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Travel Scotland,
Ballater & Banchory.

Quiet Flow The Dee and Don

Pinewood forests open out to the wild Grampian hills, thick with heather, where stone circles and Pictish carvings take the traveler back to ancient times. Winding roads pass a wealth of fairy-tale castles, surrounded by magnificent gardens and way marked walks. Fishermen line the banks of the Dee and the Don, attractive rivers which thread their way through richly wooded valleys.

Gordon stronghold castle, north of village, dates from 13th century. Oldest surviving part is west wing, rebuilt 1671, with two towers and keep. Wooded valley of Glen Tanar, south-west, has fine walks over hills to Glen Mark.

Network of walks and castle trails surround this market town by the River Don. Green and red engines of Alford Valley narrow-gauge railway carry passengers from reconstructed Victorian station through lush forest. Half-hour trips to Haughton Country Park and on to Murray Park. Vehicles of every description at Grampian Transport Museum, from 19th-century horseless carriages to vintage racing cars. Most cherished exhibit is Craigievar Express; cross between steam engine and three-wheeled cart, built 1895 by local postman.

A few houses dominated by ruins of St Mary's Church, once one of Scotland's finest medieval parish churches. Carved doorway dates from 13th century.

Rolling wooded hills enclose bustling holiday town beneath mighty summit of Lochnagar; founded as 18th-century spa town. Well-trodden path climbs 700ft to Craigendarroch -- 'The Hill of Oaks' -- with dramatic views of Dee valley. Nearby 18th-century Birkhall is Queen Mother's residence.

Little town rising in a series of terraced streets. View of leaping salmon from footbridge at junc-lion of rivers Dee and Feugh. Several easy forest walks and well-marked paths lead up 1,000ft Scolty hill.

Barmekin of Echt
Ramparts and stone walls enclose extensive hill-fort, a complex resulting from several phases of Iron Age defence-building.

Several peaks are gathered together here, including spectacular 1,698ft summit of Mither Tap; granite for weathered into shattered cliff faces and bare boulders. Four pathways of varying lengths
start from forest fringe, winding up through lower slopes of pine, spruce and larch to summit ridge, becoming heather tracks with fine views of surrounding area. South, forestry and wildlife displays in Donview Visitor Centre.

Braeloine Interpretive Centre
Glen Tanar's natural history inspires lively display in educational centre, set among picnic areas and way marked walks.

Bridge of Feugh
Narrow 18th-century bridge, with niches for pedestrians, crosses gorge lined with limes, sycamores and beeches. Upstream, the river turns into a torrent, pouring over crags and pools.

Cairn o'Mount
Ancient pass through eastern Grampians, with compelling views from 1070ft summit over heathery hills, pine forests, and black mountains beyond. Macbeth and other historic leaders led their armies this way in Scotland's war-torn past.

Castle Fraser
Crow-stepped gables and turrets adorn grand Baronial tower house, built 1575. Stairway from smoking room leads to eerie Green Room, said to be haunted by ghost of a murdered princess. Round tower commands views of wooded parkland with walled formal garden.

Craigievar Castle
Classic example of a Scottish Baronial castle, seven storeys high and virtually unaltered, with fairy-tale turrets, crow-stepped gables, conical roofs, pink walls and magnificent moulded plaster-work ceilings. Built 1610-26 for Forbes family. Door of musicians' gallery hears arms and initials of first owner; prosperous merchant William Forbes.

Crathes Castle
Pepper-pot towers and square turrets crown grand 16th-century castle, lived in by a single family -- the Burnetts -- for more than 350 years. Room of Nine Nobles named after ceiling decorations showing great heroes of the past, including Julius Caesar and King Arthur. Formal 18th-century gardens bordered by yew hedges lead to woodland trails with views of the Dee, including one for disabled visitors.

Culsh Earth House
Well-preserved Iron Age earth house with roofing slabs intact, over large chamber and entrance.

Dinnet Oakwood
Wood warblers, spotted fly-catcher, jays and great spotted woodpeckers haunt 33 acre oak wood, where rare plants and insects thrive.

Finzean Bucket Mill
Impressive water wheel drives handsome wood-turning mill, built 19th century. Information centre with educational displays.

Glenbuchat Castle
Bold castle ruins on hill approached by twisting paths, once trodden by smugglers carrying tax-free whisky from illicit stills. View from outside only. Z-shaped with round and square turrets, steep gables and tall chimney stacks. Stone inscription above entrance states that if was
built 1590 to mark marriage of John Gordon of Cairnburrow to Helen Carnegie.

Glen Esk
Landscape of cliffs, cascades and weird rock formations. Dramatic pathway joins public road follow-ing winding river, ending at Loch Lee. Local folk museum illustrates daily life in glen from about 1800.

Glen of Drumtochty
Mostly Forestry Commission country, with fairy-tale Chapel of St Palladius near Drumtochty Castle. Short walk starts from Mearns Forest car park. Road continues through pretty gorge to Slack Burn and Clafterin' Brig.

Kildrummy Castle
Impressive 13th-century ruin. Surviving towers, hall and chapel recall a colourful history. Besieged
1404 and dismantled after 1715 Jacobite Rising. Fine garden sheltered by canopy of beeches.

Knock Castle
Steep track leads to late 16th-century stronghold; bare keep is all that remains. Once owned by Gordon family, gruesomely murdered in 16th century.

Leith Hall
White-painted 17th-century mansion, typically Scottish Baronial, with 'witch's hat' turrets. Set in series of attractive gardens, each with own theme, divided by hedges and walls. Nature trails through woodlands. Flock of Soay sheep in grounds.

Loanhead Stone Circle
On broad shelf near top of a gentle hill, stone circle with huge horizontal boulder, creates air of Celtic mystery in fields bordering small village of Daviot.

Maiden Stone
Fine example of a Pictish symbol stone near Chapel of Garioch. This beautiful red-granite pillar, loft high, is carved with men, fish and monsters.

Village and parish on the Don. Noted for fine ancient church building, incorporating Norman chancel arch and west doorway from former Augustinian priory, dated around 1140.

Muir of Dinnet
Nature reserve with striking landscape, formed by ice and water towards end of the Ice Ages. Lochs are important feeding ground for otters; watch for them on north shore of Loch Kinord near Celtic cross. Foxes, wildcats and red deer visit occasionally. Birds include willow warblers, redpolls, great tits and woodcocks.

Peel Ring of Lumphanan
Tradition has it that Macbeth made his last stand south of Lumphanan village, at Peel Bog, now only a moated medieval earthwork. North on Perkhill, Macbeth's Cairn is said to be where he was killed by Macduff.

Grey village set amid dramatic scenery. Formidable yet beautiful, 15th-century Druminnor Castle is surrounded by barley fields.

River and hill country surrounds this village. Riverside walks along the Don, Scotland's finest trout-ing stream, fringed by delicate birches and gnarled oaks.

Tap o'Noth
Landmark hill and stunning view-point, reached by steep tracks through heather and grasslands. The 1847ft summit is hollow, scattered with remains of an Iron Age fort, enclosing oval basin. Magni-ficent views of Blackwater and Glenfiddich deer forests.

Tomnaverie Stone Circle
Bold remains of recumbent stone p" circle lie near village of Aboyne, dating around 1800-1600 BC.

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