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Royal Deeside : The River Dee

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As the name tells us, the central feature of Royal Deeside is the magnificent River Dee. Perhaps it takes an angler to best appreciate the merits of a river and below we present an extract from the book 'The Great Salmon Rivers of Scotland.' by John Ashley-Cooper (1980, 1987)

Before that we give a few basic facts about the river.

Source : Wells of Dee spring (at 4000 ft) on the side of Braeriach. Mouth : Aberdeen.

Length : 85 miles. Catchment area : 825 square miles.

Greatest recorded flood 1829 : (this flood destroyed the bridge at Ballater - the remains of the next bridge are still visible adjacent to the present bridge)

Main Tributaries ; Geldie, Lui, Clunie, Gairn, Muick, Tanar and Feugh

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River Dee at Ballater Children at play on the banks of the River Dee at Ballater

"It has been called the 'Silver Dee', and it fully deserves that title. Many would say that it is the most attractive of all the larger Scottish salmon rivers, as well as one of the most prolific in fish. It is a lovely, tumbling, fast-flowing river of crystal clear water, so clear that it is often hard to estimate its depth.

Rising high in the Cairngorms, the upper Dee flows through a fairyland of delightful surroundings, past Braemar, Invercauld, Balmoral, and Ballater. Perhaps the most enchanting view of this part of Deeside is to be obtained on the road which comes from Donside, where it crosses the watershed between Gairn Shiel and Crathie. Here one can look southwards over the Dee valley far below to the huge massif of Lochnagar and its surrounding hills. To the west lie Ben Avon and the Cairngorms, and to the south-east Mount Keen and the lesser hills towards Angus. All this affords a magnificent panorama, such wonderful heather-covered scenery, with bare rock and patches of snow on the high tops, a home for the grouse and deer as well as for salmon, and 'a vast country of hills', as it has been vividly described.

Another magnificent view of upper Deeside is to be found on the road from Blairgowrie [through Glenshee] to Braemar, as one descends from the Devil's Elbow, and has one's first sight of Braemar in the Dee valley below and looks across to Ben Avon and Cairngorms beyond. Truly in this part of the Highlands the roads are built over the hills as often as through the glens, and what traveller could fail to appreciate the magnificent spectacle which as a result continually unfolds itself before his eyes?

It is amid such surroundings that the upper Dee pursues its course. At intervals along its banks are lovely woods of birch, fir, and pine; and even if these latter are subject to the dictates of scientific forestry, and are seldom truly wild, they enrich the scenery and provide welcome shelter for fishermen whenever they approach the riverside. The pleasant scent of pine needles and pine woods is in fact a typical characteristic of the Dee, sufficient when encountered elsewhere to conjure up nostalgic memories of that beautiful river, as it pursues its rock course from pool to pool along its hill-girt valley.

For the whole of its course the Dee has practically every advantage that could be desired in a salmon river. Like the Spey, it has a snow reservoir in the Cairngorms to feed its source, and to keep a good water running until well into April or May. It maintains a fair streamy flow throughout its ninety miles length, until close to Aberdeen at its mouth. Its fall averages twelve feet per mile in the upper reaches, though somewhat less further downstream; and it has an endless succession of lovely and varied pools, some rocky and some gravelly, intersected by sharp rapids; all forming ideal water for fly fishing, and blessed with a sparkling flow, very seldom peat-coloured. This pure water is indeed an outstanding asset for the fisherman. For some reason the Dee does not become peat-stained to anything like the same extent as its bigger neighbour, the Spey, in spite of the many peat-covered hills which border its course. At low or medium height one can expect it to be gin-clear, and only in spate does it colour to any extent. Even then it clears far more quickly than does the Spey. "

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Introduction Journey through Deeside A Dram of Whisky 1 A Dram of Whisky 2 Forests and Woodlands Lochnagar
The River Dee Red Squirrels Craigendarroch Hill, Ballater Clachnaben by Banchory Braemar Weather  




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