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The route from Rhynie to Strathdon is 20.4 miles in length and has climbing of 1,775 feet. There are some serious hills on this route, and if you are unlucky with the weather then it will feel more difficult that the rating of 7.
Rhynie is the spiritual home of Ride the North, having featured in every event since 2011. The village is most widely known for Rhynie Man, one of eight Pictish stones that were discovered in 1978. Rhynie Man is a 6 foot boulder carved with a bearded man carrying an axe, and might be a depiction of the Celtic god Esus. It is now on display at Woodhill House, the HQ of Aberdeenshire Council. A further archaeological dig started in 2011 near the site where Rhynie Man was found, uncovering substantial fortified settlements dating to the early medieval period.
You will head south out of Rhynie on the main A97 and will stay on this road for the first 4.8 miles – it is not very busy, but you should still use caution. The first 8.9 miles are rolling, before you hit a nasty but short climb and then head back into rolling terrain, The hardest section of the route begins at mile 12.3 and goes on for 2.9 miles, before a descent and then another climb at mile 15.7. It is only short but is a proper test, reaching the high point of the route of 1,230 feet at mile 16.8. In is then mainly downhill to the finish (with a spike at mile 19.9). You join the A944 road at mile 18.3, before crossing the River Don and finishing in the village of Bellabeg.
This route is more about the scenery than tourist attractions, and you won’t be disappointed. It’s a gorgeous part of Aberdeenshire, with farm, wood and moorland all in abundance, and at times you will feel quite isolated. You finish at the eastern edge of the Cairngorm National Park, with the larger hills tantalizing you to the west.
You pass through Lumsden at mile 4, which has a nice sculpture park. After leaving the A97 you head on to quiet country roads, and you should take care as the road surfaces can be sketchy. You reach Kildrummy at mile 8, and a visit to Kildrummy Castle is time well spent – although ruined, it is one of the most extensive 13th century castles to survive in eastern Scotland. From mile 12 you start heading west and you will suddenly notice that the landscape is more rugged, and the surrounding hills are higher. You enter the Cairngorm National Park at mile 15.2.
Strathdon is a village, but it is also an informal geographical area which takes in the village of Bellabeg. For many years the area was called Inverlochty due to its location at the confluence of the River Don and the Water of Lochty. There is a war memorial in the village, which hosts a traditional Highland Gathering. For cheese lovers, try out Strathdon Blue, Scotland’s answer to Stilton. You should pack extra provisions as there are very few options for food and drink.
By clicking on the ‘play’ symbol on the graphic below you can see route map. The elevation profile of the ride can be seen via the Hills tab with files for use with a GPS device also available for download. If you take any photos of the route that you’d like to share, please submit to firstname.lastname@example.org
Onward rides from Strathdon can be found here