North East Way Tour
North East Way Tour (aka NEWT) is a 327km self-supported bike packing ride exploring the best gravel routes the north east of Scotland has to offer... and its completely free to take part.
#NEWT takes place on the last weekend in April every year.
To enter head over to our Events page to register your details.
Summary Route Information
327km / 203 miles
3,150m / 10,334ft elevation (0m min, 560m max)
Approximately 2 days riding
Plenty wild camping locations
Plenty places to stock up
Take care descending Carn Daimh and at the main road of Ballinaloch
Gravel bike with 45mm tyres is ideal
Detailed Route Information
The scenery variance within such a small geographical distance that Scotland offers is something that is the envy of most other countries; experiencing this immersive flow of changing surroundings is on many peoples bucket list . Couple this with the right to roam and multiple trails, paths and accessible routes and there are endless possibilities of linking together some epic adventures which over a multi day trip rewards the adventurer with a lifetime of memories. Perhaps at times too many options, leading to many evenings perusing maps and plotting routes, procrastinating over the options on offer, sometimes just exploring is required, sometimes following a route offered by others is the key to unlocking what is out there. .
Taking inspiration from the HT550, Deeside trail and the Capital trail amongst others, there was a bit of a geographical gap over on the North East of the country, which (from a biased perspective) potentially links the most variance of landscapes. Utilising the best of what is on offer, the North East Way Tour tries to link the highlights over a trip that should take on average a couple of days on varied terrain and surroundings. Being self-supported, the ethos should be familiar with other events and the general right to roam guidance, at simplest, take only pictures, leave only tyre tracks.
Starting in the accessible outskirts of Aberdeen, the route initially skims along the well paved Deeside way out to Banchory, steadily climbing as it follows the Dee up the valley. Banchory marks the first change in the onset of adventure as you cross over the river Dee and pop through the pedestrian gate at the impressive gatehouse to allow access along the south edge of the Dee. The path steadily becomes more rugged until it spits you out on the chundery forest road through Scolty Forest. Re-joining the Deeside way speeds up the pace and with the exception of a wee detour through Bell woods just before Aboyne, takes you all the way out to Ballater reeling in the Cairngorm mountains through the native scots pine and birch forests that line the pathway.
Taking the opportunity to refuel in Ballater before heading into the wilderness, the route takes one last skim along the edge of the river Dee before cutting up across the main road and up a singletrack road to the east of the river Gairn. After the road ends, the track quickly becomes soft and rutted, but the effort is worth it for the views from the old smiddy at Ardoch before bumping back down to cross the river at a convenient suspension bridge and joining the main road to the impressive stone Gairnsheil Bridge. A little more westward on the tarmac reveals the turn off to head up the Gairn valley along some nice land rover tracks to Loch Bulig where the trail changes to more of a mountain bike single-track along the edge of the Loch. Don’t worry if you end up pushing some of this section as it allows more time to look around and soak in the wilderness reflected in the loch and boggy ponds before tip toing across a couple of rivers on the handy stepping stones. A couple more cycle-able river crossings lead to the stately Inchrory house and spectacular driveway through the imposing steep sides of the Avon river valley up to the sanctuary of Tomintoul.
A short spin on the road now leads onto the Speyside way spur and signals the start of the next chapter of the route. A long climb up a grassy path and onto a “Scottish gravel” path to the top of Carn Daimh, brushing the shoulders of the Glanlivet MTB trails and the highest point of the route giving a spectacular 360 degree farewell of the Cairngorms National park. Remembering to look back down at the trail, some caution should be taken on the initial descent off the summit before the newly resurfaced path goads you to speed on down to the Glenlivet Distillery. Here the route deviates from the official Speyside Way to allow pedals to turn, skirting round the edge of Hill of Deskie, taking time to appreciated the imposing Ben Rinnes before re-joining the marked Way down to Ballindalloch. Take care as you join the main road for a kilometre or so being cautious to be visible to the many lorries and tourists using the road at high speed.
Taking the old railway bridge over the Spey the trail flows along the recently upgraded Speyside Way hugging the curves of the River Spey and sneaking past several distilleries that are worth a smell in passing if not a stop for a taste. Arriving into Aberlour, a quick detour up to the main road may be required to refuel, perhaps at a café stop. At Craigelachie, the path looses its single use existance and heads through the Forest roads of Arndilly down a naggery path to Boat o Brig and onto the back roads that lead to Fochabers. Picking up the pathway along the flattening river estuary, Spey Bay marks a further change to the scenery on offer.
Keeping the sea view present for the majority of the time, the route uses a mixture of paths and roads following cycle route 1, at times giving a spectacular vantage point over the cliffs and beaches below. At Cullen the route moves slightly in land taking the back roads through Portsoy and over to Banff, taking the costal route round the town for scenic value, but the high street is there if stocks need replenishing. Heading south, the route follows the river Deveron away from the costal air and to the stunning Bridge of Alvah.
Using the characterful backroads of route 1, Turriff pops into view with its unique mixture of Sandstone and Granite buildings within the flatter rolling hills of the area. Skimming along the tarmac to Maud the final “Way” is reached in the form of the Buchan and Formartine Way taking the route of the old railway line south towards Aberdeen. At this stage of the ride, the head may be down and all efforts on keeping the pedals turning, particularly in the man-made valleys of the railway cuttings that obscure the view, but a glance up on the more open sections still rewards with another distinct landscape.
Arriving in Dyce signals a change of pace to city life, but taking the paths on the verges of built up area has its own pleasures, although sharing the paths with walkers and the like means requires some more awareness. Skirting the edges of Aberdeen, the route threads between residential and countryside until the Deeside way is reached again signalling the journey to be complete.
#NEWT is your best way to adventure the north east, what are you waiting for?