Showing posts from 2011

Cairn o' Mount (B974)

Aberdeenshire | Fettercairn | Road pass | ★★★

The narrow road winding across the hills between Fettercairn and Strachan was once an important military route into the Highlands from the plains to the south. Today it's a vital link for residents of Deeside, and an (relatively) easy way to experience the wide openness of the Cairngorms for visitors. There are two laybys close to the top of the pass: the northern one giving access to a 4,000 year-old cairn marking the true summit, and the southern one providing the best views south across the low-lying Howe of the Mearns. Drive with extra care in winter: direct exposure to easterly winds and a top height of over 450 metres above sea level brings the associated ice and snow hazards.

📌Cairn o' Mount (B974) ★★★
Location (summit): B974 between Fettercairn and Strachan, G.R.: NO 650807 ///lemons.panting.fortnight
Start (south): Fettercairn, G.R.: NO 650735 ///enchanted.cotton.lungs
Finish (north): Strachan, G.R.:  NO 675923 ///finishing.p…

Reekie Linn

Angus | Angus Glens | Waterfall | ★★★★

If you're lucky enough to catch it in spate, Reekie Linn is an awe-inspring sight. Its name translates as "smoky waterfall", referring to the spray thrown up by the River Isla's 25-metre drop into a plunge pool said to be even deeper than the total height of the falls (there are actually two separate waterfalls, but they combine to form a single drop when the water level is high). The source of the river is in the Cairngorms to the north, so rainfall or snowmelt events far up in the hills can cause river levels to rise suddenly and dramatically. Popular in Victorian times, the spot seems to have lost a little of its fame despite a decent car park and access path, and today deserves to be better known. Further downstream the gorge has a whole series of other cataracts, but dense woodland, steep slopes and few paths make reaching any of these a major expedition.

📌Reekie Linn ★★★★
Location: Off B954 5 miles north of Alyth, G.R.: NO …

Glamis Castle

Angus | Glamis | Castle ★★★★★

Glamis Castle is one of Scotland's most inspiring castles: an iconic, family-owned Scottish residence in which The Queen Mother spent much of her early life. The jumble of turrets and central tower are an impressive sight as you approach along the entrance road, through extensive grounds which are also worth exploring if the weather's good. The highlight, of course, is the tour of the castle interior - quite expensive but worth it. Photographs weren't allowed on our visits, but a quick glance at the castle's website will tell you what to expect: a perfect balance between grandeur, defence and warmth. Glamis itself is quite a pretty village, though the wonderful folk museum housed in a row of old cottages sadly closed for good in 2017.

📌Glamis Castle★★★★★
Description: (Largely) 17th century castle belonging to the Lyon family, where The Queen Mother spent her early years.
Location: Off A928, north side of Glamis, G.R.: NO 386480 ///plant.vess…

Dunnottar Castle

Aberdeenshire | Stonehaven | Castle | ★★★★

As a defensive site Dunnottar Castle's location is the definition of perfection, squeezed onto a rocky headland almost completely cut off from the mainland and surrounded by sheer cliffs. The castle is a true Scottish icon amidst spectacular coastal scenery: little wonder it appears in countless calendars. After admiring the ruin from the mainland (for free), you cross the ravine via a short path, tunnel and hundreds of steps to emerge in the heart of it all. The headland turns out to be more extensive than at first appears so there's a surprising amount to see, built at various times from the 13th century onward: a standalone keep, chapel, several ranges and more even more cellars. If we're being picky then a few more interpretation panels wouldn't go amiss (perhaps they've been improved since our last visit), but tourists still pour in from all around the world regardless of the visitor experience. Walk here from Stoneha…

Glenbuchat Castle

Aberdeenshire | Strathdon | Castle | ★★

Glenbuchat Castle is a characterful 16th century ruin in the quiet upper part of Strathdon. This Z-plan tower house used to belong to the wealthy Gordon clan of nearby Huntly, falling into ruin after being sold by the family in the 1700's. With Kildrummy a few miles down the glen and Corgarff just a little further in the other direction, this is a great region in which to spend a day touring castles.

📌Glenbuchat Castle★★
Location: A97 3 miles west of Glenkindie, Strathdon, G.R.: NJ 397149 ///rewarded.flank.trespass
Open (2019): Closed until further notice due to unsafe masonry.
Cost: Free

Walk: Morrone - Braemar's Big Nose

Aberdeenshire | Braemar | Half day walk | ★★★

Morrone (Big Nose or similaris one of Braemar's local hills: high enough to make a satisfying half-day ascent but too low to make it into the Cairngorms big league. There's no mistaking when you've reached the top, with an ugly radio mast spoiling the summit. Despite this and the fairly undistinguished slopes on the ascent, views into wilder terrain from here are superb, with Lochnagar and the Cairngorms plateau the stars of the show. You can follow the track used to construct the mast on descent to make a circuit, returning by an old military road along the burbling Clunie Water.

