(125) Forest of Birse Circuit (Aberdeenshire)

Route Summary
This is an easy upland walk in an enchanting valley surrounded by high hills. There are good views throughout the route, with a fine perspective of Birse Castle. However, this walk won’t suit everyone due to the fords to be crossed, and the consequent possible wet feet factor!

Duration: 2.5 hours.

 

Route Overview
Duration: 2.5 hours.
Transport/Parking: No public transport nearby. Small parking area at walk start-point.
Length: 6.280 km / 3.93 mi
Height Gain: 125 meter.
Height Loss: 125 meter.
Max Height: 299 meter.
Min Height: 214 meter.
Surface: Mostly on good land-rover tracks, paths and farm access roads. A 1 km section on minor tarred road at end. 3 fords to cross. [see Description, below]
Difficulty: Medium.
Child Friendly: Please consider if the forded water crossings are suitable for your children.
Dog Friendly: Yes, but keep dogs on lead. There are farm animals and ground-nesting birds.
Refreshments: We can recommend the Finzean Farm Shop and Tea Room.

Description
This route makes a gentle ascent onto the heather-clad southern slopes of the Forest of Birse, where there are wonderful views over the little green valley with its tumbling burns*, patchwork of fields, a baronial castle, and a little 19thC church. The return route passes through the valley itself, overlooked on all sides by high moorland, and makes a visit to the tiny old kirk, which is open to the public. There is a relatively long drive-in on a single track road from the Finzean area, giving the valley a remote and special appeal – a sort of Scottish Shangri-la in miniature! In terms of economic activity, only some upland livestock farming survives, with the heather moors above the fields extensively managed for driven grouse shooting. Over 1000 years ago the valley formed part of a Hunting Forest for the Scottish kings, presumably explaining its name today. Now owned by the Dunecht Estate, Birse Castle occupies a prominent position on the northern slopes of the valley. Originally a square tower built in the late 16thC, it has been rebuilt and extended a number of times and is now in a z-plan layout. Over the centuries there have many disputes about land ownership, grazing and hunting rights. In 1999 a ground-breaking agreement was reached in which the ancient rights over the forest held by all the inhabitants of Birse parish were vested in a body known as the Birse Community Trust. For more info about the Forest of Birse, see: https://tinyurl.com/y5jatqnx

*Note: The Forest of Birse forms the main catchment area for the Water of Feugh. There are 3 fords to be crossed on this walk: at the Rough Burn; at the Water of Feugh (Waypoint 4);  and, the Burn of Allanstank (the Feugh is the widest and deepest crossing). Although there are a few stepping stones to assist, some are under the water surface, and some are missing! Using walking poles will help. Be prepared to get your feet wet, especially after significant rainfall. So, please consider carefully if this walk will suit you?

Links:
Photos from walk
Download Route Guide  (PDF with illustrated Waypoints)
Download GPX file  (GPS Exchange Format)
Access Walk on Viewranger
Access Walk on Wikiloc

 

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