Mearns 50+ group: Ballater to Cambus o’ May

The walk gave the group a chance to test out their waterproofs
The walk gave the group a chance to test out their waterproofs

The weather was fine when we left home on Tuesday, July 8, but the forecast was not good. Just as we arrived at Ballater, it started to rain.

However that gave us all the chance to don our waterproofs.

The Walking Group stop and take in the Cambus Bridge

The Walking Group stop and take in the Cambus Bridge

Leaving Ballater by the bridge over the Dee we turned left on the south Deeside road, the B976. After about half a mile, we left the road, took a path on the left through a marked gate, and entered some woodland. We had some good views of the river at this point. As we went along, the path changed from Land Rover track to good surface path, to narrow grassy footpath and was gently undulating. We also had to cross a burn but there were stepping stones and the water was very shallow.

As we approached the white bridge at Cambus o’ May, we had our lunch break: some of us on one side of the river and some on the other.

The suspension bridge was built in 1905 to replace a ferry that took passengers across the Dee.

For safety reasons, it had to be rebuilt in 1988, but was done to exactly the same design as the original.

The group spotted some cattle near Tullich Kirk

The group spotted some cattle near Tullich Kirk

Once across the bridge, we turned left and followed the route of the old railway line. This was a good path which is no doubt well used. By this time the rain had stopped and the sun began to shine, making the second part of our walk so much more enjoyable.

At one point we passed a modern-looking building on our left. This was the Cambus o’ May Cheese Company which makes hand-made cheese. Even from a distance, we could see people at work inside.

Along the way, there are one or two information posts, called “History with Boots on”. We did pass one on the other side of the river, but there were more on this side. One indicated an obelisk called “The Needle” on top of a tree-covered hill, but we could see no sign of the monument; however, further along, when we looked back, it was clearly visible. It was built in memory of William Farquharson, one of the men credited with founding Ballater.

Another information post was near Tullich Kirk. Before Ballater was built, Tullich was the most important village in the area. The boundary wall at the church is round, like the one we saw at Logie on a previous walk; the idea is that there are no corners where the devil might hide.

We did not investigate the Kirkyard although it looks as if it might be quite interesting; we were more taken up with the unusual tags on the cattle in the nearby field. The tags were fixed to the necks of the beasts and looked almost like necklaces! Even the farmer in our midst could only hazard a guess as to why they were like that.

We had been walking parallel to the A93, but eventually we came to a point where we had to cross it, then our route took us away from the road and finally into the middle of Ballater, finishing up – you’ve guessed? - at the old station.

Because the afternoon had been fine and warm, the sweetie shop there did a roaring trade in ice-cream! What better way to finish off a walk!

Distance covered was seven-and-a-half to eight miles. The group that did the shorter walk would have done about half that, as they walked from the Cambus o’ May bridge back to Ballater. There were lots of wild flowers on this second part of the route: vetch, speedwell, clover, etc and lovely dog-roses.

As a postscript, there was an old sign along the way. It was mainly information about Lochnagar, which we could see in the distance, but included a quote from a poem by J.C. Milne. I found it particularly apt, as referendum fever hots up.

“Fecht for Britain? Hoot awa’

For Bonnie Scotland? Imph, man, na’

For Lochnagar? Wi clook an’ claw!”

The next walk will be on Tuesday, July 22, when we will travel to Camperdown Park, Dundee. As usual, the minibus will leave the Burgh Buildings in Laurencekirk at 10am.


Photographs by Stewart Craig