Route write up for Bikepacking.com – https://bikepacking.com/routes/deeside-trail/
Bike choice: The route is best done on a mountain bike, ideally with some suspension but if using a rigid bike then plus tyres would be best. It wouldn’t be recommended to do it on a gravel bike but if you could if careful and you don’t mind punishing your body – for local gravel routes see the Grampian Gravel page.
Start and Finish : Dee Bridge, Banchory
Length: 140 miles regular route, 154 long route (extends the route from Linn of Dee to White Bridge to the edge of the Lairig Ghru to Derry Lodge)
Regular vs Long route: The true route is really the long route but the section from White Bridge to Derry Lodge is pretty long and rough so can take 3-4h on its own, probably longer if the ground is wet. I’d recommend anyone who needs to do the route in two days to take the regular route. If you want a challenge, don’t mind a lot of bog and aren’t pressed for time then go for the long route.
Ascent: 4600m regular route, 5000m long route
Surface: 15% paved, 30% singletrack, 55% doubletrack.
Ascents: 95% by distance is rideable, 90% by time as some there will be pushing sections depending on skill and fitness – up from Loch Muick, round from White Bridge, into Clais Fearnaig, into Glen Gairn, out of Tarland and the final section of Hill of Fare.
Descents: Mainly a mix of doubletrack and singletrack with a number of rough, challenging and technical descents on the route. The singletrack trails at Scolty, the Fungle, Glen Lui, Clais Fearnaig and into Glen Gairn are technical and should be treated carefully.
- Banchory – Supermarkets, pubs, cafes, restaurants etc
- Ballater – Co-op open 7am-10pm, pubs, cafes, restaurants etc
- Braemar – Co-op open 7am-10pm, chip shop closes at 8pm on Saturdays
- Tarland – Shop closes at 2pm on Sundays, small cafe and pub otherwise (take cash)
- Lumphanan – Shop closes at 3pm on Sundays, small cafe and pub otherwise (take cash)
Water: Frequent streams for first 3/4 of route. After Ballater there is no fresh running water on the route – fill up in Tarland or Lumphanan shops/pubs/cafes.
Accommodation: There a number of bothies near the route about 10 miles before or after Braemar. Camping is allowed virtually anywhere on the route, be sure to follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Paid accommodation is available in most towns along or near the route.
Parking: Parking is available at Bellfield car park in Banchory, 696955. The southern section of the car park is free and the northern section is paid so ensure you park in the correct section.
Time of year: Late spring/early summer is best before the midges get going and the vegetation isn’t too overgrown.
The route should be passable in all but the depths of winter but is not advisable if there has been recent rain as the sections in the Cairngorms are very boggy and heavy going even in the dry – in the wet it would be particularly unpleasant.
Also be aware that ticks are common throughout the route, especially in lower Deeside in the long grass. Consider wearing long bottoms, take a tick puller and regularly check yourself.
GPX Files: (updated 22/07/20)
Regular route download here
Long route download here
1. Banchory to Ballater
- Climb up through Scolty Woods, descending on singletrack down local MTB trail Brokeback Helmet to join the Deeside Way.
- Cycle up through the Forest of Birse to take the Fungle Road singletrack descent.
- Turn left over to into Glen Tanar, following the estate roads towards Mount Keen up to Knockie Branar for a singletrack descent to the river Dee opposite Cambus O’May.
- Follow the Dee to join the South Deeside road at Ballater.
2. Ballater to Braemar
- Follow singletrack and firetrack up Glen Muick.
- The road to bridge over the Muick at Mill of Sterin is blocked 100m south of the bridge at 350929 but the bridge itself is fine – instead approach through the trees at 350930.
- Reach the buildings at Allt-na-giubsaich then head north for a tough pushing climb.
- Enjoy a fast descent down estate roads into Glen Gelder, then take a mix of singletrack and estate roads to pass through into Ballochbuie Forest to Invercauld Bridge and then on the A93 to Braemar.
3. Braemar to Tarland
- Leave Braemar through the birkwood and cross the Dee at Mar Lodge towards the Linn of Dee.
- Turn north into Glen Lui after Lui Bridge and follow the doubletrack up Glen Lui and turn right up in Clais Fhearnaig after 2.5km.
- For the long route follow the landrover track to White Bridge and take the boggy singletrack up into the Lairig Ghru. Expect considerable amounts of pushing, mud and bog for 7km but be rewarded with views into the heart of of the Cairngorms and a great singletrack descent into Glen Lui towards Derry Lodge.
- Follow the Water of Quoich (taking care as much of the path was washed away in early 2016) on pleasant singletrack to meet the path to Beinn a Bhuird.
- Continue eastwards into Glen Gairn on rocky and sometimes indistinct boggy, grassy singletrack, crossing a number of streams until you join estate roads and the old drover’s path 1km SW of Loch Builg.
- Follow the estate roads to join the A939 by Gairnshiel, crossing the Gairn 2km east of Gairnshiel.
- Follow the trail by the Dee to Ballater and then along the Deeside Way to Cambus O’May.
- Climb up above the Burn O’Vat to Cnoc Dubh for a fine view over Deeside and a sweeping singletrack descent down to Loch Kinord.
- Take a mix of firetrack, main road and single track eastwards, passing through the bike park at Tarland Trails (chose any trail here) before reaching Tarland.
4. Tarland to Banchory
- Leave Tarland to the NNW towards East Davoch, climbing a steep pushing section up to Broom Hill and onto Pressendye, joining onto the Southern section of the Round of Alford.
- Descend from Pressendye on grassy singletrack to the meet the B9119.
- Climb up to the summit of Craiglich and enjoy a fast descent down to the crossroads before continuing east and taking the old military road into Lumphanan.
- From Lumphanan continue east and climb up the northwest side of Learney Hill from Torphins.
- Follow the ridge of the hill eastwards with a pushing section up to the Hill of Fare for a final descent down and through the woods by Raemoir.
- Take the wooded tracks past Brathens and into Banchory from the northwest on singletrack passing through the golf course for a final ride alongside the River Dee.
- Finish at the start point on the Dee Bridge.