The Deeside Way
The Deeside Way, or as it is sometimes called, The Royal Deeside Line, is arguably the jewel in the crown of cycling and walking trails in Grampian. Testament to its importance, if any were needed, is that it has been adopted as Route 195 of the National Cycle Network which is coordinated and promoted by Sustrans.
The 41 mile long Deeside Way starts at Duthie Park in the centre of Aberdeen and continues close to the River Dee through the heart of rural Aberdeenshire to Ballater in the Cairngorms National Park.
Like other disused railway trails the Deeside Way is suitable for cyclists of all ability, and is especially suited to families. The route is mostly level as it is built on the bed of the old Deeside railway line. Any gradients encountered are shallow.
Since closure of the line in the mid 1960's, a few of the bridges have been removed and some of the track bed destroyed. However, ramps have been constructed at many former bridge locations to allow safe easy access to and from the Way, and quiet lanes adjacent to the line are used where the former track bed has been destroyed.
The Deeside Way passes through (or close to) many places of interest including Crathes Castle, Drum Castle and Cambus O'May. These all make interesting detours or destinations for a picnic.
From Aberdeen to Banchory and from Aboyne to Ballater the route mainly follows the old rail line, but between Banchory and Kincardine O'Neil expect forest tracks, woodland paths and field margins. And between Kincardine O'Neil and Aboyne you will have to "Mind the Gap!" because there is no route currently available for this small section.
Under wheel the route is generally well surfaced with ash or tar making it suitable for all types of bikes, even children's.
The trail is shared with pedestrians (especially dog walkers) and occassionally horse riders, so do watch out for them. It is a good idea to have a bell fitted to your bike and give the other Deeside users a friendly ring as you approach them.
The cycle route starts at the Polmuir Road entrance to Duthie Park, in a corner of the small car park just behind the David Welch Winter Gardens.
To begin, the way travels through built up areas, overlooking the back gardens of city centre houses and into the tranquil grounds of the old Allenvale Cemetery. A new bridge was installed in 2005 over Holburn Street, adjacent to the old Holburn station, and extra trees were planted improving this section. The route then continues past larger properties in the more affluent suburbs of the Granite City as it heads west through the remains of stations at Pitfodels, Cults, Bieldside, Murtle, Milltimber, and Peterculter (or Culter, as its more commonly known by locals). At the Heritage Centre in Cults, the Way disappears for a couple of hundred yards though is easily picked again if you stay on Station Rd. After a short distance the Way joins a quiet country road at Coalford heading towards Dalmaik. The tarmacked road gives way to a forest path which meanders through forest and field back on to tarmac, and heading uphill to Drumoak.
Leave Drumoak on the pavement heading west and after a few hundred yards the pavement turns left, separating from the road. This continues past Drum, Park, and Mills of Drum before once again joining the main road for a hundred yards just before Crathes. Follow the signs onto the private access road and keep going past Milton of Crathie to Banchory, some 16 miles from your start point in Aberdeen.
Leaving the King George V Park in Banchory the route takes you across the River Dee and into Blackhall Forest. After crossing the Dee continue on the road for a 100 yards then turn right following the signs for Scolty Woodland Walks. Continue on the tarmac until the Scolty signs point you onto a forest track. Take this, pass the Forestry Commission car park, and follow the Deeside Way signs all the way through Blackhall Forest until you arrive at Shooting Greens car park. Just before leaving the car park look out for the path that runs beside the road - take this and head down through Slewdrum Forest to Potarch. Head for the Potarch Inn and bear right to cross the Dee. As you leave the bridge crossing the Dee look out for the car park on your left. The Deeside Way begins again at the far end of the car park. This superb new section leads on to Kincardine O'Neil.
Continue through the village, and at the petrol station cross the main road into Pitmurchie Road. Continue uphill to you pass the small row of houses and encounter a small cross roads. Take the left, to leave the tarmac and continue for a hundred yards, then take a right. Keep on this track as it winds uphill through woodland, and then descends quite sharply to cross the Dess Burn and meet a tarmacked road. Cross the tarmac and rejoin the path to cross farm land, and reach another tarmac road. Cross this road and continue past Aboyne Loch into Aboyne passing through the town to Victory Hall.
The Deeside Way leaves Aboyne from Victory Hall, crossing the B9094 Tarland road en route. It then crosses the main A93 before reaching the Deeside Gliding Club layby. It then continues to Dinnet, and the Cambus O'May suspension bridge. From there it is an easy pedal to Ballater, crossing the A93 once more on the way. The route finishes at the Old Royal Station, historically used by royals travelling by train to nearby balmoral Castle. The station building houses a tourist information centre, restaurant and tearoom, public library as well as a small museum.
If you want to follow the Deeside Way on an a map then you'll need either the Sustrans Cycle Map of Aberdeenshire, or both of the local OS maps: