More on Royal Deeside, Scotland
As one follows the River Dee from its source in the mountains towards its mouth at Aberdeen, the countryside steadily changes, becoming gentler and more fertile. There are more signs of development (but nowhere is it over-developed) as both the number and size of settlements increases. Thus the village of Braemar, for all its fame, is quite small and surrounded by mountains. It is nearly 20 miles before the larger Ballater is reached. Ballater and Aboyne could both be regarded as small towns or large villages but larger Banchory is certainly a town. (Perhaps the Scottish term 'burgh' best describes them.)
For much of the journey the river is accompanied by two roads, often referred to as the North and South Deeside Roads. The former (the A93) is the main road and links the four larger centres as well as the smaller communities of Crathie, Dinnet, Kincardine O' Neil, Crathes and Drumoak. Only five sizeable villages are located away from this road. Tarland and Lumphanan by Aboyne and Torphins, Finzean and Strachan by Banchory.
Apart from a substantial diversion to Lumphanan, the former Deeside Railway keeps close to the A93 and River Dee. Much of the track bed still exists and, being flat, offers a very pleasant way to explore by foot or cycle.
There are numerous fine buildings and estates in Royal Deeside with Braemar, Balmoral, Crathes and Drum castles all making excellent visits. Craigievar Castle is on the boundary and together with the magnificent Mar Lodge there are some four National Trust for Scotland properties. In addition to the Cairngorms National Park, four nature reserves, Morrone, Glen Muick, Muir of Dinnet and Glen Tanar all make great visits. To these must be added a clutch of fine churches with long histories, a 5-star rated distillery (Royal Lochnagar) and the opportunity to see salmon jumping at such beauty spots as the Bridge of Feugh and the Linn of Dee.
Many of the sporting facilities are among the best in Scotland or, as with the gliding club at Aboyne, even Europe. But the joys of Royal Deeside are possibly best summed up by the numerous walks, of all shades of difficulty, to be had among truly superb surroundings.
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