6 Easy Walking Routes in Scotland’s Castle and Whisky Country

River Dee AberdeenEnjoy a fabulous combination of coastal, city and inland walks, the latter in Royal territory. Aberdeenshire has a pleasing mix of stunning natural beauty and culturally rich attractions where you can enjoy an invigorating walk as well as visiting a magnificent castle or two and include a visit to one of the many Speyside whisky distilleries. There are hill walks in the Grampians, forest routes through ancient Scots Pinewoods, and with more than 200 kms of unspoiled coastline, there are dozens of exciting cliff and beach walks.

Cruden Bay & Bullers of Buchan

Cruden BayFrom the car park. facing the church, turn right to take a path through woodland. This leads to sea cliffs and Slains Castle. Turn left, away from the sea across the end of the inlet of Long Haven and, at a junction, turn right to follow a straight track. At a road corner go through a car park and turn right, through a gate, to follow a path back towards the sea. Turn left to continue along a cliff-top path to th inlet of Robie’s Haven. Turn right, by cottages, to reach the Bullers of Buchan. Retrace your steps to the junction near Slains Castle and turn right along track into woodland. Continue into Cruden Bay village. Turn left along the main road and. at a hotel turn left again to return to the start.

Distance: 5 miles  Time: 2.5 hours

Fochabers & Spey Bay

Fochabers Spey BayRelax on this easy circular walk by the River Spey. Part of the route follows the long distance way-marked Speyside Way, which extends from Buckie Aviemore. The route starts by Spey Bay near the Tugnet Ice House. This, the country’s largest, was built in 1830 to freeze salmon for export. Follow th Speyside Way signs back along the road briefly before following the river to an old railway line. Cros over to follow a pleasant minor road on the left whit ends into Mosstodloch. Turn left to reach Baxter’s Visitor Centre. If it’s a chilly day they might just be doing soup! Cross the old Spey Bridge and follow the Speyside Way signs again. After 750m, rejoin the river, heading downstream now. Continue past islands and on back to Spey Bay.

Distance:  9 miles. Time: 5 hours.

Portsoy to Findlater Castle Circular

Portsoy to Findlater CastleThis is a wonderful bracing walk by a rugged stretch of the northern coast of Aberdeenshire. There is also the option of continuing the walk past Findlater Castle to reach Cullen. The circular route goes as far as the dramatic ruins of Findlater Castle, perched on a tiny peninsula and surrounded by cliffs. Its name originates from an amalgamation of the Norse ‘fyn’ being white, and leitr’ meaning cliff — a reference to the quartz found here. On the return you’ll pass Sandend. Sandend’s harbour is one of the smallest in the north-east and it’s worth strolling around the old part of the village to see the small fishermens’ cottages, where it seems time has stood still. Further on, you’ll pass Glenglassaugh Distillery. Whisky production has ceased but its bonded warehouses are still used. Savour the aroma!

Distance:  6 miles.  Time: 4/5 Hours.

River Don, Beach & Old Aberdeen

Bridge of DonLet the Granite City show you its sparkle on this grand tour. It has a venerable history: William the Lion granted the town its first charter in 1179 and, in 1319. it was awarded Royal Burgh status from King Robert the Bruce, Start on Union Street, which lies on a raised viaduct. Follow the blue National Cycle Network (NCN) route along Broad Street into Gallowgate and north up King’s Crescent through the cobbled College Bounds. Note the Town House, at the head of High Street, with its 1721-dated Burgh’s coat of arms over the doorway. Continue by St Machar’s Cathedral in the heart of Old Aberdeen, Ignore the NCN signs pointing left but keep straight into Seaton Park. Follow the River Don downstream to the Beach Esplanade from where Beach Boulevard and Justice Street take you back to the start

Distance:   6.5  Miles. Time: 2.5 hours.

