The three of us met at Hazlehead Park for a leisurely coffee before deciding what this week’s adventure was to be.
The chosen destination was Footdee (Fittie) which is diagonally east across the city from Hazlehead.
In order to maximise off-road time, the chosen route was a loop north to Bucksburn, thence to Persely Bridge before picking up the Donside path all the way to Bridge of Don. From there it would be an easy ride along the Beach Esplanade.
Off we set on a warm morning, with rain clouds threatening from the south. Initially we headed for the golf club then followed the well-trodden path towards Aberdeen Crematorium, turning off to take a path down to Skene Road. Crossing this, we headed north then east past Fernhill farm, avoiding the delights of the garden centre.
There was a choice of paths to take us past Sheddocksley and eventually we hit tarmac again at Heathryburn Primary School where we turned left for a long downhill stretch on Howes Road to Bucksburn.
We had 250 metres mixing it with traffic on Auchmill Road before picking up a pavement cycle path at Chalmer’s Bakery. Further on we managed to get off-road on to a path parallel to Auchmill Road taking us back on to the main road at Evan’s Cycles.
At the Haudagain we turned down towards Persley Bridge to join the path along the north bank of the River Don. We stopped to admire the Walled Garden, a hidden gem. The walled gardens were reclaimed from the world famous – but unfortunately now demolished – Crombie Mills Estate. It was acquired and restored by Aberdeen City Council in 1997 as part of the Scottish Trade Union Congress in commemoration of Workers’ Memorial Day.
Crossing the bridge, we joined the riverside path. There are several paper mill lades on this part of the river, showing how important this industry was in the 19th and 20th Centuries. Just west of Grandholme Village we came across the Mother Earth statue. The sculpture was created by Andy Scott and his assistant at the time, George Potter, and took around six months to complete, being installed on site in 2005.
Continuing east, we crossed the Diamond Bridge to pick up the path on the south bank of the river. Shortly after we came across the Donside Hydro – Aberdeen’s community power station, driven by the UK’s widest Archimedes screw. Since it started operating in September 2016 it has produced more than 1 million kilowatt hours of pollution-free energy from the River Don, which is sold to the national grid.
The path continued on to Donside Village, between the river and Tillydrone. Somewhat incongruously we passed a shop, Donside Stores, where we could have had a cold drink or ice cream had we wished. This was the site of the old Gordon Mill, which is evidenced by the “Papermill” theme to some of the street names.
A section of boardwalk then led us towards Seaton Park. We skirted the park and followed the path to Brig o’ Balgownie, always worth a stop for the view, before crossing the main road at the Bridge of Don crossing. We then headed for the Beach Esplanade, passing the bird hide of the Donside Nature Reserve on the way. Lesser known, and near to the bird hide, is the Omega Stone, the final of the Aberdeen March Stones marking the boundary of the ancient Freedom Lands.
There was a fresh southerly wind blowing, which hadn’t affected us until we turned south at the Windows To The Sea sculpture, created by Lourdes Cue, of the Scottish Sculpture Workshop at Lumsden and donated to the City by Mobil in 1984. The ebikes proved their worth against the wind and by the time we passed the Beach Ballroom we were ready for some sustenance. It had to be the Inversnecky, an Aberdeen fixture, allegedly founded in 1908. We had a light lunch there before pedalling the short distance to our destination, Fittie.
- Route: Hazlehead to Footdee
- Distance: 12 miles
- Time: 2 hours (3 hours with stops)
- Difficulty: Easy