This route provides a mix of walking environments in Strathdon, with mature conifer woodland in the Bunzeach Forest complemented by open perspectives from the Upper Don valley floor and surrounding hillsides. The walk takes two diversions to raised viewpoints, near the beginning, and close to the end, with each providing wonderful and differing outlooks.
Duration: 3.5 hours.
Duration: 3.5 hours.
Transport/Parking: There is a very limited Stagecoach #219 bus service to Bellabeg from Alford. Check timetables. Park in the small car-park at the walk start/end point (near the entrance to the access road to Lost farm).
Length: 10 km / 6.2 mi
Height Gain: 221 meter Height Loss: 221 meter.
Max Height: 384 meter. Min Height: 272 meter.
Surface: Moderate. Pavement/road, good paths, rough forest access roads. Some fallen trees to be walked over or around. A shorter version of this walk is suitable for off-road mobility scooters if the main section in Bunzeach Forest is excluded, i.e. return from Waypoint 6 directly to Waypoint 13, then proceed from there.
Child Friendly: Yes, if children are used to walks of this distance and overall ascent.
Dog Friendly: Yes, but keep dogs on lead on public roads and near farm animals.
Refreshments: There is an excellent Bean to Cup Tchibo hot drinks machine in the Bellabeg Spar shop. The Steading Bar is open for refreshments Fri p.m. and weekends. The Goodbrand and Ross Tearoom in Corgarff is about 7 miles away on the A944. Otherwise, options in Alford or Ballater.
This is a varied walk, incorporating visits to two wonderful viewpoints, around and about the small village of Bellabeg in the scenic but remote area of Upper Donside known as Strathdon, where hill farming and forestry are the main local industries. The early part of the route includes a significant section in mature conifer woodland in the Bunzeach Forest, but there are fine open views to appreciate throughout much of the walk. Bellabeg, once called Invernochty, sits at the confluence of the Water of Nochty, running down from the Ladder Hills, and the River Don, flowing from its source in the mountainous Ben Avon moorlands. De-population has been a feature of Strathdon for the last 150 years, with the term “Land of the Lost” playing on the name of Lost Farm, near Bellabeg. Not long after leaving the village, a diversion onto a bluff overlooking Bellabeg provides not only a wonderful view over the settlement and Glen Nochty but also the opportunity to participate in the Cairngorms National Park “Scenic Photo-Posts” Project which aims to record changing landscapes over the seasons at a number of locations in the Park. After crossing the River Don on a footbridge near Waterside Farm, the route ascends to a vantage point above the river valley where the ruined remains of Colquhonnie Castle stand, between the former Colquhonnie Hotel and the famous Lonach Hall. The castle is a ruined 16thC tower house associated with the 1st Lord Elphinstone, and the Forbes family of Towie. Each year, in late August, the Lonach Highlanders gather here in highland dress to celebrate their neighbourly cohesion and the history of their community. Their annual “march” through the parish is famously punctuated with drams of whisky at friendly stops along the way! Towards the end of our more sober walk there is a diversion to a bench and viewpoint high above the village where there are great views of the Don Valley below you, and a panorama of surrounding hills and countryside. At the end of the walk we pass an information board for the nearby Doune of Invernochty, the massive earthwork “motte and bailey” remains of a 12thC Norman fortress.
Photos from walk
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