If you travelled the route anti-clockwise, you are now on the homeward stretch. For the most part, the road sticks closely to the River Dee as it wends its way to Aberdeen and into the North Sea.
The area of Deeside is rightly famous for being home to several fine castles. The best-known of these is surely Balmoral, being the Scottish summer residence of the British royal family. In this palace, designed by Prince Albert and Aberdeen architect William Smith, one can glimpse the opulence of royal life in the Ballroom with its collection of fine art, survey the impressive grounds and even enjoy a luxury land rover wildlife safari. If you’ve ever seen footage of the royals in Scotland, whether real or fictional, this is where it was filmed.
Situated fifteen miles west of Aberdeen, Crathes Castle is not only an example of ornate 16th-century architecture, but also a repository of centuries of Scottish culture, told mostly through the portraits and possessions of the Burnett family, who occupied the castle for over 350 years. For the nature lover, the walled garden contains a rich variety of native and exotic species, and the grounds have six waymarked trails on which one may encounter herons, roe deer, red squirrels, buzzards and woodpeckers.
Deeside Activity Park is a mere two minutes’ drive off the A93 but may seem like another world, one where there is always a range of exciting outdoor pursuits to explore. These include kart racing, clay shooting, quad biking, rifle target shooting and 4×4 off-road driving. The site also has cottage accommodation, a farm shop and a restaurant. If you’re driving the route with children, they might want you to stop here!
One of the best ways to see the beautiful scenery of Deeside is to let someone else do the driving – specifically, the operators of the steam and diesel trains of Royal Deeside Railway. This mile-long stretch of track (currently under expansion) follows the course of the River Dee in the burgh of Banchory and affords visitors the opportunity to experience the rustic setting in style. Wheelchair access is possible by prior arrangement.
When this journey ends, the final hour of your North East 250 experience is underway as you head back towards Aberdeen, following the Dee again.