A little longer than our normal limit of 10 km, the overall ascent of 180 m is barely noticeable, making for an essentially gentle stroll in the scenic Dee Valley near Ballater. The diversion to Knock Castle is rewarded by great views and an interesting old story.
Duration: 3.5 hours.
Duration: 3.5 hours.
Transport/Parking: Fairly frequent Stagecoach bus services along Deeside, from Aberdeen. Check timetables. There is a free car-park at Church Square in Ballater.
Length: 10.730 km / 6.71 mi
Height Gain: 183 meter.
Height Loss: 183 meter.
Max Height: 260 meter.
Min Height: 200 meter.
Surface: Moderate. Mostly good, well maintained paths and track. Some walking on tarred roads.
Child Friendly: Yes, if children are used to walks of this distance and overall ascent.
Dog Friendly: Yes, on lead on public roads and near farm animals. You may well encounter livestock in the field near Knock Castle.
Refreshments: Various options in Ballater.
This is a very scenic walk in the upper Dee Valley, taking in the wonderful countryside views on the west side of the village of Ballater. The route follows the established “Seven Bridges” walk from the village, with a diversion to visit the impressive remains of Knock Castle. The 7 bridges crossed are: (1) Ballater (“Royal” or “Queen’s”) Bridge over the Dee; (2) Brackley Burn Bridge; (3) River Muick Bridge; (4) Polhollick Bridge over the Dee; (5) River Gairn footbridge; (6) footbridge over an unnamed burn, opposite “Polvier”, the late Queen Mother’s fishing lodge on the Dee; (7) an intended railway bridge on Bridge Street in Ballater (the line was never built). At an early point on the route we visit the Mackenzie Monument, overlooking Ballater. The monument commemorates Sir Allan Russell MacKenzie, who was the 2nd Baronet of Glen Muick and died in 1906. The information board there provides background to his family’s purchase of the Muick Estate and their relationship with the royal presence at nearby Balmoral. The diversion to Knock Castle is well worth the extra effort. The ruin of Knock Castle is a peaceful and very scenic spot overlooking the upper Dee Valley. However, the 4-storey tower house wasn’t always a tranquil place. It is said that one day, around the turn of the 16th C, Alexander Gordon, the 3rd Laird of Knock, sent his seven sons out to cut peat for the winter. Apparently, the brothers may have strayed onto the land of their Forbes neighbours, with whom they had a blood feud. A violent battle resulted in all the brothers being killed and their severed heads were impaled on their peat spades. Upon hearing the news, Alexander Gordon collapsed at the top of the Castle’s spiral stair and tumbled to his death! Another particularly scenic highlight on our route is the white painted iron B-listed Polhollick Suspension Footbridge, which was built in 1892 and extensively damaged during Storm Frank in 2015 but is now repaired and re-opened.