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Deeside & Crathes circular

Deeside & Crathes circular


Postby denfinella » Sat Jul 13, 2013 5:53 pm

Route description: Crathes Castle and the River Dee from Banchory

Date walked: 29/06/2013

Time taken: 6 hours

Distance: 12 km

Ascent: 200m

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On the last Saturday in June we paid a visit to Banchory, at the heart of Deeside, where we roughly followed the walkhighlands route along the river to Milton of Crathes. The website route doesn't detail a possible return route to make a circular walk, however, which I've also tried to describe below.


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We parked in Banchory on Tillybrake Road, one of the many residential streets up the gentle hill north of the town centre. Seemingly a random place to start, this was where our return path popped out out at the end. Playing fields alongside the road were full of footballers enjoying the morning coolness, with sunshine due to break through as the day progressed before a chance of drizzly rain in the early evening.

Raemoir Road took us down to the main A93 high street, where we crossed and took a flight of steps down towards the fire station, with the River Dee somewhere behind the houses ahead. We had a brief foray through the suburbs here, eventually making it to the Deeside Way and the River Dee itself. A further flight of steps led down to the water's edge, and suddenly the houses and tarmac gave way to a tranquil river scene. It was hard to believe that a busy town centre lay directly above the granite wall.

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The path continues downstream, slowly venturing into more natural surroundings. The A93, houses and various light industry are never far away, but the path is well shielded from most of this, with the exception of a sewage works where a tall hedge blocks the view but not the smell. Soon, the path branches with the cycle track taking the left fork and a narrower, more interesting path heading right towards the river bank. Looking back, the tower on Scolty Hill stood out in hazy sunshine.

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The birds were out in force this morning, hopping from branch to branch and leading the way eastwards. Fishermen's paths lead down to the water at several points, with broad stony beaches on this occasion due to the recent dry weather.

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The sun came out properly as forecast, but it was still a comfortable temperature. On the opposite bank stood some truly luxurious fishing huts (if you could call them that), some complete with 4x4s sitting outside and couples relaxing on the balcony. One last look back upriver and it was time to rejoin the main track as the riverside path fizzled out.

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The next section was alongside the Royal Deeside Railway, which is currently about a mile long but is in the (slow) process of being extended back towards Banchory. After a couple of kilometres on fairly uneventful gravel, we reached the craft village at Milton of Crathes, where a large agricultural show was being set up.

The walk length today left plenty of time for all things touristy, so we had a quick look around the craft village before stepping on board the railway for a return trip to... well, that field on the River Dee that we walked past earlier. Still, it was only a few quid and a chance to rest our feet and learn a little about the history and heritage of the line.

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After this, we passed under the A93 and into the ground of Crathes Castle, heading for the circular loop around the eastern part of the castle grounds. The paths here were excellent and waymarked, but there were several junctions and we weren't sure which arrows we were supposed to be following, so the map came in handy a few times.

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A lunch stop and an hour or so later and we ambled into the car park for the castle. The castle is a major tourist attraction and was very busy today.

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NTS membership is cheap if you're under 25 (about £25 a year) - especially considering a ticket to the castle and gardens, plus parking, would otherwise cost about £13. The castle interior was interesting but the gardens even better - especially in the sunshine. Definitely worth a visit.

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After all this, we set off back towards Banchory, wiggling through a series of rocky crags (to set your expectations appropriately, this is the National Trust, not the West Highlands) before taking one of the tracks west through the forest. This was pleasant walking and eventually spat us out at West Lodge on the A93 - opposite a huge new Tesco. Cycle paths and a short stretch of minor road led clockwise around the supermarket boundary to the NW side. From here back to the start, it's really just two kilometres through endless suburbs - however, this is not as bad as it sounds as there's actually a direct path winding through gaps in the estates all the way back to the start. By this time it really was warm. The path is flanked by pine trees for much of its length, and the heat, smell of BBQs and children laughing made us feel like we were at a holiday resort in the south of France or something :crazy:

Anyway, back to the car by about 3.30pm, and with a feeling that Banchory, Crathes and the neighboring section of the River Dee had been explored pretty thoroughly. The whole walk is relatively flat, probably doable in trainers, has plenty of shade and even has three places where you can get refreshments! It's not Lochnagar, it's not Suilven... but not bad at all for a gentle weekend outing.

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denfinella
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Re: Deeside & Crathes circular

Postby morag1 » Sun Jul 14, 2013 10:53 am

Very nice report of a place which is very special to me, well done on devising your own route :D
morag1
 

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