Formartine and Buchan Way

The Formartine and Buchan Way is a safe, long distance shared cycle path suitable for cyclists of all ability.
The F&B Way starts at Dyce Railway station, on the outskirts of Aberdeen, and continues some 25 miles through the heart of rural Aberdeenshire to Maud where it splits. Continuing North for 15 miles takes you to Fraserburgh, whereas veering East will take you to Peterhead some 13 miles distant. Sections of the Formartine Way form part of Route 1 of the National Cycle Network.

The cycle route is entirely off road, and is built on the bed of the former Formartine and Buchan railway therefore any gradients encountered are shallow. Since closure of the rail line in the 1960s, some of the bridges have been removed, however ramps have been constructed to allow safe and easy access to and from the cycle trail at road crossings.

The Buchan Way, as it is often called, passes through (or close to) many place of interest including Aden Country Park, Drinnies Wood Observatory, Strichen Stone Circle and Deer Abbey. These all make interesting detours, or destinations for a picnic.

Have you ridden on the Formartine and Buchan Way? Do you think we have missed something you would like included? Then let us know. Contact details are on the link at the bottom of the page.

The Route

Because the cycle way is based on an old railway line, navigation is simple - in fact you can't go wrong! If you want to follow the cycle way on an OS map then you'll need both OS maps shown opposite - click for more details.
The route surface varies along the way with sections of tarmac, compacted gravel and a few lengths of rough, occasionally wet and slightly muddy terrain.
All villages and towns mentioned below have car parks where you can drive to and leave your car if you want to tackle the route in stages.
The path is shared with pedestrians (especially dog walkers) and occassionally horse riders, so do watch out for them.

Dyce to Newmachar - 4 miles
The cycle route starts in Dyce, at the far end of the railway station car park. Dyce has a small selection of shops, bars and hotels, and takeaways. The route leaves the station, skirting the Pitmedden Road industrial estate before crossing the River Don, and entering the local countryside. Look out for the wire sculpture on the trail. Continue through the old Newmachar station to the car park, and picnic benches. The village of Newmachar, offers shops, a hotel and a chippie.

Newmachar to Udny Station - 5 miles
Access to the Way at Newmachar is from the small car park on Station Rd, adjacent the equipment hire building, just outside the village centre. The surface changes from compacted gravel to a more rough terrain as you head north from Newmachar. The landscape also changes with the fields becoming noticeably larger. Access to the village of Udny Station is via the playing fields just before the old station platform. This leads on to Chestnut Walk which has a small car park.

Udny Station to Ellon - 5 miles
Access to the Way at Udny Station is via Chestnut Walk. Unfortunately Udny Station doesn't have any shops. Heading to Ellon, you pass Logierieve and Esselmont stations, both now private houses before crossing the river Ythan on the impressive Ellon Viaduct. Stay in the centre if you don't have a head for heights! After crossing the viaduct you are more or less in Ellon. Ellon has everything you would expect in a town: shops, cafes, restaurants, bars, hotels and takeaways.

Ellon to Auchnagatt - 7 miles
There are a handful of access points to the Way in Ellon. If driving to Ellon, then perhaps the easiest option is to park in the centre of town and follow the river side path which joins the Way just after the viaduct. The Way runs through the western edge of the town and passes the McDonald Golf Club before entering open countryside. Note that the path narrows for some of the way, and can get muddy. You soon approach Ebrie Woods with its Scots pines and small lochans, and then Mill of Elrick before reaching Auchnagatt. The Way passes the shop in Auchnagatt.

Auchnagatt to Maud - 4.5 miles
Parking is available at the village hall in Auchnagatt. The foot path at the front of the hall leads onto the Way. This section of the route passes a couple of small forests before reaching Maud. As you approach Maud you have two decision to make
- 1st, to visit the village or not. The path forks with the left fork taking you into the village centre and the right bypassing the village. Its worth visiting the village which offers shops, cafes, a hotel and the Formartine and Buchan Railway Museum.
- 2nd, to continue to Peterhead or branch off to Fraserburgh.

To Peterhead: Maud to Mintlaw - 5.5 miles
Parking is available in Maud at the car park opposite the Station Hotel. From here head down the path to the right of the shop. Cross the road and the start of the Peterhead section is a few yards on your left. After 2.5 miles you cross a minor road, and shortly after glimpses of the ruined Deer abbey can be seen on the left. After another mile or so you reach the A950. Here you can detour to Aden Country Park for a picnic, or visit its popular cafe. Alternatively, cross the road to skirt the northern edge of Mintlaw and access the town's shops, cafes, bars and takeaways.

