Out & About in Royal Deeside
The Lodge on the Loch Spa Retreat is close enough to Aberdeen to afford our guests a convenient weekend break, and yet far enough into the heart of Royal Deeside to provide the ideal base for a tour of many of Scotland’s most famous sites and landmarks - Balmoral Castle being high on the list. On our doorstep is the delightful historic town of Aboyne, a popular destination for all visitors to Royal Deeside, and just down the road finds the Cairngorms National Park: the largest area of protected wilderness in the UK. There’s plenty to see and do in Royal Deeside and to help you plan your stay we’ve put together a short introduction to some of the main activities and attractions.
Royal Deeside really is a golf lover’s paradise. In addition to our own 9 hole course, we have excellent 18 hole courses at Peterculter, Braemar, Ballater, Aboyne and Banchory, and some top-notch 9 hole courses at Tarland, Lumphanan, Torphins and Inchmarlo. Some of the classic Scottish links courses are nearby too, including Royal Aberdeen, Murcar Links, Newburgh-on-Ythan and Trump International. The Royal Deeside Classic, a 72-hole Stableford event, takes place here every year over four courses at Aboyne, Ballater, Banchory and Braemar, and is open to all-comers. So whether you’re a seasoned pro or a casual golfer, Royal Deeside has a exciting challenge waiting for you.
The River Dee is renowned as the world’s top spring salmon river with some of the highest catches of Atlantic salmon ever recorded. Trout fishing is available throughout the Dee valley from a variety of stocked fisheries located near the main river system and these provide fishing virtually all year round. There are several fisheries nearby, at Tullich just east of Ballater on the A93, at Strachan on the South Deeside Road and at Raemoir, one mile north of Banchory. The Loch of Aboyne* provides seasonal course fishing and the resident species include bream, carp, ide, perch, pike, roach and tench, so there’s good a variety of sport to suit all levels of angling skills.
* For further information and permits please contact our neighbours at Aboyne Loch Caravan Park.
Royal Deeside and the Cairngorms National Park are a hill-walker’s paradise. There are no less than twenty-four Munros (mountains over 3,000 feet) in the Braemar area alone. The area is great for hillwalking and famous hills and mountain names such as Lochnagar, Morven, Mount Keen, Derry Cairngorm, Beinn a Bhuird and the Lairig Ghru all lie on our patch. There are also lots of hillwalking experiences for all abilities, with literally hundreds of footpaths, trails and walks to suit all levels, from the young to experienced and committed Munro-baggers.
Running and Orienteering
Royal Deeside and the Cairngorms are becoming increasingly well known for the popularity and excellence of their running and orienteering events. ‘Run Balmoral’ hosts a weekend of running events every year and there really is something for everyone, including a 1.5k, 5k (with wheelchair race), 10k and a multi-terrain 15 mile trail run. If night time running is your thing then this October look out for the ‘Illuminator Night Trail half marathon’, “Scotland’s toughest night half marathon”, which takes place through 15 miles of rugged hill paths in nearby Glen Tanar’s ancient Scots pine forest. For keen orienteers the Mar Orienteering Club (Maroc) is open to all ages and this year they will be helping to bring ‘the Scottish 6-Days’, the largest orienteering event in the UK, to Royal Deeside. Taking place between the 30th July and 5th August, this will be the 4th time the ‘Scottish 6-Days’ has come to Royal Deeside.
Cycling and Mountain Biking
Scotland is internationally recognised as one of the world’s best countries for cycling and mountain biking and Royal Deeside lives up to this accolade. From gentle cycling along flat and quiet country lanes such as the Deeside Way, to arduous trails across high mountains and through dense forests, our area has something to satisfy every level of cyclist, from the absolute novice to the committed enthusiast. There are a number of excellent natural trails nearby such as the Shootings Greens at Potarch and the Fungle-Glentanar Routes at Aboyne, along with a purpose-built downhill trails at Pitfichie. If you are a really keen cyclist looking for a memorable challenge then check out the ‘Etape Royale’, the first and only 100 mile Closed Road Cycle Sportive in Scotland, which runs from Moray to Royal Deeside and includes an alpine climb over one of the highest roads in the UK.
We are ideally situated to access the Glenshee and the Lecht Ski Resorts which are only 45 minutes drive away. Glenshee Ski Centre to the south of Braemar boasts the UK’s most extensive skiing and snowboarding facilities with 21 lifts and 36 runs. Instruction, tuition, equipment hire and catering are all available on-site. The Lecht Ski Centre sits at over 2,000 feet in the north west of our area. It includes 20 ski runs as well as facilities for snowboarding and fun activities such as snow-tubing. Again, a full range of tuition, equipment hire and catering is available on-site. There is also great cross country skiing at Braemar and lessons can be booked.
Royal Deeside and the Cairngorms probably has more castles per square mile than just about any part of Scotland. These range from 11th Century ruins to sumptuous Victorian palatial residencies. Most famous of all, of course, is Balmoral, the Scottish home of the Royal family, where you can enjoy exhibitions, displays, walks, trails and Land Rover Wildlife Safaris through the Balmoral Estate. There are also many other lesser known castles that should be on any history buffs ‘must see’ list, including 17th Century Braemar and 14th Century Drum Castle (to list just a few). We definitely recommend that visitors take the ‘Castle Trail’ and experience the romance and history of thirteen restored family castles, ruins and stately homes in Aberdeenshire.
No visit to Royal Deeside would be complete without sampling the ‘liquid gold’ for which the Scottish Highlands are famed. Just along the road the charcoal stained stone bonded warehouses and pagoda roofs distinct of the distilling industry can be espied at Royal Lochnagar and Fettercairn distilleries. Here you can take ‘a nosing’ and discover how the sparklingly fresh water of the Dee, the design of the copper stills, the lineage of the oak casks and the advent of time, all work their magic to create the unique flavours and aromas of each individual malt. A short drive leads onto the famous ‘Whisky Trail’ which takes in some of Scotland’s best known distilleries such as Glenfiddich and Glenlivet, along with some hidden gems like Ben Rinnes, Glenfarclas and Tamdhu.
The iconic event that the Scottish Highlands are famed for. Every town in the Highlands has its very own Highland Games, all different, but expect to see hammer throwing, tossing the caber, the shot, tug-o-war, highland dancing, solo piping, drum and pipe bands and much, much more. In our area the Highland Games start in Aboyne on the first Saturday in August, then to the Ballater Games on the second Thursday in August, the Lonach Games on the fourth Saturday in August, ending with the world famous Royal Braemar Gathering on the first Saturday in September.
The Highland Games are synonymous with incredible feats of strength and few are more incredible than the ‘Dinnie Steen Challenge’. Rediscovered by David Webster (OBE) in 1956, ‘The Dinnie Steens’ are two giant granite boulders weighing 332.49Kg with iron rings attached and they currently reside at the Potarch Café and restaurant near Aboyne. Originally used as counterweights during the repair of Potarch Bridge, in 1860 legendary local strongman Donald Dinnie famously carried them both with his bare hands across the width of Potarch Bridge and back. Thus began the ‘Dinnie Stone Challenge’ and to date only four men have matched Donald Dinnie’s incredible feat. Such is the growing fame of the ‘Dinnie Steens’ that they have recently been the subject of a film, Stoneland, made by Texan weightlifting gurus Jan and Terry Todd. Jan herself is part of this fascinating story and she remains the only woman ever to have lifted the ‘Dinnie Steens’.
All photographs in the gallery are copyright Mike Stephen, 2017