Randolph’s Leap

Randolphs LeapsThe River Findhorn is a very pretty and often dramatic river which you’ll discover on this route. which is great in any season. From the Visitor Centre follow the white arrows to the river, heading upstream, through woodland. Depending on the time of year. you may see otters, osprey, dippers and salmon. Where you meet the Divie River follow it to Bridge of Logie. Go right and follow the road for 500m before turning off for the signed Randolph’s Leap. This is actually a misnomer: Randolph never leaped – he was the 14th century Earl of Moray who lost his quarry when the man he was pursuing made the stupendous leap. Enjoy the foaming rapids before leaving the river to take a path veering left back to the road. Retrace your steps to a fork and go right for the steading

Distance:  2 miles.  Time: 1.5 hours.

Deeside Railway

Deeside RailrayThe station at Ballater is packed with local tourist information and houses a Royalty and Railways exhibition. which re-creates the grandeur and ceremony of a bygone age. The walk starts from the station platform and is easily followed to Dinnet where there’s a hotel. If you wish to walk one way there’s a regular bus service (Mon-Sat) to Ballater from Cambus 0′ May and Dinnet (less frequent Sunday service). The River Dee stays in view as you walk to Cambus 0′ May where there’s a noticeable curve or cambus, which gives the village its name. This is a very scenic part of the river. Continue by the old Cambus 0′ May Station (there is a small car park here where you can hail a bus back if you wish) to follow the path to Dinnet across the Muir of Dinnet.

Distance:  5 miles. Time: 2 hours.

Aberdeenshire’s beaches are its best kept secret. They include rock and shingle-filled coves as well as long stretches of golden sand backed by picturesque villages. Portsoy, on the north coast, near Banff makes a good introduction. Here you can spend the best part of a day on a walk from the restored 17th century conservation village by Sandend Bay to reach Findlater Castle, see route 18. The 500-year-old ruined castle, modelled on Midlothian’s Rosslyn Castle, is perched on a tiny peninsula, surrounded by cliffs, and can only be reached by a causeway. It certainly exudes a sense of timelessness, as does Portsoy. In the village you can see age-old craft traditions at the Marble Workshop and every year the harbour is filled with all manner of rigs and sails for the Scottish Traditional Boat Festival.

On the east coast, south of Peterhead, a beach walk from Cruden Bay will leave you chilled, whatever the weather. From Cruden Bay there is an excellent 8km (5 mile) route, which you can follow to a large collapsed sea cave known as the Bullers of Buchan. To get there, however, you must first pass Slains Castle. This roofless gothic-angled ruin, poised by the cliff edge, dominates the skyline and looks menacingly down to the rock-strewn sea. It was to provide the inspiration of the greatest horror story ever written — Dracula.

And, as dusk falls, you can see why. Bram Stoker was fascinated by the north-east legends, one of which cites Cruden Bay as the place where shipwrecked souls would come ashore once a year. Go and see it in all its ruinous glory now before it’s transformed — there are plans to convert the castle into flats for vampire hunters and others with nerves of steel.

If all that’s turned your blood cold perhaps you could do with a sojourn in Scotland’s third largest city, Aberdeen. Known as the Granite City, it literally sparkles in the sunshine. A marvellous walk will take you through the heart of Old Aberdeen to the banks of the River Don and along the Beach Esplanade. In 1319, Aberdeen received a major boost when it was awarded Royal Burgh status from King Robert the Bruce.

Today the city’s ancient heritage is alive and well in Old Aberdeen where you can see many preserved buildings. Highlights include King’s College, at the centre of the 1495-established Aberdeen University. This imposing four-square building stands around the famous quadrangle. Further along the walk you will come to the twin-towered 14th century St Machar’s Cathedral. This fortified church is open to the public and well worth a visit.

You will by now have some idea of the grandeur of Aberdeenshire. Queen Victoria was so impressed with the countryside that she set up her Scottish residence at Balmoral Castle in 1852. The surrounding area — Royal Deeside — is replete with wildlife and many excellent woodland walks. A nice easy route is to follow a section of the Deeside Railway Line from Ballater to Dinnet.

Explore Aberdeen & Grampian Highlands with an enquiring mind and you’ll find it’s packed full of interesting history and much more besides.

Posted in Short Walks

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