Showing posts from 2011

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.

Location & info

📌 Reekie Linn ★★★★
Off B954 5 mi north of Alyth, G.R.: NO 2545…

Glamis Castle

Angus | Glamis | Castle ★★★★★

17th century Glamis Castle is one of Scotland's most inspiring castles: an iconic, Lyon family-owned 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.

Location & info

📌 Glamis Castle★★★★★
Off A928 1 mi north of Glamis village, G.R.: NO 386480 ///plant.vessel.rocked
Open daily, late March to October | £15.50 adult / £10 child

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 1700s. 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.

Location & info

📌 Glenbuchat Castle★★
By the A97 3 mi west of Glenkindie, Strathdon, G.R.: NJ 397149 ///rewarded.flank.trespass
Closed until further notice for conservation works | Free

Walk: Morrone - Braemar's Big Nose

Aberdeenshire | Braemar | Half day walk | ★★★

Morrone (Big Nose or similar) is 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 ★★★
Start / finish at the duck pond car park, Chapel Brae, 15-min walk west of Braemar village centre, G.R.: NO 143911 ///lamps.tent.tabs. Alternative start point in the village centre.

▶ 12 km / 7 mi | ▲ 650 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Tough
Features: Braemar duck pond; △ Morrone (859 m, Corbett); Clunie Water; Brae…


Aberdeenshire | Town | ★★

Huntly is a 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.

Location & info

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

🚶 The castle is an easy stroll from the town centre, but there's not much else within walking distance; this isn't an obvious base for those without a car.
🚌 Huntly receives trains and coaches on the Aberdeen to Inverness transport routes, and there are a handful of other local buses.

See & do (<1 mi away)

📌 Huntly Castle★★★
💬 Ruined castle and seat of Clan Gordon, dating to the mid-14th centur…

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 ★★★★★
Start / finish at car park near Glen Esk minor road end, 4 mi w…

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.

Location & info

📌 Prop of Ythsie ★★
Off minor road 1 mi east of Tarves, G.R.: NJ 884315 ///safety.heaven.easy
Always open | Free

💬 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.

Location & info

📌 Tolquhon Castle★★★
Off the B999 2 mi north of Pitmedden, G.R.: NJ 873286 ///equipment.castle.paddocks
Open Friday to Wednesday, April to September | £6 adult / £3.60 child / free for Historic Environment Scotland members

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 ★★★
Start / finish at car park on minor road at Donview, 6 mi west of Kemnay, G.R.: NJ 672190 ///palm.breezes.lotteries

▶ 5 km / 3 mi | ▲ 320 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Features: △ Millstone Hill (409 m, sub-2000')
Terrain: Mostly well-made, waymarked paths, though unrelentingly steep with a few rough sections.

Route & map

Car park - Millstone Hill b…

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.

Location & info

📌 Mounthooly Doocot ★
By minor road, just off B9031 1 mi south of Rosehearty, G.R.: NJ 925659 ///huddling.lofts.mandates
Always open (exterior only) | 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.

Location & info

📌 Linn of Muick ★★★
Off minor road (limited laybys - don't block passing places) to Loch Muick, 4 mi south of Ballater, G.R.: NO 333895 ///diver.goal.woof
Always open | Free

💬 The waterfall should just be visible through the trees from the roadside, and is reached by a 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 ★★★★★
Start / finish at car park at Spittal of Glenmuick minor road end, 8 mi south of Ballater, G.R.: NO 310852 ///

▶ 20 km / 12 mi | ▲ 990 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! ★★★
Start / finish at car park on the B974 5 mi south of Strachan, G.R.: NO 649869 ///slipping.pursue.weekends

▶ 9 km / 6 mi | ▲ 510 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Features: △ Clachnaben (589 m)
Terrain: Good paths (track for middle section), though rougher for return route option.

Route & map

Car park - Miller's Bog - Black Hillocks - Clachnaben by main path - Black…

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 ★★★★
Start / finish at Bennachie Centre car park, minor road 2 mi southwest of Chapel of Garioch, G.R. NJ 698217 ///snow.evenly.scorpions

▶ 10 km / 6 mi | ▲ 550 m | ⌚ Half a day | ⬤ Moderate
Features:Bennachie Centre; △ Oxen Craig (529 m, sub-2000'); △ Craigsh…

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.

