The Deeside Way is a 41 mile cycle path, mostly traffic-free, from Aberdeen to Ballater. It follows the line of the Deeside Railway, once famously used by The Royal Family to travel to Balmoral Castle. Here are 10 things you can see and do along the way:
1. Old Station Buildings
Most of the Deeside Line's stations survive today. Information boards tell the story of each building. This is a photo of Murtle Station which has a canopy held up with decorative iron struts. Passengers once got off here to visit the Deeside Hydropathic which offered a variety of treatments, including Turkish and Russian baths.
2. Allan Park
A secret garden just waiting to be discovered, Allan Park, is a short distance from Cults Station. It is hidden away in a valley with a set of steep stairs taking you down to a world of ponds, trees and birdsong. This is the perfect place to relax with a picnic lunch.
3. Drum Castle
Drum Castle was occupied for 653 years by a single family, the Irvines, until the death of the 24th Laird in 1976. Inside there are the expected castle essentials, such as a library full of beautifully bound books, a Gallery hung with family portraits and four poster bed. There is even a cabinet containing the 11th century hair of Malcolm, King of Scots. The extensive grounds offer woodland walks and rose gardens.
4. Deeside Railway
The Deeside Railway has restored a mile of track at Milton of Crathes and created an authentic experience of what rail travel was like back in the day. Travel in the 1950s Battery Multiple Unit where the front seats look into the driver's cab and give a view of the tracks. Grab a coffee in the buffet carriages and admire the restored timber station with its fireplace and ticking clock.
5. Milton Art Gallery
The work of local artists is displayed inside restored farm buildings. Take home a painting, sculpture or jewelry inspired by the Aberdeenshire landscapes and nature. The Art Gallery is adjacent to the Deeside Railway. and Crathes Castle is a short walk from here.
6. Crathes Castle
The sculpted yew trees are the most incredible feature of the gardens of Crathes Castle. They date back to the early 1700s and have been continuously trimmed by generations of gardeners to keep them in the egg and cup shape that you see today. The painted ceilings inside the castle are jaw dropping. The room of the Nine Nobles features bearded military heroes, like Alexander the Great, Hector of Troy and Julius Caesar.
7. Grave Robber Watchtower, Banchory
Cycling into Banchory you will spot a curious round tower; it was a watchtower installed to deter grave robbers in the nineteenth century. It has a bell and the sight of this sent a shiver down my spine as I imagined it being rung by a panicking watchman on spotting body snatchers. The sound would awaken the foggy town and the people would be in no doubt about what was going on.
8. Cambus O'May Suspension Bridge
This charming footbridge, built in 1905, crosses the River Dee. It has lattice girders, a cute turnstile entrance and is painted gleaming white. On the other side there are woodland walks to enjoy. The bridge is 3 miles east of Ballater.
Note that the Cambus O'May suspension bridge is currently not accessible after storm damage (March 2018).
9. River Dee
The 5th longest river in Scotland and famous for its salmon fishing the Dee is a constant companion for cyclists on the Deeside Way. For large sections you are riding alongside it, so make a stop and take a seat by its banks for a bit of relaxation.
10. Royal Station, Ballater
Board a replica of a Royal Train carriage and take a peek at the Royal toilet in the waiting room- it has a blue and white porcelain bowl painted with fruits and flowers. There is a tea room that perfectly captures the nostalgia of nineteenth century railway refreshment rooms.
Read about my cycling trip on the Deeside Way:
Part One: Aberdeen to Banchory
Part Two: Banchory to Ballater
I tried to put a bit of air into my front tyre, but the pump had the reverse effect and all the air hissed out. Something pinged out of the top of the pump and fell over the ledge of the platform. Whatever this small thing was its disappearance permanently malfunctioned the pump.
My bike was out of action and I hadn’t even started cycling! I was waiting for the 5.33am train from Edinburgh Haymarket to Aberdeen to take me to the start of my route and now I had a limp tyre and no means to fix it. In fact, this was a triple disaster! It was pouring with rain and I was dripping wet, even though it was almost July.
Sometimes travel does not turn out the way that you planned for, but there is almost always a way to rescue it.
At first I was miserable and almost gave up. I thought there was no point in getting on the train if I couldn’t actually cycle once I arrived. What possible pleasure could be derived from cycling in heavy rain anyway? But I conjured up plan B, thanks to the miracle of mobile Internet. Whilst on the train I tracked down a shop near to the station that had bicycle pumps in stock. It was not the perfect plan B, they never are perfect- I would have to wait 40 minutes for the shop to open and I would miss my connecting train to my final destination, Dyce.
In Aberdeen Station seagulls swooped and squawked. Through the glass canopy I caught glimpses of the granite buildings that this city is famous for. I killed time with a coffee and very dry, bland blueberry muffin. Then I pushed my wounded bicycle to Union Street as commuters rushed by with hoods and umbrellas and buses splashed through puddles.
I was the first customer of the day at the store. I think the staff could detect my desperation when I asked for a bicycle pump- I was walked straight to the product’s location, rather than being given directions. On the way I made small talk about the weather and said I hoped that it would stop raining for my bike ride. The woman’s cheery voice was at odds with her prediction, “Oh, I doubt that. It’ll be pouring all day!”
I had to wait almost one hour for the next train to Dyce. A long wait for the sake of a short ten minute train journey, but my bike was back in action and that was the main thing. At Dyce I started on the Formartine and Buchan cycle way, each peddle stroke all the sweeter because Plan B had worked out.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.