Unfortunately the weather yesterday (15th) and today deteriorated into heavy rain and high winds. The conditions at the moment are tough going, as the snow on the mountains is not consistent, it’s hard and compact in some places and soft in others, which after a time walking becomes a bit tedious and extremely tiring. Add the extra elements of sleet and blizzards and humour failure begins to set in!
We decided instead to catch up on a few jobs around the ‘van yesterday. We managed to dry most of our gear following our “soaking” on Monday. However, our boots and rucksacks were still quite damp so we kept them in the drying room at the caravan site for another day. Later in the afternoon we walked into Braemar village, which comprises quite a few shops, cafés and hotels. The Braemar caravan site (called Invercauld) is located just outside of the village centre. It has excellent facilities and as it is only 30 minutes from the Glenshee ski resort and is surrounded by many other mountains it is a busy site with skiers and walkers.
Today we headed out for a drive to Banchory, about 30 miles from Braemar. We took the A93, towards Aberdeen, which runs alongside the River Dee. This is the road we travelled on Monday to our starting point for Mount Keene. The road passes Balmoral Castle and the adjacent Balmoral forest. [Last year we cycled through the forest and it was very tranquil and well maintained. There were houses on the estate, in which I assume some estate staff resided, that were the exact same light “Balmoral” grey colour as the Castle, which was very in keeping with the surrounding area.] We stopped at the little village of Aboyne for a look around. For such a small place we saw many huge and fabulous looking houses! A few miles outside of Aboyne we passed through Kincardine O’Neil, which is the oldest village in Deeside.
On arrival at Banchory we parked up and then went to investigate this small town. The first stop was “The Chatterbox” tearoom for a coffee and scone! I can personally recommend this one, well worth a visit. Banchory has such a variety of different shops including a fabulous cook shop – if you like kitchen gadgets. Having moseyed around for a while we then left Banchory and headed to the nearby Falls of Feugh. Following the recent spell of heavy rain the River Feugh was in full spate and it was a very impressive sight. An information board nearby explained that throughout spring and summer Atlantic salmon may be seen leaping up the Falls as they return to spawn in the river of their birth: this after one or more seasons feeding at sea. In order to conserve salmon stocks the Dee Salmon Fishing Improvement Association was formed and today the Association owns or leases virtually all the netting rights between Aberdeen and Banchory thus enabling The Association to control the extent of netting in order to regulate (minimise?) the obstruction to the salmon as they swim to their spawning grounds. The pedestrian bridge over the Falls would provide a fantastic viewing platform for the salmon leaping. [Later, whilst talking to the Wardens at the Invercauld site they said they had seen and been mesmerized by this spectacle.]
En route back to Braemar we joined the B976, which was even more scenic. As we neared Balmoral Castle we took a back road to the Royal Lochnagar Distillery (Crathie, Ballater, AB35 5TB). The parent company Diageo owns the Royal Lochnagar distillery and has other brands under its company umbrella including, for example, Talisker, Dalwhinnie, Cragganmore, Lagavulin and Oban. We were too late for tour round the distillery but it is certainly something we (even me who does not drink whisky!) would enjoy doing on a wet horrible day!