Deeside Tourist Route
|Deeside Tourist Route|
|Distance:||107 miles (172.2 km)|
|Meets:||M90, A90, A85, A90, A92, A978|
|Route outline (key)|
The Deeside Tourist Route provides an alternative to the A90 between Perth and Aberdeen. Apart from short sections at either end to bypass the city centres, it appears to follow the A93 throughout, one of the most scenic and enjoyable main roads in Scotland, which has a vast variety of scenery along its length. Signage can be somewhat sparse on certain sections of the route, and whilst the lack of junctions and ease of following the 'A93' signage may be the reason, it may hinder those wishing to stray off the route for a detour. The area around Balmoral has a series of signs bearing the silhouette of Queen Victoria, which do not follow the A93, but form the Victorian Heritage Trail, guiding between sites associated with the Queen.
Perth to Braemar
Whilst the route officially starts on the M90 to the south east of Perth, and follows the A85 around the east side of the city to find the A93, it would be a foolish person who didn't stop to explore Scotland's Fair City. Perth has a lot to offer the visitor, from fine architecture, particularly along the riverside and around the Inches. These are large riverside parks historically left clear of development due to flooding, and the flood marks on the bridge tell of their necessity. The city also has a fine selection of shops, museums, galleries and other attractions. Just outside the city to the east is Kinnoull Hill, with paths and trails to some spectacular viewpoints, and Huntingtower Castle lies to the west.
But Perth is not Deeside, far from it in fact, and so we must press on, forking left onto the A93 as we leave the city behind and head north. The road passes Scone Palace, which has played a significant role in Scotland's history, and is where the Stone of Scone takes its name. It then follows the River Tay as it meanders northwards, crossing the River Isla on the Bridge of Isla and at length coming into Blairgowrie. This pretty town and its neighbour Rattray lie astride the River Ericht, and are a good place to stop and stretch your legs, grab something to eat and pick up any last minute supplies - this is the last town for some time!
After crossing the river, the A93 follows it northwards, recrossing before the Craighall Gorge section which has been rebuilt further up the hill in recent years. The Mountains to either side of the road are starting to show themselves, and so we come into the little village of Bridge of Cally, clustered around the bridge. Here the A924 turns left and is a fine drive up and over the hills to Pitlochry, but the tourist route sticks to the A93, as it wriggles northwards, now following the Black Water.
As the A93 progresses north, it is still loosely following the line of road set out by Major Caulfeild over 250 years ago as part of the military road network started by his more famous predecessor General Wade. Parts of the road have been widened, bends eased and the steeper gradients have been reprofiled, but the really slow twisty sections are largely unchanged from the road built by Soldiers in the 1750s. The fine old bridge at Spittal of Glenshee still stands, although long since bypassed.
The road has now turned up a side valley, leaving Glen Shee proper behind, and is climbing steadily all the way to the summit at over 660m above sea level - one of the highest roads in the country. The once infamous Devils Elbow has been bypassed with a steady graident road, reflecting the improvements in cars more than the road builders art. At last the summit is reached, and if you are fortunate enough to get there without climbing into the cloud, the views are astounding. The summit is home to the Glen Shee Ski Centre, so apart from the depths of winter when the snow is deep, there is plenty of room to park and have a wander. With the road climbing so high, there are some of the easiest Munros to climb, the lowest summit barely 250m above the road.
From the heights of these summits, it is a long fast descent down Glen Clunie to Braemar, with some fantastic and changeable scenery to enjoy from the numerous laybys that line the roadside. A picnic by the river is a treat on a fine summers day, although perhaps not to be undertaken with 2 feet of snow on the verges! Braemar is a tourist hotspot, sitting on the south bank of the River Dee, and so at last the Deeside Tourist Route is worthy of its name. The village is well supplied with shops and eateries for the hungry traveller, as well as the Castle a little to the north.
A drive westwards to the Linn of Dee rewards the explorer with some truly awe inspiring scenery, from the intricacies of the falls on the river to the vastness of the valley to the west, set between gentle slopes which rise to cloud-clad summits in the distance. Those keen on a really long walk, camping on route can wander through these straths and glens westwards to Strathspey and the Cairngorms near Aviemore or Blair Atholl, following ancient routes used for centuries by cattle drovers and rustlers alike. Today these old ways are quieter, but still well used by those seeking to escape from the rough and tumble of modern life.
Braemar - Aberdeen
Back to Braemar, and the tourist route turns east on the A93, following the River Dee downstream. The fine Old Bridge of Dee can be seen from Invercauld Bridge, and there are forest walks here on either side of the river. The next stop is Crathie, where the famous church stands on the hill above the road, just a short walk from the gates of Balmoral Castle. There are large car parks here, more walks and of course the castle is open in summer months. From Crathie, there are three options for the next leg to Ballater. The tourist route follows the A93, whilst the B976 offers the alternatives. The drive along the south side of the River Dee is a pleasant tree lined road with a side road at the Ballater end leading south up Glen Muick, deep into the mountains. Alternatively, turn north, also on the B976, to the fine Gairnshiel Bridge on the A939, which leads back to Ballater. Keeping north crosses into Strathdon and the Highland Tourist Route at Corgarff.
Ballater is somewhat larger than Braemar, but just as touristy with shops and cafes spread around a large grassy square in the centre of town. The historic old station building used by Queen Victoria is being rebuilt after a fire and will once more host a variety of businesses alongside the visitor centre. Ballater Bridge is just off the centre and there is a holiday park stretching down to the water. From Ballater, the tourist route continues east on the A93, but once more the B976 on the south side of the river offers an alternative at a slightly slower pace.
As the road continues eastwards, the mountains become hills as the valley slowly opens out into a rolling countryside of fields and woodland scattered with farms and houses. Small villages such as Dinnet line the roads, and the next town is Aboyne, where again the old station is now home to shops, sitting back behind a large square just off the A93. For a few miles, the road leaves the Dee as it curves through the hills, but the two converge before Kincardine o'Neil, and on past Potarch Bridge.
Banchory is a much larger town, with the A93 threading its way along the bustling High Street lined with shops. Across the Dee to the south are the scenic Falls of Feugh, whilst Crathes Castle with its adventure park lie a little to the east of the town on the A93. This is now commuter belt for Aberdeen, however, so whilst there are plenty of attractions, many aimed at Aberdonians days out, the scenery is somewhat less dramatic than at any point on the journey so far.
Peterculter is the last town before entering the Aberdeen urban area, but keep going on the A93 and then the A9013 to the end of the route, or find your own way into the city centre, which is a vibrant place with shops, museums and galleries, not to mention the fun fair on the sea front and sometimes busy harbour to explore. Alternatively, if you are looking for more adventure, find the A944 and follow the Highland Tourist Route west once more to Strathdon and then over the Cairngorms to Inverness.