Dufftown to Rhynie (18 miles)

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It’s one of the region’s classic bike rides on the A941 over The Cabrach from Dufftown to Rhynie.  The route is 18.4 miles in length and has climbing of 1,650 feet. It has been given a difficulty rating of 7. Welcome to the Cabrach everyone!

Dufftown is part of the ancient parish of Mortlach, and you can visit the historic Mortlach Church on the south side of town. The remains of Balvenie Castle is open to the public – the original building was completed in the 12th century. The Dufftown Clock Tower is lovely and used to be the prison. The town is in Speyside and calls itself the Malt Whisky Capital of the World. The industry is hugely important to the area, from farming and general employment to tourism. There are also some world renowned whiskies made near Dufftown including the Balvenie, Glenfiddich, Mortlach and Dufftown itself. You should try to make a distillery tour part of your day.

You head east out of Dufftown, dropping to cross the River Fiddich, and then you start heading up! This is the hardest section of the day, starting at mile 0.6 and continuing to mile 4.7, with the final two miles being the steepest. You pass Auchindoun Castle at mile 2 which is free to visit. You will then enjoy a shallow descent to mile 7.4 before you start heading uphill again – this is the heart of the Cabrach, and although the climb isn’t particularly steep there is no real respite. The high point of the day is 1,388 feet at mile 12.5 and you then descend all the way, though there are two annoying uphill pitches at miles 14 and 16.4. You enter Rhynie from the northwest and finish in the village square.

Dufftown to Rhynie via the Cabrach (and its reverse) is an iconic Ride the North route and it’s all about the scenery… and the weather! If the sun is shining and the wind benign then you will enjoy Scotland at its very best – you’re in Aberdeenshire but you feel like you’re in the Cairngorms, long climbs surrounded by higher hills and moorland in a remote setting. But this is an exposed route, and if the wind is in your face then it will feel tough and unforgiving. You will be on quiet roads, but the surface can be gravely and you might encounter large vehicles which service the windfarms in the area. The first climb takes you through heather covered hills and forests, and there is a particularly pretty section around mile 8 when you cycle alongside the Deveron, one of north-east Scotland’s great rivers. The views are consistently spectacular, and you should take a moment to enjoy the panorama around mile 12.

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. It is a small place so you should pack extra provisions.


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 neil@velodays.com

Route map for Dufftown To Rhynie by Neil Innes on plotaroute.com