See http://www.topwalks.com/tgoc2012.html Day 12 for map
Distance: 34.5km (Cum 361.5)
Ascent: 500 metres (Cum 9300)
Time taken: 9.9hrs including stops
Weather: t-shirt and shorts, blue skies and light winds
Challengers encountered: Emma in the bunkhouse, Tony near Dinnet.
Others encountered: Bill, Alison, Humphrey and Peter joined us from Aboyne, then Katie came - and went with Humphrey. Jon, Margriet, Ian and Janette (as well as the above) joined us for dinner at the Potarch Hotel.
Flora and Fauna: roe + sitka deer 'everywhere'.
An early start saw us leave the bunkhouse at 7.15am, when only Emma was up. Craigendarroch was lovely in the early morning and the views from the summit down to Deeside were excellent, with Lochnagar glittering in the background. Sue is pictured on the summit looking towards Lochnagar.
The coffee house was open when we got back down, so we breakfasted there, before setting off down the disused railway line that now houses the Deeside Way, towards Aboyne.
The Deeside Railway was a line that travelled from Aberdeen to Ballater as a stretch of the Great North of Scotland Railway. Its tracks have been removed in their entirety and the path opened as a track to the public. However, there are breaks in the route from Aberdeen in places where access has not yet been agreed, and the Royal Deeside Railway Preservation Society are reclaiming part of the line to build a heritage railway from Banchory to Milton of Crathes. The pathway is shared by walkers, cyclists and horse riders alike.
Our route vetter, Alan Hardy, had pointed out that soon after leaving Ballater we would pass the historic site of Tullich, the first church at which spot was founded in the 7th Century AD by St Nathalan, one of the great Scottish saints. He cultivated the land by the church and distributed the produce generously to local people. After his death in 678AD his relics were held at the church until the Reformation in 1560. Tullich was the most important village in the area and in the 13th Century much of the land was owned by the Knights Templars. In the late 18th Century the nearby wells at Pannanich were developed as a Spa and then the new town of Ballater was developed to cater for the large number of visitors. The importance of Tullich rapidly declined and the church fell into disuse after the new church of Glenmuick, which combined the parishes of Tullich, Glen Muick and Glen Gairn, was built in 1798.
Tullich Kirkyard is notable for its circular boundary wall, so built to deny the devil a hiding place, and the stones with Pictish inscriptions (testifying to the great age of this kirkyard). Tullich is commemorated in dance. The Tullich Reel was said to have been created by parishioners waiting for a minister who was very late for a service. The minister finding the congregation dancing was very angry and cursed them!
Thanks for that little burst of history, Alan, it planted the idea of including a little such history in each day's posting, perhaps to the chagrin of some readers...
We inadvertently walked past the church, but we did shortly after that divert from the old railway line to visit the needle monument erected in memory of the founder of Ballater, William Farquharson, laird of Monaltrie, who inherited the land in 1791 from his uncle Francis who had just started to develop the village when he died. William continued to create Ballater. The needle monument is to William, who died at Vevay in Switzerland in 1828. His wife Margaret chose this hillock with its stunning views of Lochnagar, to erect the monument in 1836. It's a shame that his descendants and their unpopular Abergeldie Estate Factor are currently engaged in the blocking of old paths, such as the one up Creag nam Ban, which affected our planned route yesterday.
We had a cuppa at the needle, removed some clothing, then toddled off in lovely summery weather, passing Tony - togged up as if on a winter mountain traverse - before we reached Dinnet. After another cuppa there, we timed our stroll into Aboyne with precision, spotting Bill and Alison alighting from the bus just as we emerged from a sunken pathway.
Aboyne is a quiet village, except in summer, when tourists visit and the number of people increases dramatically. The Highland Games on The Village Green is a notable feature in August, when the population of the village doubles. Aboyne is unusual in having this Green on which events are held, as the village was modelled by one of the first Marquesses of Huntly (inhabitants of Aboyne Castle) on a traditional English village with a green at the centre. Few Scottish towns have such an asset.
We enjoyed lunch in the café of the shop that used to be the Co-op, then wandered outside to meet Peter and Humphrey off the next bus from Banchory.
The Deeside Way between Aboyne and Potarch is not complete, so who better to guide us through the best route than Peter, who has worked tirelessly with local landowners in an effort to secure permissions for a sensible route, and Bill, who had recced an off-road option over free access land.
They had both seen Challengers from the bus window, walking along the busy and dangerous main road. Peter's efforts to secure permissions for Deeside Way access had been foiled to some extent by adverse reactions from landowners to planning refusals for such things as a minor hydro scheme. An alternative, less satisfactory, route for the Way is now in gestation.
Anyway, with the benefit of our expert guides we found a good route (on which Peter, Humphrey and Bill are pictured above) before rejoining the official Deeside Way after passing through 'Kinker' - Kincardine O'Neil and Alison's old house.
Today the Deeside Way was in good form, with its verges lined by bright yellow broom and gorse, backed in many places by avenues of silver birch. Bluebells, pansies and many other flowers added to the colourful scene.
Arriving shortly after 5pm at Potarch, a small hamlet with a fine bridge across the River Dee, we headed straight for the old fishermans' hotel (http://www.potarchhotel.co.uk/) and lounged outside for some time with suitable refreshments.
Katie turned up to take Humphrey (an 11 year old beagle) home for a long sleep; Sue and I enjoyed a refreshing bath; and various above-mentioned stalwart members of Aberdeen's XXL (ex Exel) Hillwalking Club joined us for a tasty dinner and a most enjoyable evening.
It was strange to be at this late stage of a TGO Challenge without a Challenger in sight, but that is the nature of our route this year, and it's great to have the opportunity to catch up with some of our rarely seen friends from Aberdeen.
Alan R - yes, we are very much 'On Holiday', as you suggest.
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