Banchory Circuit: Crathes Castle, Drumshillock Woods, Brathens Moss and The Dee
This is a cross-country loop around Banchory. I have started the description at the western gate of Crathes Castle because there is parking just across the road in the Tesco Carpark but this circular route is accessible from anywhere in Banchory. From the west lodge, head up the drive then take the marked paths to the left that climbs by a winding path and a short, really sharp climb to the north west corner of the Ley Woods and a main road.
Cross the road on to a farm track and follow this anti-clockwise around a farmhouse, and further on to another road. There are a number of routes to cross Drumshillock Woods from here. I recommend a smaller path, 200m up the road to the right. Follow this narrow single track along the edge of woods, then across to another road.
From here the route contours along the southern edge of the Loch of Leys, Follow the well walked and twisty, boggy path, with some steps until it meets a farm track. The loch, now a large reed bed, surrounds a Crannog. The original, natural loch was drained in the 1850s. A crannog is an ancient, man-made island built as a refuge for communities and food stores. For 165 years, from 1323-1488, this was residence of the Burnett Family, the heirs to Crathie Castle.
The route continues west (right on the track) to cross the Raemoir Road. Carefully head towards the town and then cross the road in to Upper Lochton. Keep right, until the track goes in to Corsee Woods. Again there are a number of good single track trails through the woods, so take your choice of route north-westwards through the woods until you reach the dismantled railway line.
The trails on this route are rough, rooty and with some awkward boulders across them. Simply cycling across them will not be as effective as using your body weight to maintain momentum, what known as pumping, In the pumping technique you anticipate the hazard and use your body weight to lift each wheel over it, and drive your bike forwards.
Turn right on to the railway track and take a breather on the flat surface before a stretch of technical climbing. If you would like to remain on the railway line, just continue to the top and re-join the route at the road. After 100m of more open scrub land, take a left up a steep bank to follow a stone wall through dense pine forest. This eventually reaches a small road, by a couple of houses. Take a single track path behind the house and garden on your right. This takes a steep track down in to Brathens Moss. (Beware forestry work underway at time of writing. If work is still on going continue along the road, right at the t-junction to pick up the route). At the bottom of the single track take the large forest road until in re-joins a lane. Turn sharp left, and climb the hill to a turning to your right. Take the turning and when this road takes a right angle turn, turn left on to a farm track. Follow the track behind the farm buildings, and straight on down through the Inchmarlo Estate, taking to care to keep to the road to protect those in the retirement village.
At the main road, cross to the bus shelter and go on to the end of the hedge. A track runs down on to the river and this is the start of the long riverside-leg back in to Banchory and the finish, At the house, take the track back towards the main road but cross the field on your right at a low gate onto the Banchory Golf Course. Again respect the golf club users and stick to the rules posted. If you would like a more challenging route, drop down on to the riverside path. This is boulder strewn, rolling and with drops in to the river so best left until a swim has lesser consequences than just now. From the Bridge follow the Deeside Way, though the Banchory Lodge Hotel, back to the start point or to the Ride Cafe for tea and cake.
Route: 18km with 150m of elevation gain. Rough, boggy and rocky terrain suitable for hardtail mountain bikes and cross riders.
Strava Profile: https://www.strava.com/routes/2767420262554460554