Start location: Duthie Park, Aberdeen (NJ 939 046)
End location: Banchory (NO 705 956)
Geographical area: Grampian
Path Type: Railway Track
Path distance: 25.5km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians
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The former trackbed of the Deeside Railway between Aberdeen and Banchory is largely followed by the Deeside Way, a popular cycle route. As such, the signposted route provides an easy way to explore the dismantled railway.
Start from the northeast entrance to Duthie Park, on Polmuir Road. Access to the Walkway is gained by entering the car park to the right of the Park entrance and turning sharp right. The route of the old railway is easy to follow, but look out for interpretation panels at some of the old stations. At West Cults Road the route descends to road level and up again. Near to Milltimber Brae at NJ854011 the route diverges slightly left to cross the B979 and then returns to the line of the railway. From here the route converges with the River Dee and runs above it to Culter Station, which retains the old station sign. The route continues along the tarmaced Station Road East for about 100m then turns left onto Station Road South. In 30m a track on the right leads to the top of the high railway embankment heading west. In 50m it crosses the Culter Burn and from here there are good views over the countryside. In a further 250m, there are steps down to Burnside Road.
The path continues straight on the line of the old railway and is no longer tarmac but a good walking surface. There are fine views out to the surrounding farmland from the embankment until the path merges into a slight cutting then onto the flat. At NO828999 the path turns sharp right to leave the line of the railway and after 100m turns sharp left onto a minor road. This minor road is none other than a remnant of the Old Deeside Road and for the next 4km or so the Deeside Way mostly follows its line rather than that of the old railway. At the first road junction, the Deeside Way follows the minor road left over the line of the old railway and continues along the road to NO808988, where a well-surfaced and double-fenced path leads straight ahead (all junctions and turnings on the Deeside Way are very clearly marked with a variety of signs). This path soon leads across the tree-lined drive to the old manse below Drumoak and after passing the manse garden wall turns left towards the Dee. Curving right through some bracken clad woodland it runs past the local football field and a stand of conifers to turn north beside the road from Park Bridge to Drumoak.
Opposite Drumoak Caravans, the Deeside Way crosses the road and follows the pavement to turn west along the main Deeside road (A93). After about 60m it drops down back onto the line of the old Deeside Railway. Apart from a couple of very minor diversions round houses the Deeside Way continues straight along the old railway almost to Crathes. Most of this section is only 10-20m from the main road and despite passing through a narrow strip of trees - with fine rural views to the south - there is considerable road noise.
Nearer to Crathes the old railway veers slightly south away from the road, but the Deeside Way soon has to leave it, turning sharp right back to the North Deeside Road (A93) which it follows for a short distance to the A957 (Slug Road). The Way follows this latter road's pavement south until reaching a marker post whereupon it crosses the A957 to head along a gravelled road past some houses - eventually leading past the buildings on the old Crathes station among the trees on the right. The track runs past sand and gravel excavation and the local football pitch to pass over a humpback bridge (including the old railway bridge there are 4 further bridges crossing this river slightly upstream from this one)
Passing through the Milton of Crathes car park the Deeside Way runs on along a well-surfaced straight alongside the re-laid Deeside Railway. At the limit of current development, the Deeside Way returns to the old track bed with a steep bank on the north side effectively screening it from the main road. There are good views of the Dee just below to the south. The old railway is well tree-lined until the sawmill on the outskirts of Banchory. The sewage works come after the sawmill and soon the way is a tarred path through a parkland area next the river on the outskirts of Banchory. The tarred path wends through well-spaced houses and veers right then left to go under a railway bridge back onto the former trackbed for a short distance to reach Belfield Park in Banchory.
OS Landranger 38 (Aberdeen & surrounding area)
Following the north bank of the River Dee, the Deeside Railway opened on 8th September 1853 and ran from Aberdeen to Banchory. The route was extended to Aboyne in 1859 by the Deeside Extension Railway and to Ballater by the Aboyne and Braemar Railway in 1866. These railway companies later became part of the Great North of Scotland Railway; the branch line closed on 28th February 1966. The remains of many platforms and even occasional station buildings can still be seen along the route.
The railway was used by the British Royal Family en route to their Scottish estate Balmoral, and so it became known as the Royal Deeside Line. Despite this sobriquet, although it had been the original intention of the Aboyne and Braemar Railway to extend to the latter, a letter from the Queen's Private Solicitor shows that their plans were vetoed; the railway was thus stalled at Ballater, although a tramway utilised the planned line as far as Bridge of Gairn. In 1904, the Great North of Scotland Railway Company introduced a feeder bus service between Braemar and Ballater.
The Royal Deeside Railway Preservation Society have relaid the track between Milton of Crathes and Banchory. Trains now run between April and September, along with occasional services during the rest of the year. The Deeside Way long distance path which had here used the trackbed of the disused railway has been relaid alongside this section.
For those who wish to explore the later extensions to the Deeside Railway, although the Deeside Way avoids the Deeside Extension route via Torphins and Lumphanan, it largely picks up the old line again between Aboyne and Ballater. As there are plans to extend the route to Braemar, perhaps the Deeside Way will achieve a reach that the railway was never permitted.