This is a 20 mile (32 km) loop from Ballater taking in some wonderful Royal Deeside scenery, but a very significant climb that makes the route pretty challenging. The ride begins by crossing the river out of Ballater onto the south side of the River Dee. The route will follow the river valley for 6 miles to Crathie, which is the location of Balmoral Castle – the royal summer residence is tucked away in the trees, so you won’t see it. Depending upon time of the year, you may well see tourist coaches at Crathie or if the royal family are in residence you might be more likely to sense the security presence. It’s a lovely and relative easy ride along the river …but the next section is far from easy.
The climb from the river valley begins almost as soon as you cross the river. There is a very short section on the A93 (turning left in the direction of Braemar) before a quick right that is signposted to is signposted to Tomintoul. The next 3 miles are a little unforgiving! The views do begin to open up very dramatically and within the space of a mile you really feel like you have entered a whole new geography. We are the wrong side of the Cairngorms at this point to be in the administrative area know as ‘Highland’, but the landscape here quickly changes to the empty hills that are iconic Scottish Highland scenery.
After the climb (which does feel like it goes on more than 3 miles) the road drops down to Gairnshiel, where you will find one of the regions most historic bridges. The bridge itself is not crossed following this route, but it’s an inviting photo stop.
The map below allow you to see the route, to see the elevation profile (use Hills tab) and to download files for use with GPS device. This is not the most complicated route for navigation so not the most crucial for navigation assistance.