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The Garioch Loop
For cyclists who like a challenge, try the 35 mile Garioch Loop. This cycle route takes the cyclist from Inverurie, round the back of Bennachie returning along the banks of the River Don to Chapel of Garioch. And there a couple of serious climbs along the way!
From here you can cycle directly back to Inverurie, or cross the River Urie to loop round to the east avoiding Inverurie town traffic.
 
Garioch (pronounced Geerie) is one of the 6 administrative areas established by Aberdeenshire Council, with its "capital" being Inverurie. It is ideal cycling country, with its landscape of undulating farmland and interesting scenery. The area is dominated by the 9 distinctive peaks of the Bennachie hill range, the highest of which is Oxen Craig at 528m though the most visited is Mither Tap (518m) which itself is often referred to as Bennachie. This cycle route provides a nice loop around Bennachie.
 

 
Route Details
Strathdon and Alford (OS Landranger Map Series)  Aberdeen, Inverurie and Pitmedden (OS Landranger Map Series)
The loop spans OS landranger maps 37 and 38.
The start and finish point is Inverurie's ornate Victorian Train Station. Check out our page on taking bikes on trains if you are considering using the train. The station also has a good sized free car park if you decide to drive.
 
 
 
Leave the station and cycle into the town, turning right at the roundabout heading up the slight incline of West High Street. At the mini roundabout take the 3rd exit sign posted A96. Continue up the hill to the next roundabout where you go straight on past the new housing to leave the town.
Continue till you meet the A96. With care, join the A96 towards Inverness and exit after 100 yards to your left.
Continue, passing the ruined Balquhain Castle (Point of Interest #1) on your right, to Chapel of Garioch.
 
Pass straight through Chapel of Garioch, and after about a mile as you start to descend look out for the Maiden Stone (Point of Interest #2) on your left hand side adjacent to the road. Continue to descend, passing below the railway to reach the A96.
With care, join the A96 towards Inverness and exit after 100 yards to your left onto the B9002 under the railway and past Harthill Castle, which unfortunately is not open to the public.
Follow the B9002 through Oyne following the railway all the way to Insch.
 
Pass Insch Rail station, cross the level crossing and take the first left onto the B992, sign posted Auchleven.
Stay on the B992, passing through Auchleven. Tighten your toe straps and get ready for the mile long assent of the Brindy (total ascent a mere 100m). Having reached the top, you can catch a breather while visiting the stone circle on your left just before the road crosses the Gordon Way - a long distance footpath which thanks to the new Scottish Out Door Access Code now allows responsible cycling along its length. (See our page on the Scottish Out Door Access Code for more details.)
Enjoy the long gradual descent, preparing to turn left onto the unclassified road sign posted "Lords Throat" about half a mile after the road flattens out.
 
Climb up this road into the trees, to the top of the Lords Throat and descend to follow the banks of the River Don on your right hand side with views across to the popular mountain biking trails at Pitfichie Forest and Castle. This is a good spot to stop for a rest, and there are various picnic spots provided along this stretch in the woods to your right. Continue on this road until you reach a Tee junction.
Take left at the Tee junction, sign posted Blairdaff.
 
Within a mile you come to the sprawling hamlet of Blairdaff, complete with roofless church. Bear left all the way through Blairdaff, climbing all the time into Bennachie Forest. As you know, what goes up must come down, and so it is with this road. As you exit the forest the road descends past the entrance to the Bennachie Visitor Centre and family MTB trails, then undulates until it reaches Chapel of Garioch.
 
From here you head straight back to Inverurie by turning right and continuing in the opposite direction to which you travelled earlier back past Balquhain Castle, crossing the A96 in to Inverurie. If you are still up for some more exploring, then see the alternate finish suggested below.

 
Alternate Finish
The alternative 8 mile route back to the station helps avoid cycling through Inverurie.
 
At the Chapel of Garioch crossroads turn right, then after a 100 yards left, sign posted Pitcaple. Continue down the hill through Pitcaple until you reach the A96. Cross the A96 with care, and continue a quarter of a mile until you reach Whiteford. Take the first right sign posted Old Meldrum.
 
This unclassified road passes Pitcaple Castle on your right and continues to it meets the B9001. Turn right on to the B9001, sign posted Inverurie, and after about a mile look out for a left turn onto an unclassified road signed to Lethenty Mill. Take this road past the old mill and continue until you reach the B9170. Turn right onto the B9170 from where you will see Inverurie in the distance, and Bennachie to your right. The rail station is on your right as you enter the town over the bridge.

 
Points Of Interest
#1. The ruined Balquhain Castle was burned down in a feud with the neighbouring Forbes family in 1526. It was rebuilt and then abandoned in 1710 when the Leslie family moved to Fetternear house. After 1710 it fell into disrepair and was then deliberately destroyed in 1746 - likely as a result of the failed 1745 rebellion. Worth the short detour, even if just to look at the nearby Balquhain stone circle.
 
photo coutesy of Stephen Samson#2. The Maiden Stone is a 3m high slap of pink granite, carved on all four sides with Pictish and Christian symbology. Thought to date from the second half of the 9th century AD. The stone's name derives from the legend of a daughter of a Laird of Balquhain who was turned to stone on her wedding day after losing a bet with the devil.
The Maiden Stone is also known as the Drumdurno Stone after the nearby farm.

 
Facilities & Services
You shouldn't go hungry or thirsty on this cycle ride. The route passes the multi award winning Archaeolink Prehistory Park in Oyne with a very welcoming cafe; Insch offers shops, bars and cafes; Auchleven has a bar that serves food, and the Bennachie visitor centre offers the chance to fill up your drinks bottle or grab a hot drink from their vending machine.
 
Cycle repair facilities are available in Inverurie, where you have a choice of two - Pedal Power, or the Bike Station.

 

 
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