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The route from Strathdon to Rhynie is 20.4 miles in length and has climbing of 1,516 feet. There are some serious hills on this route, and has been given a difficulty rating of 7.
Strathdon is a village, but it is also an informal geographical area which takes in the village of Bellabeg. For many years the area was called Inverlochty due to its location at the confluence of the River Don and the Water of Lochty. There is a war memorial in the village, which hosts a traditional Highland Gathering. For cheese lovers, try out Strathdon Blue, Scotland’s answer to Stilton.
Starting in the Cairngorm National Park, you will head south out of Strathdon / Bellabeg, crossing the River Don, and straight in to the hardest part of the cycle. There is a nasty spike just a few hundred yards in, and you will have to negotiate a challenging hill from 2 – 3.7 miles, which is also the high point of the day at 1,234 feet. You hit another short hill after 4.8 miles, and then have a lovely decent to mile 8.5. The next climb lasts 2 miles and is the last major hurdle of the day. The remaining 9.5 miles are on rolling roads with the inevitable lumps and bumps. You are off the beaten track in this area so the road surfaces will not be perfect – please take care. You join the main A97 at mile 15.7, which is busier and faster than the roads earlier in the route. You follow the A97 for the last 4.7 miles, entering Rhynie from the south and finishing in the village square.
This route is more about the scenery than tourist attractions, and you won’t be disappointed. It’s a gorgeous part of Aberdeenshire, with farm, wood and moorland all in abundance, and at times you will feel quite isolated. You start at the eastern edge of the Cairngorm National Park, with the larger hills making an appearance to the west, and the landscape is noticeably more rugged, the surrounding hills higher. You leave the National Park at mile 5.1 and recross the River Don at mile 8.1, now heading north. You reach Kildrummy at mile 12, and a visit to Kildrummy Castle is time well spent – although ruined, it is one of the most extensive 13th century castles to survive in eastern Scotland. You pass through the village of Lumsden at mile 16.5, which has a nice sculpture park.
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. Shopping here is limited, so you might want to pack some extra provisions to keep you going.
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 Rhynie can be found here