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Deeside Way

The Deeside Way, or as it is sometimes called, The Royal Deeside Line, is one of the newest cycling and walking trails in Grampian, with the section linking Aberdeen and Banchory being completed in the Spring of 2006.
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, some 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 starts at Duthie Park in the centre of Aberdeen and continues for 16 miles close to the River Dee through the heart of rural Aberdeenshire to Banchory. From Banchory it is on to Kincardine O'Neil and Aboyne before reaching Ballater.
The stretch between Milton of Crathes and Banchory is a bit rough and needs upgrading, however it is useable.
 
The Deeside Way passes through (or close to) many places of interest including Crathes Castle and Drum Castle. These all make interesting detours or destinations for a picnic.

 
The Route
Deeside Way Sign Like all good cycle trails navigation is simple - just follow the trail! There are signs used on the route so you shouldn't go too far wrong.
 
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.
 
The cycle route starts at the Polmuir Road entrance to Duthie 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 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, Peterculter (or Culter, as its more commonly known by locals), Drum, Park, Mills of Drum, Crathie and finally Banchory some 16 miles later.
Disappointingly the route between Milton of Crathes and Banchory is very rough under wheel and needs upgrading - however it is still useable.
Between Culter and Banchory the route is for the most part in place with a few small detours onto quiet roads, and use of the pavement at Drumoak.
 
Leaving Banchory the route takes you through Blackhall Forest before joining a superb new section at Potarch which leads on to Kincardine O'Neil. From here, the route takes you through Dinnet, then the picturesque Cambus O'May station and suspension bridge before reaching the Old Royal Station in Ballater, now a visitor centre.
 
Although never very far from the main north Deeside road, it is a very tranquil ride which offers some great views over open countryside and the River Dee.
 
If you want to follow the Deeside Way on an OS map then you'll need both OS maps 37 and 38. The more detailed OS Explorer Map gives excellent coverage of part of the route. Worthwhile considering if you plan to do any further cycling (or walking) in the area.
 
Strathdon and Alford (OS Landranger Map Series)      Aberdeen, Inverurie and Pitmedden (OS Landranger Map Series)      Aboyne, Alford and Strathdon (OS Explorer Map Active)
 
See the section below on suggested day rides.


History
The Deeside Railway Line opened on 7th September 1853 with a service between Aberdeen and Banchory. The line was extended and on the 2nd December 1859 a service to Aboyne began, followed on 17th October 1866 with a service to Ballater. The line was planned originally to end at Braemar but Queen Victoria was afraid her privacy would be disturbed by hordes of tourists at Balmoral so she bought land along the route between Ballater and Braemar to prevent this.
The Royal Deeside Line, as it became known, was a single track with passing loops but to enable a more frequent suburban service a double track was laid to Park between 1884 and 1899. This popular service was nick-named "The Subbies", because it served the suburbs of Aberdeen.
Initially the railway as far as Aboyne was operated by the Deeside Railway Company and from Aboyne to Ballater by the Aboyne and Braemar Railway Company. These companies joined to form the Great North of Scotland Railway in 1876. Following further mergers and amalgamations the line ended up being operated by British Rail in 1948. Its fate, like so many other railways, was decided by the Beeching Report of 1963. The final passenger service ran from Ballater on 28th February 1966 and freight services finished later the same year.
 
If the history of the railway, and Deeside in general interests you then there are a number of good books and DVDs around that will give you some details, atmospheric pictures, and hopefully rekindle some memories. Below is a start, click on any of the images to visit a well known online book retailer.
 
Old Deeside          
 

 
The Future
Scottish Enterprise Grampian and their partners have considered developing the Deeside Way further, and making it a long distance footpath and cycle route from Aberdeen to Aviemore. It is believed that this would attract more cyclists to the area. Visit our news pages regularly to keep up to date on any future developments.

 
Suggested Day Cycle Rides
Question - How do you eat an elephant?
Answer - One bite at a time!
For many this tactic is also the key to getting the best out of the Deeside way. For sure, you can have a great day's cycle from Aberdeen to Ballater and back, however for many folk this is just too much to do in a day. So below are a few suggested days out that will leave you with a great sense of achievement, though not so tired that you never want to sit on a bike again.
 
Milltimber to Duthie Park. Join the line where it crosses the B979 and cycle towards Aberdeen. If driving to the start, then you can park in Milltimber Brae (or in Station Rd which connects both Milltimber Brae and the trail) which joins the B979 a few yards from the cycle trail. When you get to Duthie Park, lock up your bike and have a walk around the Winter Gardens before re-fueling at the cafe. Cycle racks are available outside the cafe.
Aberdeenshire Council have produced a free map which covers this section of the route - available to download from here.
 
Dinnet to Ballater. (12 mile round trip). Join the line at the cross roads in Dinnet. There is a convenient, free, car park on the opposite side of the road from the start of the Way (map ref NO 459 987). The surface is a little stoney under wheel for the first ¼ of a mile requiring a bit of concentration but this soon gives way to a smoother trail and easy going. After 2¾ miles you reach the former Cambus O'May station and the white suspension bridge over the River Dee. The bridge offers easy access to the banks of the Dee for picnicking.
Continue past the cottage and take a right (signed) to follow the line as it travels adjacent to the main road, past the entrance to Cambus O'May forest walks.
A mile and a half beyond the entrance to the forest the Way crosses the main A93 to Ballater. The bridge is long gone, so take care crossing the road.
The remaining mile and a half to Ballater continues on the old railway bed past modern housing, before it reverts to a footpath where it crosses a minor road a couple of hundred yards short of the town centre. The official end of the line is the Old Royal Station, in the centre of Ballater, which is now a visitor centre that commemorates Queen victoria's visits and even includes a replica of the Royal train carriage used by victoria in 1869.
Refreshments are widely available in Ballater, and at Dinnet when you return.
 
Cambus O'May to Dinnet. (7 mile round trip). Free car parking is available at the entrance to Cambus O'May woods (map ref NO 406 981). Leave the car park and with care cross the main road (A93 to Ballater) to join the Way. Turn left and continue past the cottage, the suspension bridge and station to reach Dinnet after some 3¾ miles.
Refreshments are available in Dinnet.


Facilities & Services
Services are limited on the route; with no shops, cafes or pubs to be found. Many of the former stations have shops nearby however it is recommended that you take your own food and drink. One notable exception is at Crathes where there is a restaurant close to the cycle trail.
Cycle repair facilities are available in Aberdeen, Banchory and Ballater.

 
Other Trails to Try
Other trails to explore in the area include:
Bennachie Forest Trails A variety of way marked trails on the gentle slopes of Bennachie. Ideal for families.
The Formartine and Buchan Way follows the route of the Old Formartine and Buchan Railway Line from Dyce to Fraserburgh or Peterhead.
The Isla Way follows the Isla valley from Dufftown to Keith

 

 
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