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