📌 Walk: Morrone - Braemar's Big Nose ★★★
▶ 12 km / 7 miles | ▲ 650 metres
Summits: Morrone (859 metres, Corbett) | Features: Braemar duck pond; Clunie Water; Braemar
Start / finish: Duck pond car park, Chapel Brae, Braemar, G.R.: NO 143911 ///lamps.tent.tabs

Route: Car park - Tomintoul viewpoint - Morrone - 824-metre spot height - descend near Cold…


Aberdeenshire | Town | ★★

Huntly is an quietly attractive and sizeable town nestling in a broad hollow on the banks of the River Bogie (you at the back, stop sniggering). There's a neat central square with plenty of independent shops on the roads leading off it, with the northern one becoming a fine old avenue which leads to the grand ruin of Huntly Castle. With Dean's Shortbread Factory in the suburbs and an excellent falconry centre nearby, it's a good choice for a varied day out.

📌Huntly ★★
Location: G.R.: NJ 529400 ///hoot.lazy.screening

Within walking distance

📌Huntly Castle★★★
Description: Ruined castle and seat of Clan Gordon, dating to the mid-14th century.
Location: Castle Avenue, 10-min walk north of the centre, G.R.: NJ 532407 ///timing.seated.scariest
Open (2019): Daily, April to September; Saturday to Wednesday, October to March
Cost (2019): £6 (adults), £3.60 (children), free for Historic Environment Scotland members

📌Dean's Shortbread
Description: Huntly-based…

Walk: Magnificent Maskeldie & Glen Lee waterfalls

Angus | Angus Glens | Full day walk | ★★★★★

For sheer variety, the terrain surrounding Craig Maskeldie has it all. Dark crags, a deep loch and a couple of thundering waterfalls give this area a distinctively rough feel for the usually rounded Cairngorms. This circuit starts with a straightforward "walk in" amongst increasingly dramatic scenery, passing picturesque Loch Lee on route to the spectacular Falls of Unich. The fan-shaped Falls of Damff are only a short climb beyond, but are only seen to best effect by crossing the burn and braving the pathless western slopes of Craig Maskeldie. The summit's position right on the edge of sheer cliffs gives dizzying views of the Water of Lee far below, with Mount Keen dominating the northern horizon. After the relatively tough terrain, the easy and scenic track used for the descent will be a welcome sight.

📌 Walk: Magnificent Maskeldie & Glen Lee waterfalls ★★★★★
▶ 16 km / 10 miles | ▲ 560 metres
Summits: Craig Maskeldie (687 …

Prop of Ythsie

Aberdeenshire | Tarves | Tower | ★★

The Prop of Ythsie (pronounced "EYE-see") was built in 1861 in memory of the 4th Earl of Aberdeen, on a low hill overlooking Tarves village amidst gentle Formartine countryside. From the car park it's only a short walk to the base of the tower. From here, 91 steps separate you from extensive views over rural Aberdeenshire towards distant villages and hills. 91 pitch black, spiraling steps, covered with twigs and bird droppings... OK, perhaps you should bring a torch, although it's not quite as bad as Hopetoun Monument down in the Scottish Lowlands.

📌Prop of Ythsie ★★
Location: Car park on minor road a mile east of Tarves, G.R.: NJ 884315 ///safety.heaven.easy
Open: Always
Cost: Free
Anything else? From the car park at G.R.: NJ 882307 ///chats.equal.thousands it's a 15-min walk (each way) uphill to the tower, on a track then a muddy path.

Tolquhon Castle

Aberdeenshire | Pitmedden | Castle | ★★★

Tolquhon Castle is only half an hour's drive from Aberdeen, but often gets neglected in favour of the better-known castles to the west of the city. But this is still a substantial ruin with plenty of character, enhanced by the fact that you're likely to get it all to yourself. The castle was initially built as a tower house in the early 1400s, probably by the Preston family. But Tolquhon is really a story of the Forbes family: the tower soon passed into the family through marriage and William Forbes, 7th Lord of Tolquhon, carried out major extensions to transform tower house into luxurious residence. Look out for his plaque above the gatehouse.

