We went for an amazing walk and picnic today at the Finzean watermills. They’re quite tricky to find because the road doesn’t appear to have a name (it’s referred to as an access road for the Forest of Birse) and there’s no obvious postcode for the mills, so print and follow the directions on this PDF before you leave home. It’s well worth the journey and only 45 minutes from Aberdeen by car.
There are three water mills there: a sawmill, turning mill, and bucket mill. The sawmill dates from the 1820s and was used extensively to cut timber. It’s still in use today and apparently supplied the oak flooring in the main chamber around the presiding officer’s chair in the Scottish parliament at Holyrood.
This is the inside of the sawmill.
The turning mill dates from the 1830s and is still owned by the same family who built it. David Duncan is the fourth generation of his family to work in the mill and it produces timber products which you can buy from the Birse Community Trust website. They sell spurtles, tattie mashers, rolling pins, and kitchen roll holders.
The bucket mill was built in the 1850s and produces timber buckets made from staves of local scots pine timber. Apparently they sometimes sell these buckets but I can’t see where or how to get one. I want one! They look wonderful.
The walk starts at a small carpark opposite the sawmill.
We walked about 600m down the same access road we drove in on and back in the same direction we came before taking a left up a small road just after a house with conifer hedging. The house on the right had geese in their yard.
The road continues for a little while before turning left onto a gorgeous forest path.
We stopped and had lunch in a clearing and the kids played zombies in the woods.
Eventually the path rejoins the access road but before heading back to the main sawmill you can take a right turn across a wooden bridge and follow the stream up to the bucket mill.
Here’s the wheel from the bucket mill.
The wheels were not turning when we were there because there’s some kind of divertion that directs the water into the burn and bypasses the wheel when it’s not being used.
The walk is about 3.3 miles. There are no toilets but the Finzean Farm Shop and Café is only about 10 minutes away by car. The walk is very easy with no steep hills and the paths are all very good aside from a bit by the stream leading up to the bucket mill which is quite boggy.
The forested paths are stunning and very quiet. We only saw one other group walking a dog, otherwise we had it all to ourselves. The drive on the south side of the River Dee leading into Finzean is very beautiful with views through the valley towards Clachnaben.
Finzean is pronounced Fingean with the g pronounced the same as in thing. Apparently there was a letter in Scots that made an ng sound and as English has no corresponding letter they used z.