There are two mighty rivers in Aberdeen: the Dee and the Don. Both start some 80-90 miles west in the Grampian Mountains and flow into the sea at Aberdeen. The Dee is quite well known thanks to Queen Victoria and Balmoral Castle which is in the Dee Valley. The whole area is known as Royal Deeside now thanks to her. But The Don is just as picturesque and in many ways more special because it is less developed with fewer people. Today we went out to Strathdon (= Don Valley) for an adventure.
Our destination was the little village of Bellabeg which is about 40 miles west of Aberdeen. There’s a carpark in the village and public toilets which were open and very nice for public toilets.
They were lined with pine panelling, clean, and even had fresh flowers. Someone local clearly takes care of them.
The sign in the carpark informed us that people have lived here for more than 9,000 years initially as hunter-gatherers and now farmers.
We did the Bunzeach (pronounced bun-ee-och) forest walk which starts beside the river, goes past a church, then heads uphill beside the forest.
We stopped for a picnic half-way around, sitting on the cushioned forest floor with lovely views down the valley. Daniel enjoyed his lunch so much that afterwards he said, “I wish there was a way to empty my stomach so I could eat again”. To which we replied that there is a way: it’s called pooing. But he was not satisfied with this answer as he wanted something more immediate.
Part of the Bunzeach trail was blocked because of forestry work but we got a little lost finding the diversion and ended up off the track but right at the top of the hill which had been recently cleared and gave us magnificent views in all directions.
It had rained quite heavily just before we arrived; indeed we were worried we might have to eat our lunch in the car but thankfully it cleared up the minute we pulled into the carpark. However the grass was wet and while we were off the main track our socks and shoes became soaked (except for mine as I was the only one with waterproof shoes). This meant the kids complained the whole way back. Apparently they could feel the water squeezing out of their socks with each foot step. It’s good to make the kids suffer a little as a bit of adversity builds character and strength. That’s what we told them anyway.
We had completely lost the path by this point and scrambled back down the other side of the hill in the hope of joining up with a trail.
We ended up rejoining the main path from a path we discovered was out of bounds. We came out here only to see the “DANGER KEEP OUT” on the other side. The Martins: daring risk-takers.
This wasn’t the only natural hazard.
Our walk continued to the Poldullie Bridge, an 18th century single arch stone bridge which crosses the River Don.
I’m very fond of old stone bridges and this one did not disappoint. It’s quite high over the river at a sort of gorge and set amongst the forest. It’s only accessible on foot.
One of the locals took this photo of us all after pretending to run away with my phone.
Given our experience of getting lost on the hill above Bellabeg we thought it only fitting to take a pic of the famous signpost to Lost in the village. Apparently it gets stolen quite often by souvenir hunters. This sign and the fact Billy Connolly had a magnificent home here for several years – Candacraig House – is its claim to fame. It’s also the location of the annual Lonach Highland Gathering and Games.
Ben read in our guide book that there was a castle motte near the carpark and we looked aimlessly around wondering where it was before realising it was the giant mound right in front of us.
Pictish tribes were the first to shape the mound and then Normans in the 12th century build a fort here.
Bellabeg is more of a hamlet than a village and has one general store and a post office. The general store is a family-run Spar.
We drove home via Kildrummy and just outside Mossat is the best antique shop I’ve ever seen. We’ve been there before but stopped again because it’s such a fascinating place. I wasn’t able to take photos of the inside but it’s so crammed full of stuff you can barely walk in there. Every which way you look is stuffed full of antiques and collectables. I definitely recommend it if you’re in the area.