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The route from Braemar to Ballater is 17.4 miles long and has climbing of 853 feet. You will mainly follow the Dee, so will be consistently heading downhill (with a couple of hills thrown in). This cycle has been given a rating of 5.
The village of Braemar technically sits on Clunie Water rather than the Dee. There have been settlements here since the 11th century, though the area is known to have been used as a trackway by both Picts and Romans. The Jacobite Rebellion of 1715 was launched by the Earl of Mar in Braemar and there is an annual Highland Games, often frequented by members of the Royal Family. If you have the time (and money!) you should go to the Flying Stag before setting off – it has one of the most amazing public bars imaginable.
This cycle is set entirely in the Cairngorm National Park and the scenery is stunning. You head south and then east from the centre of Braemar, with a couple of nasty lumps in the first 1.7 miles, including the high point of 1,129 feet at mile 0.7. You then settle into a rolling downhill route. Because of the topography, road options are limited so you will be cycling on the main A93 to mile 9 – please take care. Now on the south side of the River Dee, there is a small climb at mile 11.7 and then the only “proper” hill at mile 14.7. The final section is downhill and you enter Ballater from the south, finishing in the town centre.
This cycle is the epitome of Royal Deeside – a beautiful rural setting, with forests and mountains all around. It also has numerous tourist attractions. You pass Braemar Castle at mile 1, but your attention should be on the mountains – Ben Avon to the north; the Cairngorm massif to the northwest; and Lochnagar to the southeast. You are in amongst Munros now, and Scotland’s second highest mountain Ben Macdui is only 11 miles away. At mile 8 you pass Balmoral Castle, which has been the Scottish home of the Royal Family since 1852. The castle is set in 50,000 acres of land and is owned privately by the family, not the Crown Estate. At mile 9 you reach Crathie, and a visit to Crathie Kirk and Abergeldie Castle is recommended. After crossing the Dee you pass through Easter Balmoral, close to the Royal Lochnagar Distillery, and then cycle through Alltcailleach Forest. In the final run-in you pass the remains of Castle Knock (mile 15.5), standing stones (mile 15.9) and cross the Bridge of Muick (mile 16.6).
Ballater is a small town in Royal Deeside. In the 14th century the land was owned by the estate of the Knights of St John, but a settlement wasn’t properly established until 1770, first as a spa town and then as a tourist destination. It is now a mecca for outdoor sports, and also for enthusiasts of the Royal Family. It is worth visiting Glenmuick Parish Church and the restored railway station, which was the terminus of the Aberdeen to Ballater line which closed in 1966. There are some good cafes and restaurants in town to allow you to refuel.
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 Ballater can be found here