A shorter version of this walk is a popular challenge for visitors to Ballater on account of the steepness of the ascent and the fine views over Deeside that are achieved. Although safe, the Pass of Ballater section on this extended version of the walk may not suit everyone.
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 where the walk starts/ends.
Length: 7.630 km / 4.77 mi
Height Gain: 261 meter.
Height Loss: 261 meter.
Max Height: 392 meter.
Min Height: 199 meter.
Surface: Moderate. Mostly on good paths. The Pass of Ballater section between Waypoints 4 and 5 is narrow with steep drops in places. Although safe, it may not suit all walkers. You may avoid this section by making a direct approach to the summit at Waypoint 4. Steep inclines and rocky surfaces in some sections.
Child Friendly: In our view, not suitable for young children. See comments above regarding Pass of Ballater section.
Dog Friendly: Yes, but keep dogs on lead on public roads.
Refreshments: Various options in Ballater.
The short but steep walk to the top of Craigendarroch Hill, overlooking the busy Deeside village of Ballater, is a classic leg-stretcher for locals and visitors alike, rewarded by excellent views of the Dee Valley and hilltops, near and far. This version of the walk makes a more gradual approach, going around the north side of the hill before approaching the summit from the east. All the same, the final section is still tough going! The second half of the route is a total contrast – to compensate for the previous exertions, a largely flat but satisfying stroll along the banks of the River Dee, bordering the scenic parkland golf course. The first section of the walk, after leaving the village, makes an ascent through the ancient oak woodland that gives the hill its name (Craigendarroch means “Hill of the Oaks” in Gaelic). In previous times some of the oaks were coppiced to produce strong, straight stems for purposes like the spokes of cartwheels. As the route progresses, the woodland environment changes to birch trees, and then to pines. Eventually the path winds around to the north side of Craigendarroch Hill, overlooking the Pass of Ballater, and looking across the Pass to the cliffs on the face of Craig an t’Seabhaig which are popular with rock climbers. The path is narrow here, and although quite safe, is slightly vertiginous in places. The chasm between the two hills was created by a glacier slicing through a fault in the rock during the last Ice Age. After a steep final ascent you will arrive at the summit of Craigendarroch where there is a built cairn with a metal top-plate with information on some visible hilltops. Descending a little from the summit there is a much bigger cairn of loose stones, an information board, and a better view to Ballater village and beyond. Returning to the village, a short section of the route then follows the intended line of the planned railway line from Ballater to Braemar, in order to reach the banks of the Dee for the riverside return section. Apparently, Queen Victoria objected to the route of the railway line passing Balmoral Castle, and construction was halted!