(149) Braemar-Morrone Birkwood Circuit (Aberdeenshire)

Route Summary
Without too much effort, this walk provides a great opportunity to experience a special natural environment unique to the Scottish Highlands, and some wonderful views of upper Deeside and the Cairngorm Mountains. The route also takes in a visit to the venue for the Braemar Gathering.

Duration: 2.5 hours.

Route Overview
Duration: 2.5 hours.
Transport/Parking: Regular Stagecoach bus service along Deeside to Braemar. Check timetables. Parking at the Mews and Balnellan Road car-parks near to the walk start/end point.
Length: 6.260 km / 3.91 mi
Height Gain: 136 meter.
Height Loss: 136 meter.
Max Height: 451 meter.
Min Height: 341 meter.
Surface: Moderate. After leaving the village, mostly tracks and paths through woodland and moorland. May be muddy in places.
Difficulty: Medium.
Child Friendly: Yes, if children are used to walks of this distance and overall ascent.
Dog Friendly: Yes, keep dogs on lead on public roads.
Refreshments: Options in Braemar.

Description
This very scenic walk from the centre of Braemar gains sufficient height, by a gradual ascent, to provide excellent views down to the village, where the Clunie Water meets the River Dee, and also a wide vista of the Cairngorms. Some of the best views are from the Morrone Viewpoint (our Waypoint 8), where the Deeside Field Club’s View Indicator identifies a large number of peaks you may, on a clear day, be able to see. Much of the route passes through the Morrone Birkwood on the northern slopes of the hill, a Special Area of Conservation, managed by NatureScot. It is the only surviving example in Britain of a sub-alpine downy birch and juniper woodland, largely unchanged since the end of the last Ice Age. Close to the start of the walk, our route goes through the Princess Royal & Duke of Fife Memorial Park, the site of the world-famous Braemar Gathering, a highland games event traditionally attended by the British Royal Family. The “Games”, as they are known locally, are believed to originate from those held by Malcolm III in the 11thC. Today, there is a Highland Games visitor centre in the Park (closed during Covid restrictions), housed in The Duke of Rothesay Highland Games building, an eye-catching new structure built in traditional “pavilion” style. Braemar sits on the eastern side of the Cairngorm National Park, the largest National Park in the UK, with 9 nature reserves, a diverse range of special natural environments, and a vast sub-arctic mountain plateau. Although remote, the Braemar area was a strategically important crossing point on the Elsick Mounth, an ancient track used by Picts and Romans. It was also an important place for the early kings of Scotland, with Kindrochit Castle first established as a wooden defensive structure and royal hunting lodge there in the 11thC. The 14thC remains of the later stone-built castle can be visited in Braemar village centre after the walk.

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

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