Glen Tanar, Deeside, Aberdeenshire
This is a circular walk within the grounds of the Glen Tanar Estate on Royal Deeside. With no real climbs, the walk takes you past fine Scots pines growing through a carpet of heather and bracken. These trees are rare remnants of the old Caldonian pine forest which once covered the whole area. The route is waymarked with a circular sign containing two pine cones. The Glen Tanar Estate is located about a mile south on the B976 close to the village of Aboyne in Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire.
The Glen Tanar Estate was bought in 1905 by George Coats, great grandson of the founder of the fine thread manufacturer, J&P Coats, from the Manchester MP and merchant banker, Sir William Cunliffe Brooks. The current owners, Michael and Claire Bruce, have lived in the Glen since 1986 and are the fourth generation of the Coats family to own and care for the Estate.
To start this walk park at the car park about a mile-and-a-half down the single track road from the Estate’s entrance gate. On leaving the car park follow the road back following the sign for the visitor centre then cross over the impressive stone foot bridge. Once on the other side of the bridge you can take a left for the visitor centre or right to begin the walk by the Water of Tanar. Here the pathway follows the edge of the water - the track will break left to cross a meadow before reaching the pretty St Lesmo’s Chapel (ignore a turning on the right before it).
The chapel was once the heart of a community which declined at the start of the 19th century when passing trade from drovers began to dwindle. It was built by Sir William Cunliffe Brooks and was consecrated on 15th November 1871. The chapel is built from granite blocks with the mortar between the stones filled with small pebbles - a technique known as cherry-caulking. A small graveyard to the south is the burial ground for the Lairds of Glen Tanar, including Sir William Cunliffe Brooks.
Once past the chapel the track crosses a cattle grid and forks; go right to leave farmland behind and enter pinewoods. The track climbs into the trees and this section is part of an old an old drovers' road used for taking cattle, probably for the nearest big cattle market in Laurencekirk - it's thought some may have been walking this path since the Bronze age. This road was used in the 19th century by itinerant agricultural workers who came from the North East to work the harvest in the Lothians. Women were the preferred labour source for some time and large groups of women, numbering 30-50, would descend from the Highland and live communally in bothies while they worked.
As you continue up hill after about half a mile further on go right at a marker post towards Knockie Viewpoint with superb views over the pinewoods, up Glen Tanar and on to the high hills beyond. The view southwest from here shows where the glen forks into the Waters of Allachy and Tanar and Mount Keen can be seen above the trees. There are two paths here. One takes you down to the Water of Tanar to continue this walk, (the other takes you higher all the way to a hill called Baudy Meg). Continue down to follow the water again. From here the path is relatively flat passing pine trees and close to the clear waters of the river. It's a beautiful spot where you can stop by the river to take in the views.
About a mile and a half up the glen go right to cross a stone bridge (the river here is actually the Water of Allachy which runs into the Water of Tanar).
Half a mile further on cross the Water of Tanar via another stone bridge. Go right on the other side to begin the walk back towards the main estate buildings with the river on your right hand side. Follow the track down to a fork, where you go right.
The road goes past this pretty boating lochan and boat house for the estate and reaches a junction, where you go right to re-cross the Water of Tanar by a stone bridge. Here you can choose to walk through the estate buildings – estate office, rental cottages and the equestrian centre arriving back at the car park by following the main estate road. Or go left on the other side of the bridge crossing the river again to follow the track into more open countryside. Follows the river, passing a forded section all the way to the stone bridge near the visitor centre to return to the car park.
There are a number of random carved stones by the side of the track throughout Glen Tanar - sayings or signs carved into rocks. Robert Smith in his guide book 25 Walks in Deeside explains that they were done by the eccentric 19th century laird, William Cunliffe Brooks. A number of which have been identified and recorded by the ‘Walking in the North East of Scotland’ blog