As spring is finally here and summer is on the horizon, we are all desperate to get back into the great outdoors with a bit of sunshine.
Here’s our top 10 walks in Aberdeenshire for our readers to enjoy – COVID-19 safe of course!
A five minute drive from Banchory, Scolty Hill is popular for both walkers and bikers. With panoramic views of the shire, that can be enjoyed from a viewing tower, Scolty is the perfect walk to take in the surroundings. The tower monument was built in the 1840s as a memorial to General William Burnett who fought alongside the Duke of Wellington. After undergoing restoration in 1992, a viewing platform was added. This is one of the shorter hill walks in Aberdeenshire as it only takes around 45 minutes to reach the summit – perfect for walkers of all capabilities.
Thought to be the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Slains Castle is one of Scotland’s most iconic ruins. Perched upon the cliffs by Cruden Bay, this walk offers stunning views of the North Sea. Interestingly, the castle is most likely in the ruin we see today due to Sir John Ellerman removing the roof to avoid paying taxes in 1925. However, I would avoid this walk on a wet and windy day (this may be difficult in Scotland) as the cliff side path is quite precarious. If you are seeking a longer walk, you can extend your trip by crossing over to Cruden Bay beach. This location may also be familiar to you as it was featured on Netflix’s The Crown.
The Balmoral Cairns, as the name suggests, are located on the grounds of the Balmoral estate in Deeside. Cairns are man-made piles of stone which were built on the estate by Queen Victoria to commemorate members of the British royal family and momentous events in their lives. There are 11 cairns to discover on the vast grounds of Balmoral. The most recognisable of the cairns, which also arguably has the best view, takes the form of a pyramid and was erected in tribute to Prince Albert when he passed away. The Balmoral Cairns make for a fascinating and educational walk. However, it is advised that people do not undertake this walk whilst the royal family is in residence.
For those seeking the beauty of a coastal walk but with the history of the countryside, Stonehaven is the spot for you. The beautiful pebbled beach is ideal for a relaxing stroll, sunbathing — if the Scottish weather permits — or it can act as a playground for thrill-seekers. Stonehaven Paddleboarding provides lessons, tours and rentals for those who wish to explore Stonehaven by water. Or, if you prefer to keep your feet on dry land, you can venture up to Dunnottar castle just a two mile coastal walk from the centre of Stonehaven. The castle, which was once owned by one of the most powerful families in Scotland, is now a popular attraction due to its prominence in history. Most notably, the castle is the place where the Scottish crown jewels were hidden from Oliver Cromwell’s army in the 17th century. With award-winning fish and chip shop The Bay and Aunt Betty’s ice cream parlour both situated right on the water, you can make a day trip out of your visit to Stonehaven.
The Deeside Way
The Deeside Way follows the old Deeside railway line which runs from the centre of Aberdeen all the way out to Ballater. You can join the 41 mile route throughout, depending on the length of walk you are wanting. Along the way, no matter the starting point, remains of the old railway infrastructure are visible. As well as stunning views of the River Dee, the Cairngorms can also be observed. Suitable for walkers and cyclists, this walk offers a more relaxing escape for those who are perhaps not in the mood to scale a hill or mountain.
Bennachie, near Inverurie, is a range of hills which offer spectacular views across the countryside. The most popular of the peaks to climb, Mither Tap, stands at approximately 518 metres. If you have a spare few hours this walk is well worth it. On a clear day, the views are breathtaking and really remind you just how special Scotland is. The wooded area at the bottom of the Mither Tap walk has a carpark for easy access and numerous picnic benches so be sure to pack your lunch too. Bennachie also has multiple routes to the top, so you can challenge yourself to climb all the peaks or venture down all the routes.
Craigievar Castle may just be a location you recognise from Instagram, or for allegedly being the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle. The famous pink turrets were built around 1576 and the iconic house has been one of Scotland’s most beloved castles ever since. Situated just six miles south of Alford, this country house offers the perfect day out for families. With woodland to explore, sprawling grounds to enjoy a picnic upon and gardens to admire, this fairytale location really is the pinnacle of all Aberdeenshire has to offer.
Haddo House and Country Park
Haddo House is a Scottish stately home near Ellon which has sprawling green grounds that are ideal for dog walks. The house is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland and combines elegant Georgian style with Victorian interiors. You can pay to enter the house where you can admire the extensive art collection of the Gordon family who once lived there or visit the courtyard cafe – both of these are COVID permitting. Situated in the heart of Aberdeenshire, the grounds of this stately home feature delightful flowers, woodland walks, plenty of spots for a picnic and endless wildlife. Haddo House is the perfect location for a walk and a picnic on a warm summer’s day.
Just 20 minutes North of Aberdeen, Newburgh beach is the epitome of all things Scottish and coastal.
The beach is also home to a 400 strong colony of seals that can be found there all year long. The wildlife that can be observed at Newburgh is what makes it a special place for families to visit, however, it is advised that a safe distance is kept from the seals. To add to the family fun, the beach also has some of the largest sand dunes in the UK. Running up and down these dunes is guaranteed entertainment whether you are partaking or just observing.
For those who prefer a bit more of a challenge, Lochnagar is the walk for you. Lochnagar lies within the Cairngorms National Park and is one of the most frequented Munros – the Munros are a collection of Scottish mountains that stand at over 3,000 feet and are recognised by the Scottish Mountaineering Club. In close proximity to Balmoral, you can stop off and admire the Queen’s holiday home on your way there — you will definitely need your walking boots for this one.