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This is my 4th challenge and on my previous three I have finished at Stonehaven, St Cyrus and Lunan Bay. I have got it into my head that I want to finish north of Aberdeen this year (I've got my eye on Newburgh) but I want to know how many people I will come across doing this. For me the great joy of doing the Challenge has been the social side of it. Last year I walked from Carrbridge to Tomintoul and then completed the two spurs of the Speyside Way by walking into Aberlour, Dufftown and then dropping down to Ballater. In the five days I did this I met only two Challengers and got very down (think feeling down and not falling over down). I know I like the solitude of walking but this was quite ridiculous!
So, if I do go for a finish north of Aberdeen, how much time will I spend alone? Do many people make it that far north or am I better off finishing somewhere between Arbroath and Aberdeen if I want the social side of it.
Quite a few people seem to use the Deeside way which you could follow and then either walk the coast from Aberdee to Newburgh (it’s beach the whole way) or take the Buchan Formartine way from Dyce to Pitmedden or Ellon. After that you would end up road walking for while.
I would probably take the beach option as I think there would be more chance of bumping into people on the Deeside way and the beach is pretty busy from aberdeen to Balmedie and then it get quieter.
As Scott says, there is a fantastic beach all the way from Aberdeen to Newburgh and also the other side of the Ythan around Forvie. As well as Newburgh, Balmedie or Forvie would also make excellent end points but short of completing your West-East part of the crossing at Aberdeen and then heading north, you are faced with road walking through a lot of farmland. Google Street View will give you a good idea of what is involved. The 'wild country' stops at a line roughly between Dinnet and Lumsden north of the Dee. The further north you go the further the uplands are from the sea. There are a multitude of suitable end points on the coast north of the Ythan, apart from Forvie, there are also places like Colliston, The Bullers of Buchan, Old Slain, Cruden Bay (Dracula's Slain Castle) etc. Depending on the direction you approach from the Formantine way could help avoid some road walking, like most of the Deeside way, it is old railway.
In short, if you like quiet single track roads weaving through the countryside there are endless options with a lot of good end points, but probably not a lot of fellow challengers travelling the same way at the same time as you.
Thanks for the suggestions about walking up the Aberdeenshire coast, I hadn't really thought of doing that. I have been pretty much fixated with the idea of walking directly there over land but each route involves lots of road walking and I suspect lots of time left on my own. I've pushed my route through to Braemar and I'm trying to work out the next steps from there.
I once finished at Slains Castle. I left Ballater on Monday morning and the next Challenger I met was after I stepped off the train in Montrose on Thursday afternoon. Very few people venture north of the Dee.
I've ventured north of Aberdeen on many occasions and always enjoyed the experience. Yes, there can be a lot of road walking, though it's surprising how many paths or tracks you can find if you're diligent. There are lots of fine little hills on the way and a few forgotten corners. The traverse of Bennachie from west to east is a minor classic and not too demanding. Previous posters are quite correct though to point out that this isn't popular Challenge territory, the Moray coastline a minor exception. That isn't a huge drawback for a well known curmudgeon and misanthrope like me but if the social aspect of the event is the most important for you, you might do well to reconsider your plans.
If you decide to finish North of Aberdeen, let me know and I can probably give you a lift to the train station as I live in Cruden Bay.
Thanks for the advice so far and thanks for the offer Scottk. I've planned to Braemar so far going via Faindouran bothy and Glen Avon but after that I'm still thinking. After this year I may well give Tafside a miss as I found it a bit to busy and instead stay north. I shall let you know what I plan!
Paul, if you finish on the beach at Newburgh you'll have lots of seals for company! And there is an excellent farm cafe at Westfield, NJ 986242, a couple of miles back from the sea where you can refuel before or after reaching the coast.
I certainly agree with Kirsten about the Barn https://www.thebarnfoveran.co.uk/ but the grid ref is NJ 968242
Well I've done it, I'm finishing at Newburgh on the Thursday lunchtime with a 9 mile walk up the coast from Aberdeen. It took a while to put together but I enjoy the social side of things so I'm going via Lochallater, Clova Hotel and Tarfside before making my way up to Banchory and across to Aberdeen.
I've been reading about the seal beach at Newburgh and it looks fantastic!
Check the tide times as the Aberdeenend can be more difficult during high tide although there is a path along the dunes above the beach.
Same at Balmedie. You have a couple of creeks to get over which is much easier at low tide.
For a lot of the route you can go through the dunes except the bit owned by a certain well known US businessman.
If you do have to go through the dunes, note a useful footbridge at NJ 97386 16731 which allows you to get over the creek that normally exits onto the beach around NJ 976173 (the exact position changes depending on winter storms and erosion). The creek is easily crossed at low tide when it fans out across the beach but presents a deep channel with a very steep sand dune on the other side if you are confined to the area above the high water mark. If that is likely to be the case you are better off diverting in advance and using the bridge I mention above and take the good path through the nature reserve at the back of the dunes between NJ 972167 and NJ 978187 before heading back towards the beach, which isn't owned by Trump. The dune terrain is certainly worth experiencing at some point at least. There is a footbridge at NJ 97816 17884 which allows you to cross the second creek at Bamedie if the tide makes crossing difficult.
If you are on the beach south of Newburgh, check out all the WW2 antitank defences, one of the concrete "teeth" is different to the others.
Thanks for the advice Brian. I have been looking at google satellite view and Bing maps as well to try and get an idea of what the area looks like and it would seem that I would be best walking 200-300 yards inland rather than trying to follow the exact coast or walking along the beach. This also means walking to the west of trumps golf course following field boundaries which I think may be wise given the circumstances. That far inland you get to walk on a firmer base rather than sand dune which can take ages to walk across. I'm currently doing the SWCP so have been finding this out the hard way!