Braemar To Aberdeen

Dee, Don, And Spey

ROUTE LENGTH: 63 MILES

By Road

Follow from Braemar the A93 to Balmoral to visit both Crathie and St Monire Kirks. Turn right at Balmoral onto the B976, the lower road, to Ballatar. Turn left onto the A93, driving through Ballater to the Bridge of Gairn. The return and take the B972 (the Pass of Ballater), before turning left onto the A93, passing through Tuillich. Continue along the A93 to Aboyne. From Aboyne, either continue along the A93 to Kincadine O’Neilland then Banchory; or turn right onto Bridge View Street, cross the Dee and turn left onto the B976. After leaving Aboyne, take the second right (shortly after the first) onto an unnamed road. After half a mile, you will encounter Birse Kirk. Follow the road through Birse itself, taking a left turn at the crossroads, and then a right onto the B976 again, through Marywell before turning left at its end onto Old Military Road, then right onto the A93 to Banchory.

From Banchory, travel along the A93 (Station Road). Turn right onto A957, then left onto B9077. Pass through Kirktown of Durris, and continue to Maryculter. Here turn right onto B979, then left at the first crossstreet, followed by a right, to Maryculter Church.

From Maryculter, take the B979/B9077 east, taking a right turn at Kiln Burn to visit Blair Castle. Continue along the B9077, taking a right turn at the sign to Banchory-Devenick. After visiting here, you can return to the B9077 into Aberdeen.

By Cycle

Take the A93, Old Military Road, from Braemar to Balmoral to visit both Crathie and St Monire Kirks. Crathie Church will be on the left after the Tourist Information Centre. Cycle back to this and cross the bridge beside it. Follow this road to Ballatar. From Ballatar ride Braemar Road west a little bit, turning right at Craigendarroch onto the Pass of Ballatar (B972), rejoining the A93 east at Tuillich. Continue to Aboyne.

In Aboyne, turn right onto Bridge View Street, cross the Dee and turn left onto the B976. After leaving Aboyne, take the second right (shortly after the first) onto an unnamed road. After half a mile, you will encounter Birse Kirk. Follow the road through Birse itself, taking a left turn at the crossroads, and then a right onto the B976 again, through Marywell before turning left at its end onto Old Military Road, then right onto the A93 to Banchory. From Banchory, travel along the A93 (Station Road). Turn right onto A957, then left onto B9077. Pass through Kirktown of Durris, and continue to Maryculter. Here turn right onto B979, then left at the first crossstreet, followed by a right, to Maryculter Church. From Maryculter, take the B979/B9077 east, taking a right turn at Kiln Burn to visit Blair Castle. Continue along the B9077, taking a right turn at the sign to Banchory-Devenick. After visiting here,you can return to the B9077 into Aberdeen. Follow signs for St Machar’s.

By Public Transport

From Braemar, take the Stagecoach Bluebird no. 201 at the Post office to Balmoral (14 minutes). The 201 also goes to Ballatar and Banchory. The 201 to Aberdeen will take you from Banchory to Maryculter, and then Aberdeen.

To check times go to Traveline Scotland and click on Plan your Journey on left side of page.

Now that we have acknowledged the source, we can follow the Dee from Braemar to the ‘aber’ or mouth of the river at Aberdeen. This was also the direction taken by St Monire on his quest to reach the people of northeast Scotland. In Braemar itself the very fine St Margaret’s Church, originally Episcopal, is developing as a cultural and pilgrimage centre. The parish church, more recently centred in the village, was originally sited a mile to the east in the Haugh of Dee, where the burial ground and a Farquharson mausoleum still stand, near Braemar Castle.

Balmoral Estate is the next main feature. The present Crathie Kirk is on the left past the Balmoral entrance, but the old church and burial ground of St Monire is to the right on lower ground by the river. Keeping to this lower road you pass on the south side of the river Abergeldie Castle, a former Gordon stronghold, and a mile further on marked by a standing stone the site of an even older Chapel of St Monire. The River Muick joins the Dee from the south and at the confluence there is another old chapel site and burial ground. Glen Muick runs south giving excellent views of Lochnagar or more properly Ben Chiochean – Hill of the Paps, another example of the ancient belief that the land was female and a goddess.

Ballater is the largest town in the mid-Dee valley with modern churches and a bustling tourist centre. To get the feel of the older Pass of Ballater take the main road back west to Bridge of Gairn, where the former chapel of St Kentigern is sited below the bridge close to the confluence of the Gairn and the Dee. Then go east again through the Pass directly to Milton of Tullich where you find the church of St Nathalan. He is the next Deeside saint, who lost faith when his efforts to help the local people came to nothing after their crops failed. He locked his working arm to his side, threw the key into the Dee and went on pilgrimage to Rome. There he met a boy who sold him a fish, and inside the fish was the key, so Nathalan returned home to Tullich where his font still stands, and where he is reputedly buried.

Keeping on the north side of the Dee we reach Aboyne where the local church dedication is to St Machar; Kincardine O’Neill which has a church and hospice for travellers coming over Cairn O Mount; and then Banchory where St Ternan founded the earliest church by the river at the east end of the present town. An attractive alternative is to go to Banchory on the south side of the river by Birse, with its old church and crusader stone, and Marywell. There are Jacobite and Roman Catholic connections here through the Farqhuarson and the Innes families. Back on the north side Kincardine retains a holy well dedicated to an otherwise unknown Irish saint, Erchan.

Travelling from Banchory south of the river takes us through Kirktown of Durris to Maryculter. Here the parish church in the kirkton replaces a Templar Chapel of St Mary which was close to the Dee about a mile further west. Legend says a beautiful Saracen woman followed the Knight Godfrey of Wetherhill whom she had nursed, when he was on crusade and severely wounded. But the Master of the Order had Godfrey executed because of this relationship, and scorned the lady. In consequence, he was struck down at the place by the churchyard called ‘Thunder Hole’. Godfrey and his lady are buried near the Corbie Linn, where their ghosts still walk.

East of Maryculter is Blairs Castle which became a Roman Catholic seminary and latterly museum. The north east has long surviving Roman Catholic and Episcopalian traditions alongside the Presbyterian Kirk of Scotland. Finally on this side of the river we reach Bacnchory- Devenick, where the last of our Deeside saints, St Devenick, is buried. We are now on the outskirts of Aberdeen where the city centre offers a range of fine churches, including the Toun Kirk of St Nicholas, and the more modern Roman Catholic Cathedral in Union Street. This side of Aberdeen is the trading town that grew up above the still bustling port at the mouth of the Dee.

Through old settlement, gentle beauty
And wooded banks alive with colours
Of the changing seasons,
The Dee flows surely to the sea
And we follow the stories and places
Which tell its ancient memories.

Pilgrim Journeys

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