Another poor night with my cold, the tannoy burst into life at six to warn us that we’d be in Aberdeen in an hour’s time. Sadly, the lovely cafe where we’d enjoyed a cooked vegetarian breakfast seven years ago was no more so we had to settle for toast and coffee at Costa.
We soon found Sustrans route 195 out of Aberdeen, initially an excellent broad path with a good surface and well patronised by dog walkers and cycling commuters. After about eight miles a detour took it round part of the trackbed which had been built on and then onto a very narrow singletrack with stinging nettles on either side. I knew the route didn’t take the trackbed all the way to Ballater but wasn’t prepared for a long meandering hilly section on a rough track through a forest, hard work on laden bikes. Eventually this ended and we were on a narrow path with a fairly smooth hard earth surface but this deteriorated into muddy rocky singletrack. It was excruciatingly slow, then we were on the broad trackbed again with a reasonable surface which we naively thought would take us the rest of the way. Instead, it became very narrow again with tree roots growing across though recognisably still the course of the old line which closed in 1966.
We were thoroughly fed up of it by now so took the first opportunity to escape to the A93 by wich time it was late afternoon. A couple of miles along the road and we were in Aboyne where a tea room lifted our spirits with cold drinks and some lovely cake. It was a very warm day, peaking at 24 degrees, a shock after Shetland and our water bottles were almost empty, they refilled them for us.
We spotted a parallel B road running along the other side of the river Dee from Aboyne and this took us all the way to Ballater, very little traffic and so much easier and pleasanter than the Deeside Way, the name for route 195. We reached the hostel at 18:00 where we had an ensuite room with a 5ft double bed and a bunk for Rowan. We went straight out to the Co-op for food, only five minutes walk away, and I cooked while Christine had a shower.