To Peterhead: Mintlaw to Peterhead - 8.5 miles
Access at Mintlaw from either Aden Country Park, or from the garden centre at the north east of the town. Parking available at both locations. The Way continues east for a couple of miles onto the flat lands around Longside - once home to the Lenabo Airship Station, which was operational during World War 1. The Way continues to the A90 and then the outskirts of Peterhead where it winds its way to the centre, crossing York St and eventually finishing at the Community Centre on Queen St. If you want to park in Peterhead and cycle inland, then consider the car park behind the community centre, accessed from York St.

 

Fraserburgh Branch: Maud to Strichen - 5.5 miles
Parking is available in Maud at the car park opposite the Station Hotel. From here head down the path to the right of the shop. Cross the road, turn right and the start of the Fraserburgh branch is a few yards along on your right. On the edge of Maud, at the B9106 you do a slight dog leg to the left of the trees and then head up the embankment and into the country. This section is used as a farm track so can be a bit muddy. Worth a detour as you approach Strichen, is a visit to the Strichen Stone circle and views to the ruined Strichen House. Strichen has shops, cafes, bar and a hotel.

Fraserburgh Branch: Strichen to Fraserburgh - 10.5 miles
Access to the Way in Strichen is at the junction of Brewery Road and Bridge Street, next to the entrance to Strichen Community Park which has car parking. As you pass Strichen there are good views of Mormond Hill, its white horse and satellite dishes. The way continues to Fraserburgh and enters the town with the golf course on the right. Cross the B9033 and continue onto the Esplanade. Parking is available here if you want to start your cycle in Fraserburgh.

 
Other Nearby Cycle Trails to Try

Other family friendly cycle trails to explore in the area include:

The Deeside Way follows the route of the Old Deeside Railway Line from Aberdeen to Ballater

The Isla Way follows the Isla valley from the whisky capital, Dufftown to Keith

Wildlife

Like most old railway lines, the Formartine and Buchan way acts as a valuable corridor for wildlife by linking isolated woods, crossing waterways and marshes and providing a sanctuary for plants, animals, birds and insects.
Deer, fox, weasel, stoat and badgers all use the old railway line. Early morning and dusk are the best times for spotting them.
The old railway embankments and cuttings also provide a home for a wide variety of fauna which attracts a great variety of insects and butterflies. Flowers to look out for include rosebay willowherb, harebells, oxeye daises, yellow toadflax, foxgloves and red campion. Dog violets attract pearl bordered fritillary butterflies; an increasingly rare butterfly.
Early colonising trees such as birch, willow and elder are easily spotted. Not so common, but still easily found in shadier spots are gnarled elms and ashes. Other colonisers much in evidence are gorse, broom and brambles.
With all this potential food and shelter it is not surprising that birds are attracted to the cycle trail. Thrushes, blackbirds wintering redwings, partridge and pheasant are all there to be spotted.

 
Formartine and Buchan Railway History

Approval to build a railway line from Dyce to Peterhead with a branch at Mintlaw to Fraserburgh was granted by the government of the day to The Formartine and Buchan Railway Company on the 23rd July 1858 when they passed the Formartine and Buchan Railway Act. The 29 mile stretch joining Dyce and Mintlaw (Old Deer) was opened 3 years later on the 18th July 1861 with the remaining 13 miles to Peterhead following a year later on the 3rd July. The 15 mile Fraserburgh branch took a further 3 years before opening on the 24th April 1865.
The line was operated by the Great North of Scotland Railway Company (GNSR) which was incorporated into the London North Eastern Railway (LNER) in 1923 before becoming part of the nationalised railway system (British Rail) on 1st January 1948.
Lord Beeching's cuts of the early 1960's condemned the line to closure with the last regular passenger trains running to Peterhead in May 1965 and to Fraserburgh in October 1965. Freight trains used the line to Peterhead until September 1970, and to Fraserburgh until October 1979. The line was then abandoned until Grampian Regional Council had the foresight to purchase it in 1981.
In 1987 the Buchan Countryside Group began work on the abandoned line to turn it into a shared cycle and walkway, and a linear nature reserve. This work continues until today through maintenance and improvements to the way.
Its success is evident from its inclusion into the National Cycle Network - a series of linked traffic free paths linking towns and villages throughout the UK.

If the history of the railway, and the area in general interests you then there are a number of good books and DVDs around that will give you some details, atmospheric pictures, and perhaps even rekindle some memories. A couple to get you thinking are shown on the right, click on the image to find out more..