Problems on the railways ruin my plans, but divert me to sixth century standing stones in the snow.
At Aberdeen station disaster struck. I tried to board my train to Inverurie and could not get on. People were squeezed up to the doors and stared back at me and my fully loaded bicycle, most probably thinking, “no chance!”
I did the walk of shame back down the length of train, aware of being watched from the packed carriages. “I’ll get the next one!” I called out cheerily to the guard standing on the platform, trying to hide my disappointment and embarrassment.
“Trespasser mate. On the line between Dyce and Inverurie. The train before was cancelled, like. They’re all piled onto this one now. Don’t know when we’ll get away. “ The guard delivered this information with a cheery voice and a smile as if telling his mates down the pub that his team had just won the match. He really didn’t seem bothered by it all and it made me determined to show him that I was equally relaxed about it.
However, when I was told that the next train to Inverurie was not scheduled for over one and a half hours I could feel the annoyance bubbling inside my stomach. This was seriously going to ruin the cycling trip I had planned. I had a look at the departures board, just in case there was another option.
There was a train to Dyce due in about 15 minutes. Was that of any use? I got out my map to see how possible it was to cycle from Dyce to Inverurie.
I needed a route that avoided busy roads and motorways otherwise it was not an option.Yes! There it was, a route using mostly a minor road and some B roads. It was going to add another 15 miles to the trip, but it was better than standing about waiting for the next train to Inverurie that could also be delayed.
I got on the train to Dyce and felt proud that I had managed to conjure up a plan B and rescue my trip. I didn’t really want to have to cycle between Dyce and Inverurie, but I looked upon it as a little adventure.
When the ticket collector came round I explained why I had a ticket to Inverurie on a train that only went as far as Dyce, “I am going to try to cycle from Dyce to Inverurie.” She gave me that ‘are you mad’ look as we passed through a snowy landscape.
The train only takes about ten minutes from Aberdeen to Dyce and I was soon cycling along roads that were not much fun. Dyce is where Aberdeen airport is located and there are a lot of office complexes and industrial units on the outskirts. This results in considerable traffic, some of which is articulated lorries that made me wince when they trundled past. I began to wonder if the coffee shop at Aberdeen station for a one and a half hour wait might have been preferable, but luckily it was not long until I reached the turn-off to the minor roads that would take me to Inverurie.
Soon after leaving the roaring lorries behind me there was a sign, “Dyce Symbol Stones.” It pointed away from my route, but I was curious so I went to investigate. The road was fresh with snow and no tyre tracks, so I was the first on it this morning. It climbed to a spot overlooking a curve in the River Don, the sixth longest river in Scotland.
There was a ruined chapel and churchyard with untouched snow leading to the gate. My tyre tracks the only evidence of activity. Inside the chapel are two standing stones, one on either side of the doorway. The oldest of the stones dates from the 6th century and has some sort of beast and Pictish symbols carved into it. These symbols remain a mystery with no definitive answer as to their meaning. The other stone has an easier carving to understand- a cross.
The Picts were a group of people who lived in eastern and northern Scotland during the Late Iron Age and early Middle Ages. This region of Scotland has an abundance of Pictish stones and they mostly sit in natural surroundings, often exposed to the elements. The chances are high that you will be the only person at the time of your visit and you will have silence and space to appreciate the stones and perhaps come up with your own theories about the meanings of the carvings.
Utter peace and quiet is what I experienced in this place. Only minutes away there were busy roads, noise and industry, but in this spot there was solitude. I really wanted to stay longer, perhaps sit down for half an hour and empty my head, but I had to push on and get to Inverurie. Even on a cycling trip time is precious.
If it was not for a delayed train I would never have discovered this place, so it was one of those rare occasions that I was happy to be a victim of a public transport disaster.
Dyce is a 10 minute train journey from Aberdeen. Aberdeen can be reached by train from Edinburgh in around 2 hours 20 minutes. From London journey time to Aberdeen is around 7 to 8 hours.
The Dyce Symbol Stones are a 2.2 mile cycle from Dyce train station. The route is shown on the map. Leave the station on Station Road which takes you to a crossroads. Turn left onto Victoria Street. Then take the second road on the left- Pitmedden Road. Parts of Pitmedden Road can be busy with traffic, but at these points the road is wide enough for safe passing. Follow this road until you see the sign for the Symbol Stones which involves a right turn and crossing a bridge over the railway. There is an old pillbox guarding the bridge. Take this road until the churchyard comes into view.
Dyce is also the starting point of the Formartine and Buchan Way, a cycle and walking path over a disused railway line. This goes all the way to Fraserburgh and Peterhead. You can read about my cycle on this route in Riding the rails. You could combine a visit to the Dyce Symbol Stones with a cycle on the Formartine and Buchan Way.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.