Cycling in Aberdeenshire
1 July 2021
There have been many challenges for leisure and recreation throughout the pandemic. The circumstances of lockdown and then travel restrictions has led to cycling bucking the trend by experiencing a boom – initially as form of daily exercise when roads were almost empty and then as way to explore off the beaten track when finding new places to visit had to focus closer to home.
Aberdeenshire is wonderful for cycling. One reason for that is the area’s natural beauty, with the Cairngorms, the coast and beautiful river valleys. The other reason is the area’s heritage as one of Scotland’s agricultural heartlands – farmland tends to be populated by rural communities and scattered villages that are connected by a vast network of minor roads. Roads that today carry little traffic and are ideal for cycling.
RtN 153 started as an idea to offer those joining the bike renaissance a helping hand in lockdown by sharing a handful of routes that are great for cycling away from traffic. The annual Ride the North was born out of piecing together routes between towns that avoided the busier ‘A roads’. That handful of routes became a network of minor roads that linked most towns and villages across the North East with their neighbours using roads that could be recommended for leisurely cycling.
The scope of the plan was to create something that was temporary and would reflect the circumstances of a summer that looked set to be centred upon staycation tourism – a network of cycle routes that could be used as a challenge to tick them of, but also could be used by the casual cyclist who. A total of 158 routes were researched, created, published and given temporary way-finding signs like the one below. All this was put in place from 1 May to 30 September – 153 days – a true summer of cycling for the North East.
Of course Aberdeenshire has some destinations that are well established favourites for visitors – Royal Deeside is up there with the best UK locations for cycling and the very challenging roads to the ski stations at Glenshee and The Lecht might be a frightening prospect for some, but are a real attraction for enthusiasts. However, the real strength of the area for cycling lies below the UK’s highest roads.
In most locations, the terrain is rolling and scenic - you don’t have to cycle too far between villages with shops or cafes. Whether this be cycling from Ellon to Strichen via Aden Country Park, from Turriff to Banff along the beautiful River Deveron or from Stonehaven to Inverbervie via Dunnottar Castle there are thousands of miles of near empty roads through beautiful scenery.
RtN 153 offers a points based challenge – every route has allocated points from 1 to 10. You can take part over the whole summer or opt in for a 2, 4 or 7 day versions. For the competitive the challenge has a leaderboard on the website. For the less competitive the blue signs lead you to some wonderful independent cafes – coffee and cake is the part of cycling that everyone can get behind.
This September, many of the world’s elite cyclists will experience some of this for themselves. The Tour of Britain will be the biggest cycling event to have come to the North East and its visit puts our area more firmly on the cycling map.
Everyone can enjoy cycling and Aberdeenshire certainly has something for everyone.