📌Tolquhon Castle★★★
Location: Off B999 2 miles north of Pitmedden, G.R.: NJ 873286 ///equipment.castle.paddocks
Open (2019): Daily, April to September
Cost (2019): £5 (adults), £3 (children), free for Historic Environment Scotland members


Aberdeenshire | Town | ★★

Inverurie is a Royal Burgh-turned-commuter town, 15 miles along the A96 out of Aberdeen. The historic centre, slightly marred by a messy convergence of roads, is overlooked by the grand Town Hall, built in 1862 from the region's distinctive grey granite. This and the busy High Street are almost attractive enough to warrant a visit alone. Almost. But early history enthusiasts are in luck: there are a whole host of Pictish symbol stones and ancient stone circles dotted across the surrounding landscape. One other thing - each summer the region hosts the Taste of Grampian food festival, based at a nearby agricultural centre. This is a must for any foodie if you're in the area.

📌Inverurie ★★
Location: G.R.: NJ 775216 ///continues.grass.buckets


📌Bass of Inverurie ★
Description: Earthworks of a 12th century motte and bailey castle, now in the middle of the town cemetery.
Location: Keithhall Road, 1 mile south of the town centre, G.R.: NJ 781206 ///alike.c…

Walk: Millstone Hill - Bennachie's quiet sibling

Aberdeenshire | Bennachie | Half day walk | ★★★

Millstone Hill is nowhere near as famous as its more distinctive neighbour, Mither Tap. However, it's the best viewpoint for the latter and much, much quieter. An unremittingly steep climb from glen level quickly takes you above the treeline for excellent views across Donside towards the distant Cairngorms. These pale in comparison to the summit panorama however. Mither Tap looks absolutely glorious from here, thrusting high above surrounding farmland. Save your knees by taking advantage of the (slightly) gentler return route.

📌 Walk: Millstone Hill - Bennachie's quiet sibling ★★★
▶ 5 km / 3 miles | ▲ 320 metres
Summits: Millstone Hill (409 metres, sub-2000')
Start / finish: Car park on minor road at Donview, 6 miles west of Kemnay, G.R.: NJ 672190 ///palm.breezes.lotteries

Route: Car park - Millstone Hill by direct route - return via north-west side of Scare Hill. Route marked in teal here (Millstone Hill Trail).
Terrain: Mostly…

Mounthooly Doocot

Aberdeenshire | Rosehearty | Doocot | ★
Mounthooly Doocot stands on a hillock a mile or so from the Aberdeenshire coastline and Rosehearty village. It was built by a local estate owner in around 1800 and he clearly had plenty of cash to splash: considering that the purpose of a doocot is to house pigeons (for harvesting their eggs and meat), the building looks much too grand. Constructed in mock-Gothic style, it's a worthwhile stop if you're passing through this neglected northern part of the county.

📌Mounthooly Doocot ★
Location: Minor road just off B9031 a mile south of Rosehearty, G.R.: NJ 925659 ///huddling.lofts.mandates
Open: Always (exterior only)
Cost: Free

Linn of Muick

Aberdeenshire | Ballater | Waterfall | ★★★
The Linn of Muick is only a few miles from the busy tourist town of Ballater and next to the popular road to Loch Muick, but remains unknown to most due to a lack of signposting and space to park. The river's large, high catchment area collects water from the expansive White Mounth plateau (including Lochnagar), making the waterfall here a sight to behold after heavy rain or snowmelt. Our photo was taken during more normal conditions.

📌Linn of Muick ★★★
Location: Off minor road to Loch Muick, 4 miles south of Ballater, G.R.: NO 333895 ///diver.goal.woof
Anything else? Limited space to park nearby - don't block passing places. The waterfall should just be visible through the trees from the roadside, and is reached by an short climb down on grass.

Walk: Dark Lochnagar

Aberdeenshire | White Mounth | Full day walk | ★★★★★

Lochnagar (Little loch of the noisy sound) is one of the Cairngorms' great icons - Lord Byron even wrote a poem about it in 1807. This lofty summit's northern side is riven by a magnificent coire, cradling a teardrop-shaped lochan with a series of smaller ones leading away from the cliffs like a string of pearls. The cliffs are renowned for winter ice climbing, with extreme skiing in the intervening gullies. For walkers there's a surprisingly straightforward (in good conditions) path from nearby Glenmuick, with the classic view only revealed at the last minute. Returning along the Glas Allt takes in a majestic waterfall and the peaceful shoreline of Loch Muick; for sheer variety, this must be one of Scotland's very best day walks.

📌 Walk: Dark Lochnagar ★★★★★
▶ 20 km / 12 miles | ▲ 990 metres
Summits: Meikle Pap (980 metres); Lochnagar (1156 metres, Munro) | Features: Corrie of Lochnagar; Falls of the Glasallt; Loch M…

Walk: Clachnaben rocks!

Aberdeenshire | Glen Dye | Half day walk | ★★★

Clachnaben (Rock of the Hill) is second only to Bennachie as Aberdeen's most interesting nearby hill. The huge granite tor decorating the summit is so distinctive that ships in the North Sea once used it along with Bennachie to take bearings. The tor is popular with rock climbers, but you can creep around the back to avoid resorting to hands. The easiest (and probably most scenic) approach path is up Glen Dye from a car park on the Cairn o' Mount road. Taken on a rather murky day, our photos don't really do the excellent views justice.