Location & info

📌 Cullerlie Stone Circle★★
💬 Complicated stone circle comprising an outer ring enclosing several small cairns.
By minor road 1 mi south of Garlogie, G.R.: NJ 785043 ///defensive.hammer.headstone
Always open | Free

📌 Midmar Stone Circle ★★
💬 Recumbent stone circle within the graveyard of Midmar Church.
By minor road, just off B9119 3 mi west of Echt, G.R.: NJ …

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. Johnston Gardens is the smallest in the list below, but in our opinion the most beautiful - see below for a link to its own feature page. Right in the city centre, Union Terrace Gardens doesn't make it onto the list but might be worth a stroll if you're nearby.

Location & info

📌 Duthie Park★★★
💬 Spacious park with scenic ponds and excellent winter gardens inside glasshouses.
Polmuir Road, 1 mi south of Aberdeen city centre, G.R.: NJ 941043 ///crowds.honest.remedy
Always open (Winter Gardens: daily) | Free

📌 Hazlehead Park★★★
💬 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.
Hazlehead Avenue, 4 mi west of …

Walk: Kincorth Hill - Granite City back garden

Aberdeen City | Nigg | Short walk | ★★

Kincorth Hill forms the highest point on a broad ridge, rubbing up against Aberdeen's southern suburbs above the River Dee. The summit's hardly more than an insignificant swelling amongst scrubby gorse and broom, but offers decent views over the whole city and green contrast to its grey architecture. There's a dense network of paths from various access points, and the photos on this page were taken all over the hill, but the route outlined below makes a logical circuit with space to park at the start.

📌 Walk: Kincorth Hill - Granite City back garden ★★
Start / finish at car park on Nigg Way at junction with Abbotswell Crescent, Nigg, 2 mi south of Aberdeen city centre, G.R.: NJ 945031 ///game.delay.month

▶ 2 km / 1 mi | ▲ 50 m | ⌚ Short | ⬤ Easy
Features: △ Kincorth Hill (105 m)
Terrain: Good, clear paths.

Route & map

Car park - Kincorth Hill by direct path - path junction at G.R.: NJ 937024 - north then northeast to start

Route credit…

Slains Castle

Aberdeenshire | Cruden Bay | Castle | ★★★

Slains Castle is the bare shell of a 16th century residence once belonging to the Earl of Errol. With plain-looking stonework, large windows and seemingly little by way of defence, it doesn't look like a stereotypical castle. Despite this, the windswept ruin oozes character, surrounded by spectacular coastal scenery (watch out for the cliffs). The spot seems to be rich in wildlife too - seabirds, seals and a fox have all been present on our visits. Enter with care (as the building isn't maintained) and you can explore a fair proportion of the ground floor, though exactly how much might depend on how much you like nettles. If you find the atmosphere somehow chilling, perhaps it's because Dracula's castle may have been dreamt up here: author Bram Stoker once stayed at Slains.

Location & info

📌 Slains Castle ★★★
Off A975 half a mile east of Cruden Bay, G.R.: NK 102361 ///
Always open, but access to interior may…


Aberdeen City | City | ★★★

Aberdeen - nickname: the Granite City. Famous with good reason for its oil, cold wind and incomprehensible accents, Scotland's 3rd largest settlement might not sound like a promising place to visit for the uninitiated. But on a sunny day, grey buildings transform to give the city its other name: "the silver city with the golden sands". Several parts of Aberdeen - Castlegate, Marischal College and Old Aberdeen to name a few - sparkle when blessed by blue skies, which are more common than you might think: this is one of the sunniest parts of the country. The main shopping district clusters around wide, traffic-choked Union Street and newer Union Square. The latter is adjacent to a bustling harbour adjoining the mouth of the River Dee. North from here is the jewel in Aberdeen's urban crown: a wonderful sandy beach, with the tiny fishing village of Footdee (pronounced Fittie) squeezed onto the neck of land in between. There's plenty to expl…