At the weekends we love to get outdoors and do some exploring. There are so many beautiful walks on our doorstep but here are my top inspirational walks in Aberdeenshire that are my go-to’s when I’m looking to refresh my soul and creativity!
Crathes Castle Gardens and Estate.
Well known in this area, Crathes Castle is a National Trust property located 15 miles west of Aberdeen and 3 miles east of Banchory on the A93. Crathes Castle Estate was once part of the Royal Forest of Drum. They have numerous waymarked and clearly signposted trails that are all beautiful. A lot of my woodland patterns are inspired by the combinations of green and silvers that you see on the Beech tree trunks. Look out for wildlife along the way – you may see red squirrels, woodpeckers and herons. The formal gardens are also beautiful (although you need a ticket to enter these) and the Victorian trend for plant hunting and collecting has resulted in some really interesting tree specimens to look out for. There is also a newly opened Wild Wood Adventure Play area that’s perfect for the kids.
You can download all the walking routes at Crathes here:
Tollohill Wood is a lovely mature mixed wood, with numerous well-made paths winding through it. It’s great for family walks and off-road runs, and as it’s so close to Aberdeen it means we can just pop down even if we’ve got other stuff on that day. There is car parking for about a dozen cars off small road south of the B9077 South Deeside Road. Lush green ferns take over amongst the trees in summer, you can discover the disused quarry and the obelisk Monument with fantastic panoramic views over the River Dee and Aberdeen.
Glen Tanar Estate
Bridge of Tanar
The Fairy Pool and Riverside walk at Glen Tanar was always a popular walking destination as a child. And I still love it today. It’s an easy flat route that combines forestry and farmland with a long, pretty riverside section. The walk is waymarked. Take in the very beautiful old steeply-arched Bridge of Tanar, the stone-built Chapel of St Lesmo - built in 1872, the fairy lochan where you can spot dragonflies. You then enter a woodland stretch of path where it’s good to spot fungi especially in late summer and autumn. The path turns to the left and heads back upstream following the river. The path is narrow in places as it plunges through silver birches, shining in the sunlight as the water twinkles!
There is also a visitor centre on the estate that has more information on the wildlife that can be found there. There are toilets near the start at Braeloine car park, and there is a charge for car parking.
Potarch Wood & Craigmore Wood.
Craigmore Trig Point
This is a walk that we discovered a few years ago just exploring and it’s become one of our favourites. It wasn't waymarked, but I think Ballogie estate have recently upgraded some paths so you may now find that it is! Potarch is just off the A93 between Banchory and Aboyne. Once you cross the river at the Bridge of Potarch, you’ll see the lodge and cafe, turn left and a few hundred metres along the road there is a car park on the edge of the Market Stance.
Start from the car park following the waymarked path for about 150m, then you’ll see a sharp right bending landrover track that goes a bit up the hill. Follow this road! It has ferns, loads of wilflowers, trees, insects, birds, dragonflies and butterflies. You go along on this gravel track for quite a while, until you enter into a section that starts to be more forested. The path takes a left turn and uphill through a really beautiful section, (and my favourite bit of the walk) full of birch forest, and lush green! You are wandering up single track path at the point until you come to a stone cairn and trig point that (I think) marks the top of the hill in Craigmore Wood. The path starts to veer round to the left again at this point until you hit a proper path again and a long stretch of fire road that takes you back down to the main route that follows the Old Military Road to take you back to the car park.
After your adventure you can grab a treat at the Ballogie Estate Potarch Café and Restaurant if you wish!
Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve & the Burn O’Vat
From Aberdeen, follow the A93 Aberdeen to Ballater road, which passes through Dinnet. The main car park is at the Burn O’Vat visitor centre, 6 kilometres from Dinnet. Head south-west on the A93 for 4 kilometres, then turn onto the B9119. There are no width or height restrictions at the car park, and there are dedicated disabled bays.
This was my absolute favourite place to go growing up. A trip to Muir of Dinnet National Nature Reserve (NNR) gives an insight into Scotland’s glacial past. This is a landscape that was carved out by ice thousands of years ago. A vast, cauldron-shaped bowl of pink granite is the most spectacular feature of Muir of Dinnet NNR. It’s pretty much mandatory to climb your way through the rock tunnel into the ‘Vat.’ Bring wellies to splash, or be careful on the stepping stones and just enjoy it if you fall in to the shallow water. You can climb up the waterfall too where you’ll find a beautiful woodland glade (where as a child I was convinced fairies lived.)
If you park a little further along the road you can follow the walks around Loch Kinord and Loch Davan. Both left over from the last ice age, they have abundant bird life, especially in winter. Teal, tufted duck and greylag geese all visit, and it is one of Britain’s best places to spot goldeneye. More than 50 plant species grow by the water, and insects such as dragonflies thrive on the rare bearberry heath. (But beware in high summer for Horseflies. Maybe take some smidge!) It’s still worth it for the dragonflies, butterflies and lily pads!
I'd love to hear from you if you end up on any of these walks or if you have any others to recommend! Let me know!