📌 Walk: Clachnaben rocks! ★★★
▶ 9 km / 6 miles | ▲ 510 metres
Summits: Clachnaben (589 metres)
Start / finish: Car park on B974 5 miles south of Strachan, G.R.: NO 649869 ///slipping.pursue.weekends

Route: Car park - Miller's Bog - Black Hillocks - Clachnaben by main path - Black Hillocks via Slack of Dye - return to start by outward route
Terrain: Good paths (track for middle section), though r…

Walk: Best o' Bennachie

Aberdeenshire | Bennachie | Half day walk | ★★★★

Overlooking the town of Inverurie on its western side is Bennachie, an open area of heathery high ground standing tall above forested lower slopes. The plateau is dotted with several granite tors, of which the highest is Oxen Craig, roughly at the centre. Meanwhile, cone-shaped Mither Tap is by far the most distinctive of the tops, visible from all over Aberdeenshire and crowned with an ancient hillfort. Starting at the Forestry Commission's visitor centre on the eastern side makes a circular route possibly which takes in both. Paths are generally excellent, meaning that - coupled with the relatively dry climate this far east - bog is unlikely.

📌 Walk: Best o' Bennachie ★★★★
▶ 10 km / 6 miles | ▲ 550 metres
Summits: Oxen Craig (529 metres, sub-2000'); Craigshannoch (480 metres); Mither Tap (518 metres) | Features: Bennachie Centre
Start / finish: Bennachie Centre car park, minor road 2 miles south-west of Chapel of Garioch, G.…

Walk: Scolty sunset

Aberdeenshire | Banchory | Short walk | ★★★

Scolty's heathery slopes rise above woodland across the river from Banchory, topped with a 20 metre-high tower commemorating General William Burnett who fought alongside the Duke of Wellington in the Napoleonic Wars. Though the hill itself is only 300 metres high, slopes drop away on 3 sides towards the River Dee and Water of Feugh to give excellent views towards Clachnaben, Mount Battock, Morven and the Hill of Fare alongside other local summits. The Forestry Commission owns part of the hill but their waymarked trails don't reach the top - fortunately there are plenty of other paths, including the circular option below.

📌 Walk: Scolty sunset ★★★
▶ 3 km / 2 miles | ▲ 190 metres
Summits: Scolty (299 metres) | Features: General Burnett's Monument
Start / finish: Car park off minor road a mile southwest of Banchory, G.R.: NO 687948 ///museum.fortress.quicksand

Route: Car park - north side of Scolty Hill - return to start by direct rout…

Echt stone circles

Aberdeenshire | Echt | Stone circles | ★★★

The rural B9119 road connects a trio of interesting stone circles in the general area of Echt village. All are recumbent stone circles - i.e. with a particularly massive stone lying on its side incorporated into the circle - but changing land use over the millennia since their construction means each setting is different. Cullerlie Stone Circle lies on open ground with cows watching on from adjacent fields. You'll find Sunhoney's circle in a clearing within a small circle of woodland. Midmar Stone Circle has ended up in the churchyard of an 18th century kirk.

📌Cullerlie Stone Circle★★
Description: Complicated stone circle comprising an outer ring enclosing several small cairns.
Location: Minor road a mile south of Garlogie, G.R.: NJ 785043 ///defensive.hammer.headstone
Open: Always
Cost: Free

📌Midmar Stone Circle ★★
Description: Recumbent stone circle within the graveyard of Midmar Church.
Location: Minor road just off B9119 3 miles west of…

Aberdeen green spaces

Aberdeen City | Parks | ★★★

Picture Aberdeen and most people probably think of the grey buildings which give the place its nickname, "Granite City". However, Scotland's third largest settlement has a number of colourful parks and gardens if you know where to look. Size certainly isn't everything in Aberdeen: Johnston Gardens is the smallest in the list below, but in our opinion the most beautiful. Right in the centre, Union Terrace Gardens doesn't make it onto the list but might be worth a stroll if you're nearby.

📌Duthie Park★★★
Description: Spacious park with scenic ponds and excellent winter gardens inside glasshouses.
Location: Polmuir Road, a mile south of Aberdeen city centre, G.R.: NJ 941043 ///crowds.honest.remedy
Open (2019): Always
Cost: Free

📌Hazlehead Park★★★
Description: Aberdeen's biggest park (though probably not its most beautiful) on the outskirts of the city; gardens, petting zoo, maze and plenty of space to walk.
Location: Hazlehead Avenue, 4…