Cycling Holiday in Aberdeenshire: September 2022



This was our 20th cycling holiday. It would have been our 22nd, were it not for the pandemic.


After a two years break from cycle-touring we had to relearn how to pack panniers for a 1-week holiday – but keep the weight below 10kg!


We didn’t cycle directly from home, we first drove to Aboyne where we would spend a night and, in the morning, leave our car there and begin the cycling holiday.


A circuitous drive from home was necessary to allow the delivery of a bottle of wine – more on that later!

After spending a night at The Boat Inn, Aboyne, we set off on our cycling holiday. Day-1, from Aboyne to Blackburn: 28-miles with 2300ft of ascent, grade mild-C(63W), around 3-hours 30-minutes of cycling.



Day-1: Aboyne to Blackburn


We always (try to) find remote and quiet roads for our cycling holidays.


Our first day took us past several historic sites: The Macbeth Stone (left) and Midmar Stone Circle (right) are two, and below the Peel of Lumphanan




We spent the night at Lays Hotel, Blackburn.


The following day, Day-2, we cycled from Blackburn to Cruden Bay: 34-miles with 1850ft of ascent, grade mild-C(52W), around 3-hours 45-minutes of cycling.



Day-2: Blackburn to Cruden Bay


First half of the day the cycling was interesting but not photo opportunistic. Our halfway café was ‘Coffee Lab’ in the small town of Ellon – and a very nice coffee stop it was: homemade Battenberg cake!


One interesting feature of the day was the Memorial Bridge over the Ythan Estuary. Built in 1935 as a vehicular bridge, it was closed to all but walkers and cyclists in 1988. It has a couple of plaques commemorating local casualties of the two world wars.



We arrived at Cruden Bay, where we were spending the night at the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel. It was a lovely afternoon therefore we had a stroll through the seaside village. The little harbour still had WW2 tank defence bollards. I guess they’ll be around for a long time yet.

The following day the weather was fabulous!


Day-3 was 37-miles with 2030ft of ascent, grade average-C(52W), around 4-hours of cycling from Cruden Bay to Rosehearty.



Day-3: Cruden Bay to Rosehearty


It was a cloudless deep-blue sky the whole day; a comfortable cycling temperature with little wind.


We looked at Berrybrae Stone Circle, above. Enough of the stones were still extant giving a sense of mystery. And, below, the Memsie Round Cairn, the only one of a groupe of three that survived being stripped of its stone; a Neolithic burial mound.


Finally we arrive at Rosehearty: the day had been the hardest we’d cycled in a long while. We were now on the north coast of Aberdeenshire, and that evening we were able to look due-west along the coast – our route for the next day.


The following day was not quite as good weather-wise. We left the Davron Hotel, where we had spent the night, and headed west along the coast.


Our route for Day-4: 26-miles with 2545ft of ascent, grade mild-C(69W), around 3 and a half hours cycling to Turriff.



Day-4: Rosehearty to Turriff



One of the highlights of the holiday was (finally) visiting Pennan: famous for being the location where much of the movie ‘Local Hero’ was filmed. Pennan is only accessible via a 25% hill. Julie was not happy cycling down the hill, let alone up!

Pennan is a tiny and beautiful village on the Aberdeenshire coast, and was the perfect location for the fishing village ‘Ferness’ in the movie ‘Local Hero’.


Not much has changed with Pennan in the 40-years since the movie was filmed. The telephone box was a mock-up for the movie; the true village telephone (which is still a telephone, not a defibrillator or a library) is located behind the small white cottage immediately behind Julie. If there is one telephone box in Scotland that has guaranteed regular use, then Pennan’s surely it. Don’t know what I mean? Then you’ll have to see the movie!


One-third of a mile uphill, 20% average, 25%+ at one point: Julie opted out of the endeavour.

A national ‘Challenge Climb’: I managed the ascent from shore to upper car parking in 160-seconds, averaging 232-Watts and peaking at 284-Watts, 37100-Joules – not bad for a 65-year-old!


Halfway up the hill there is a parking area, presumably for vehicles that can’t be taken down the narrow twisting road into the village proper, makes a nice place for a photo.


As if the hill out of Pennan was not enough, 1-mile further on there is another steep hill; only 20% this time!

Julie, clearly showing her wise decision to not cycle out of Pennan, soundly beat me up the hill.


Knackered, we finally arrive at the Fife Arms Hotel, Turriff.


We were happily surprised by the quality of the Fife Arms, we will certainly be back!


Day-5 we headed from Turriff to Insch: 28-miles with 2700ft of ascent, grade average-C(69W), around 3 and ¾ hours of cycling.



Day-5: Turriff to Insch


As with a lot of the country, Storm Arwen at the end of November 2021 had flattened huge numbers of trees. Although we had seen many fallen trees, it was this cycling day where our route was affected by the storm. The road was closed to motor vehicles, because fallen trees were restricting the road width. But we needed to get through in order to see the Picardy Stone; a Pictish carved stone.


We arrived at Leslie Castle Hotel, a renovated 15th Century castle now ran as a boutique hotel. The only problem with Leslie Castle is that it doesn’t have a drinks licence, hence the ‘out of our way’ drive to Aboyne: we needed to drop-off a bottle of wine to accompany our evening meal!




Very cute place to stay, we very much recommend it!


Day-6, our last cycling day, 35-miles with 2600ft of ascent, grade hard-C(62W), around 4 and a half hours cycling time, from Insch back to Aboyne.



Day-6: Insch to Aboyne


I had to change the route due to the Tour of Britain announcing its first day to be exactly where I had planned an ‘easy’ last day for the holiday. The easy day turned into very much the hardest day of the holiday – and it rained (and rained) for most of the day!



Although a pain to have had to change our route, we did, of course, get to see the cyclists ‘aquaplane’ past on their first day of The Tour.




Rain or no rain, it’s time to complete our 188-miles with 14000ft of ascent, tour of Aberdeenshire.


The End: back at Aboyne, the Boat Inn and our car.





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