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The Grampians in full glory — Bikepacking the Deeside Trail

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The Grampians in full glory — Bikepacking the Deeside Trail

Mountain Biking Collection by Katherine Moore

5

Tours

22:05 h

140 mi

13,800 ft

Does expansive moorland, quiet forestry, marshland, wildlife, waterfalls and hidden bothies sound like your cup of tea? The Deeside Trail could be just for you; a 140 mile (225 km) bikepacking route across the Grampian Mountains from Aberdeenshire into the Cairngorms National Park and back again, following the course of the River Dee. It’s an area much admired by Queen Victoria over 150 years ago and home to Balmoral Estate, hence dubbed ‘Royal Deeside’. If it’s good enough for royalty, good enough for you, surely?

The route is circular, both starting and finishing in the town of Banchory in the east, not far from Aberdeen. It follows along the south of the Dee to Ballater and Braemar towns before looping north on the second, more remote leg, passing through Mar Lodge estate and back through Ballater for the second time before heading back to the Dee again once more in Banchory.

Here we present the Deeside Trail in five stages. You may wish to take these as a stage per day, or adjust according to your ambition or fitness level. Ideally you’ll need a good level of fitness to attempt the route as there are some tough climbs, and a few technical parts on the route. Be prepared that there might be some pushing!

You’ll also need to be aware that some of these trails are relatively remote, so be comfortable with emergency procedures and basic first aid. You can find ticks in this area so make sure you check yourself and your friends regularly and take a tick pull with you. Towns that have shops for resupply include Banchory, Ballater, Braemar, Tarland and Lumphanan.

You’ll find accommodation in these villages and towns too, although it’s very wise to book ahead to avoid disappointment. It is legal to wild camp in this part of Scotland, but just make sure you’re being respectful and follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code (read more here outdooraccess-scotland.scot/practical-guide-all/camping). There are also a number of bothies on the route.

The best time of year to tackle the Deeside Trail is undoubtedly late spring to early summer, once the ground has dried out a little, yet before the onset of midge season. It’s not recommended for the winter season due to boggy conditions under tyre and potential severe weather.

Travel to the start of the Deeside Trail in Banchory is slightly less accessible than other nearby bikepacking trails, as there’s no train station at the start/finish. The closest station is on the coastline at Stonehaven (16.4 miles or 26.4 km by road) or direct from Aberdeen city is a little further (18.3 miles or 29.4 km by road). As it’s a circular route, you could travel by car and leave it in Banchory for a few days while you complete the ride, as you’ll finish where you started here at the bridge over the Dee. For more information on visiting Banchory, visit visitbanchory.com/the-location/how-to-get-here.

Fancy giving it a go? Find out more at deesidetrail.com/route

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The Deeside Trail

139 mi

13,225 ft

13,225 ft

Last updated: November 17, 2021

Tours & Highlights

  • Difficult
    06:10
    36.9 mi
    6.0 mph
    4,675 ft
    4,200 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Begin the circular Deeside Trail in Banchory, leaving the bridge over the Dee heading west as you start the loop clockwise along the southern edge of the trail. You’ll be climbing gently straight away, with three big climbs on this first 40 mile (59.4 km) day and a few smaller ones in between.

    

    Climb

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Intermediate
    03:38
    23.9 mi
    6.6 mph
    2,250 ft
    1,825 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The second stage on the Deeside Trail is shorter at 28 miles (38.4 km), with one gradual climb and descent on the route linking the villages of Ballater and Braemar. It’s a wonderfully royal day too, passing into the Balmoral Estate in the Cairngorms National Park.

    

    Start by leaving Ballater heading south

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Difficult
    05:04
    36.4 mi
    7.2 mph
    2,175 ft
    2,625 ft
    Expert mountain bike ride. Very good fitness required. Advanced riding skills necessary.

    Stage three is a challenging one, with a greater distance of 36.4 miles (58.6 km), so make sure you’re prepared for today! You’ll be returning once again to Ballater at the end of the ride, but it’s time to go high and remote into the Mar Lodge Estate National Nature Reserve and along the River Gairn

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Intermediate
    03:29
    21.6 mi
    6.2 mph
    2,525 ft
    2,225 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The penultimate stage is the shortest at 21.6 miles (34.7 km) and fairly easy and flat until the end when it climbs up to the summit of Pressendye. You’ll leave the Cairngorms National Park behind, heading east now, yet still in the Grampian Mountains area of the Highlands.

    

    Start with the Ballater

    by Katherine Moore

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  • Intermediate
    03:45
    20.7 mi
    5.5 mph
    2,200 ft
    2,775 ft
    Intermediate mountain bike ride. Good fitness required. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This is the final stage of the Deeside Trail; but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s an easy one! You’ll have 24 miles (38.5km) to cover by bike today, which will bring you back to your starting point in Banchory. There are a few peaks on the way; Craiglich, Blelack Hill, Sundayswells Hill, Craigenet

    by Katherine Moore

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    5
  • Distance
    140 mi
  • Duration
    22:05 h
  • Elevation
    13,800 ft

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The Grampians in full glory — Bikepacking the Deeside Trail

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