The landscape on our doorstep is one of the best in the world. The North East of Scotland has everything. Cities and coastline, innovative design and medieval castles. There are towns alive with the thrum of people and vast expanses of openness without another living soul in sight.
With travel abroad and around the UK still uncertain, many people are looking closer to home for their holiday this year. Fulfil your need for change and adventure on a road trip. The North East 250 is set to become a timeless classic like America’s Route 66 and Australia’s Great Ocean Road.
Shorter and more manageable than the North Coast 500 – another amazing touring route – the North East 250 can be done in three days so is perfect if you can only get away for a long weekend.
Day 1 – Glenshee to Dyce (65 Miles)
There are three main points to join the North East 250: Ballindalloch, Aberdeen Airport and, probably the most convenient from Dundee, Glenshee Ski Centre. There is something incredibly refreshing about an alpine setting in summer. Before you set off, make time for a chairlift ride to Cairnwell’s summit for breathtaking views. The chairlift also works as an uplift service for mountain bikers, if you have your bike with you.
From Glenshee, drive north to Braemar for lunch or follow the River Dee to Ballater where you can tour the Royal Lochnagar Distillery before having a picnic beside Loch Muick where you’re likely to see red deer, golden eagles and maybe even grouse.
The route continues east beside the Dee to Aboyne and Crathes before you get to Banchory. This great town packs a whole lot of Scotland into its borders. Drum and Crathes castles are both nearby, there’s the famous Bridge of Feugh where salmon can be seen leaping up the river to spawn, and you can see the sea in Aberdeen, 20 miles away, from the top of Scolty Tower.
The last leg of your first day of driving will be to Aberdeen. The city has a great choice of campsites, bunkhouses, B&Bs and hotels to suit every budget.
Day 2 – Dyce to Ballindalloch (111 miles)
Day 2 is all about the coastal views. Settle in for the drive as the route takes you to Milden, Collieston, Cruden Bay, Longhaven and Peterhead. From here, you’ll start following the Moray Firth coast – a heavenly slice of coast that stretches from Peterhead to John o’ Groats. While not as dramatic as the west coast of Scotland, the Moray Firth has pretty fishing villages with safe harbours, vast beaches of sand and shingle, and the odd pod of dolphins.
If you’re interested in learning about marine life and the ecosystem of the Moray Firth then visit the Macduff Marine Aquarium. Otherwise, keep going until you reach Cullen to partake in the local delicacy, Cullen Skink – a soup made with smoked North Sea haddock and potato.
The afternoon’s drive is just over 30 miles to Ballindalloch. If it’s not too late in the day then take a detour to Ballindalloch Castle, the home of the Macpherson-Grant family since 1546 and also where you’ll find the Ballindalloch Distillery.
Day 3: Ballindalloch to Spittal of Glenshee (60 miles)
Day three brings you back to the magnificence of the Cairngorm National Park, this time taking you to Glenlivet and Tomintoul (yep, more distilleries) and through amazing Highlands scenery. If you’ve brought your bike, you’ll find mountain bike trails galore. Anglers can fish on the Rivers Livet and Avon, while golfers…well, it’s Scotland! Golfers are catered for everywhere.
If you have an extra day, we recommend you spend it in Aberdeen. It’s a fantastic city with attractions that include the Gordon Highlanders Museum, the Japanese-inspired Johnston Gardens, whisky and gin distilleries, quirky independent shops and all of the amenities you would expect in a major city. As you leave, stop on Old Aberdeen at the Brig o’ Balgownie that crosses the Black Neuk and is reputed to have been built by Robert the Bruce.
Another day can be spent extending the route home by going through Grantown-on-Spey and Aviemore and around the west of Ben Macdui, taking in the scenery around Blair Atholl and Pitlochry on the way home. It’s an extra 125 miles but worth it if you have never explored that part of the Cairngorms National Park.
Book hotels or B&Bs to stay in along the way or embrace the driving experience in a campervan. If you’re not lucky enough to already have a campervan parked on your driveway, then be sure to read our previous article, ‘Getaway in a Campervan‘, to get the lowdown on renting or buying one.
For an alternative Scottish road trip route, a little further from home, there is also the North Cost 500. To find out more, check out our article ‘Get Your Kicks on Scotland’s Route 66‘.
For more infomation about the North East 250 route, please visit www.northeast250.com.