm day.

Viaduct at the entrance to Cullen.

The NE 250 route: The tourist trail, which launched late last year, is circular and takes in a diverse landscape of mountains, moors, coast and rolling farmland in the Cairngorms, Speyside, Moray, Aberdeenshire and Royal Deeside.

It can be driven clockwise or anti-clockwise and allows for stops and overnights in a large number and variety of villages and towns.

The route is most obviously started from the region’s city of Aberdeen (via the airport or train lines).

It can also be accessed from Central Scotland by car at Spittal of Glenshee, just south the Glenshee mountains and ski resort.

The NE250 website offers an interactive map of many things to see and do on the route.

A wide collection of attractions, including castles, distilleries, mountains, ski resorts, coastal villages, beaches, golf course and forests offer many diversions.

There is plenty to enjoy if you like walking, running and mountain biking with a vast network of trails and paths criss-crossing the wider north-west.

A few examples include trails at Glenlivet Estate for mountain biking and walking, Moray Monster Bike Trails, Go Ape Crathes Castle, Deeside Activity Park and Storybook Glen.

It’s anticipated that visitors will drive the route over many days, staying overnight in hotels, guest houses, hostels or campsites.

The route is also likely to attract motorhomes, campervans and caravans.

Speyside Gardens campsite.

At Speyside Gardens Caravan Park, near Aberlour on Speyside, husband and wife owners Olly and Amy Lyon are anticipating greater numbers of guests thanks to the NE250.

The park has been recently updated with a shop, laundry, shower and toilet block, washing up area and chemical disposal point.

Olly said: “We are located in such a beautiful part of Scotland and there is so much to see and do on our doorstep.

“We believe the NE250 route will introduce this area to many more people and hopefully it will bring a boost to local businesses and attractions.”

Findlater castle is in ruins but is a fascinating visit.

Historic Duff House.

How long will it take?: A long weekend of four days is a good starting point but if you can head off for a week to 10 days then you will have more time to enjoy the sights and attractions.

I spent four days driving from Spittal of Glenshee clockwise and enjoyed three nights in campsites along the way.

I was able to visit two to three attractions each day and enjoyed a couple of coastal trail runs.

I confess there was a lot more I wanted to visit – the choice of attractions and landmarks is impressive – so I plan to return for another similar trip.

The campervan at sunset.

Anything else to know?: A North East 250 Passport allows visitors to collect stamps in each sector of the route: Speyside, Royal Deeside, Cairngorms, Moray Firth Coast, East Coast and Aberdeen.

To receive the souvenir you need to become a member of the North East 250 or buy it from a number of businesses along the route and on the website.

A completed passport allows you to download a certificate of completion from the North East 250 website.


My trip on the NE250

I drove a Fiat Tribute 670 campervan, hired from Open Road Scotland, close to Glasgow Airport, and spent four days driving the route.

I stayed in camping and caravan parks on three nights.

Day 1: Spittal of Glenshee to Aberlour

 I enjoyed the Cairngorms scenery, including two ski resorts Glenshee Mountain and The Lecht; visited the tiny church of Inveravon and took a short walk from close to Aberlour Distillery to Linn Falls.

Other things to do:

  • Mountain bike routes at the Glenlivet Estate.
  • Smugglers Trails at Glenlivet Estate.
  • Tour one of the many Speyside whisky distilleries.
  • Visit Ballindalloch Castle.

Overnight: Speyside Gardens camping and caravan park.

Dinner: Dowans Hotel, Aberlour.

Day 2: Aberlour to Banff

 Driving north to Spey Bay I went in search of coastal views and the chance to see dolphins. I visited Findochty, Portnockie, Cullen and Findlater Castle ruins before heading to Duff House in Banff.

Others things to do:

  • Craigellachie Telford Bridge
  • Cardhu Country house
  • Fochabers Folk Museum and Heritage Centre
  • Moray Monster Trails near Fochabers
  • Ice Cream at Portsoy
  • MacDuff Aquarium.

Overnight: Wester Bonnyton Caravan and Camping Site, Gamrie, Banff.

Dinner: Banff Springs Hotel.

Day 3: Banff to Maryculter

My first port of call for the tiny settlement of Pennan, which was made famous as the fictional village of Ferness in the film Local Hero.

I followed another coastal path to Aberdour Bay and back again, before driving to Fraserburgh to visit the Museum of Scottish Lighthouses.

The east coast came next with many great attractions including Bullers of Buchan and Slains Castle.

Other things to do:

  • Peterhead Prison Museum

Overnight: Deeside Holiday Park, Maryculter.

Dinner: Bought from a local Tesco and eaten in the van.

Day 4: Maryculter to Spittal of Glenshee

Heading west through beautiful Royal Deeside country the attractions came thick and fast.

I chose Crathes Castle, Braemar for lunch and a drive to Linn of Dee for a superb trail run through the Glen of Dee.

Other things to do:

  • Royal Deeside Railway
  • Balmoral Castle
  • Detour to Stonehaven for the open air pool.


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