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The route from Fettercairn to Banchory is 17.2 miles long and has 1,950 feet of climbing. It is extremely difficult and has been given a rating of 9.
There is no getting away from it, this is a brutal route as it takes in the monster that is Cairn ‘o Mount, one of the hardest ascends in Scotland. Although the climb is shorter from the south, it is harder and steeper. If the hills are challenging, so are the descents, and you really need to keep your wits about you, especially as the road is quite busy with motorists.
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 (the Cairnwell Pass doesn’t count!) It is an ancient place 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 at Fettercairn Distillery.
You head south out of Fettercairn from the Mercat Cross, cycling on mainly flat roads to Clatterin’ Brig at mile 3.5. You are then straight in to Cairn ‘o Mount, starting with a horrible 14% ramp. There is no respite on this climb, and the hardest section of all is the corner just before the car park near the top – if you don’t believe me, check out the name of this section on Strava!. The summit is at mile 5.7, which unsurprisingly is also the high point of 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 are then into a 3.8 mile, fast descent with annoying uphill sections after 8.3 and 9.5 miles (Bridge of Dye). Now off the hill and in to woodland, you are mainly descending all the way to Banchory. You reach Strachan at mile 14.2 and will now be cycling in an agricultural landscape. On you left is Scolty Hill and the monument in honour of General William Burnett, who fought alongside the Duke of Wellington in the Napoleonic Wars. You cross the Bridge of Feugh at mile 16.6 which was built in 1790. If you are there at the right time of year you will see salmon leaping upstream and crashing waterfalls. You then cross the River Dee and enter Banchory from the south, finishing in the town centre.
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. Banchory itself has lots of options for food and drink – you deserve some substance after conquering Cairn ‘o Mount!
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