“That is some of the best kilometres I’ve ever cycled, anywhere”.
The ride had taken us from Duthie Park in Aberdeen along the Deeside Way and into Ballater – 70km on a cycle path for much of the way. In my mind the day was to be a means to the end; to get us deep into Deeside on bikes, with the least amount of faffing, before the “real” cycling began.
I hadn’t expected our first day of cycling a coast to coast route in Scotland to be so, well, spectacular. But that is exactly what the riders on the trip were now enthusing about.
The route itself is simple; it follows paths and tracks and a disused railway line towards Ballater, hugging the River Dee where possible and occasionally jumping onto road sections.
It has the creative tag-line “From A2B2C the Dee “, but “Just Brilliant” would have been just as fitting a label for a ride that is perhaps one of the great cycle routes in the UK.
My client, who had just made the proclamation of his new favourite cycle route, would whole-heartedly agree.
At dinner that night we discussed the route and all the group felt similar. Perhaps it was the weather – we were having one of those typical, hot May days that get school kids excited about the summer to come (with usual disappointment as June comes along with a wet start to the school holidays).
One of our group mentioned how friendly everyone was. They remarked that every single person they happened upon en-route gave them a cheery “hello” – even the group of teenagers in Duthie Park had bucked their expectations of “the youth of today” by smiling and greeting them cheerily as they cycled past.
However what I think really clinched the deal was the scenery.
Deeside is, quite simply put, beautiful. From the clear waters of the Dee to the peaceful, Caledonian pine clad forests that rise gently up from the river’s edge towards snow-capped peaks, there really isn’t anywhere else like it in the UK.
The beauty of the cycle path is that it is there to enjoy in a manner befitting its tranquil surroundings. Despite running parallel to main roads in many of its sections when riding on its gravel tracks you could imagine you were the only person for miles around.
It’s funny when a bike ride sneaks up on you like that – something you weren’t expecting, but which then delivers in bucket loads.
I have written many times about how we can take for granted that which is on our doorstep. The Deeside Way is a route I was vaguely aware of but had no real aspirations to ride – it was after all just a cycle path, what could be exciting about that? How wrong I was.
That evening in my hotel room in Ballater I phoned my family at home and told them of this bike route I had found and how we had to ride it this year. There was nothing gnarly about the trail, there were no big climbs, or fast descents – on paper, really it was just a path from Aberdeen to Ballater, but what a path!
In the truest sense, it is a route to ride your bike on – there is no challenge, just the joy of having a great day on a bicycle and surely that is why we cycle in the first place.
Join the Blazing Saddles Strava Club at: www.strava.com/clubs/BlazingSaddlesWeekendCourier
Where to ride: The Deeside Way Duthie Park Aberdeen to Ballater
Find out more: http://www.deesideway.org/
Distance: 70km/ 41 miles
Starting in Duthie Park in the centre of Aberdeen, this route quickly takes you out in rural Aberdeenshire and Deeside. Following the National Cycle Network path 195 for much of its length the route hugs the River Dee and heads towards Ballater. There are a couple of sections where it joins the road, most notably at Kincardine O’Neill, but these are short and limited and don’t detract from a delightful route.