The route from Banchory to Fettercairn is 17.2 miles long and has 1,991 feet of climbing. It is extremely difficult and has been given a rating of 9.
So you’re feeling brave are you? There is no getting away from it, this is a brutal route as it takes in Cairn ‘o Mount, one of the hardest ascends in Scotland. It will be of no consolation that the climb is actually easier from the north side (easier being subjective!) The hills are challenging, but so are the descents, and you really need to keep your wits about you, especially as the road is quite busy with motorists.
Banchory is known as the Gateway to Royal Deeside. The town was founded in the 6th century by St Ternan, a Pict who converted to Christianity. Banchory is home to Scotland’s first rum distillery, Dark Matters, and if you have the time then you should visit Crathes Castle and its stunning grounds just east of the town. Whilst there, take some time to pop in to Milton of Crathes which has some lovely craft shops and a café / restaurant.
You head south over the River Dee from your start point in the centre of Banchory, before crossing the Bridge of Feugh at mile 1, which was built in 1790. If you are there at the right time of year you will see salmon leaping upstream and crashing waterfalls. At mile 3 you pass close to Scolty Hill and the monument in honour of General William Burnett, who fought alongside the Duke of Wellington in the Napoleonic Wars. At Strachan you head south. The section up to this point has been quite easy, but you now head uphill for the next 8.5 miles. Cycling through lovely woodland, this will be difficult – consistently steep, with spikes well in excess of 10% at 3.3 and 7.8 miles.
Cairn ’o Mount officially starts at the Bridge of Dye at mile 8, when you come out of the woods and into the hills, which are bleak (in a good way) and exposed. There is no respite all the way to the summit at 11.5 miles, which is the high point (1,473 feet). You should take five minutes to look around at the stunning panoramic views, taking in Aberdeenshire, Angus and the Cairngorms to the west. You then have a rapid, technical descent with sections of over 15%, reaching the bottom at Clatterin’ Brig after 13.6 miles. You could stop for coffee and cake at the café here, though Fettercairn is only 3.6 miles away and you are now on rolling flat roads. You enter the town from the north, finishing in the centre by the Mercat Cross.
Fettercairn, from the Scottish Gaelic meaning “slope by a thicket”, is a small village in the Mearns area of Aberdeenshire, and the most southerly town in the RTN153 (Glenshee doesn’t count!). It is an ancient town that was granted free burgh status in 1504. The Church of St Martin’s is worth a visit, and you could take in a tour and a dram at Fettercairn Distillery. It is a small place so you might want to take some extra provisions – you’ll need them!
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