THE SHIRE // Balmoral Cairns

4.6.17


View of Royal Deeside from Balmoral Cairns route AberdeenshireI've had the pleasure of taking part in a walking group these last few weeks - a joint venture between the hospital's Occupational Therapy department and the City Council's Healthy Minds initiative (more about them on my post here). Every Wednesday, a gang of us pile into a minibus - hiking boots on and packed lunch at the ready - and head out into the surrounding countryside to trek through forests and up hills, letting fresh air fill our lungs and enjoying the break from both the city and our thoughts. There's something very restorative about a beautiful landscape; something very therapeutic about walking for walking's sake. Doing it with an understanding, like-minded pack of people is proving to be the icing on the cake!

One of our first adventures took us out to explore the Balmoral Cairns - an uphill circular route taking in a series of stone landmarks on Deeside's Balmoral Estate. Commissioned primarily by Queen Victoria in the 1800's, each cairn is dedicated to a member of the royal family, commemorating a significant event in their lives.

The route begins ordinarily at the castle's visitors' car park - though the estate's ranger kindly let us leave our minibus in his driveway, cutting out a bit of a roadside walk that leads to the head of the trail. From there, we passed by the adorable community of staff cottages and turned off onto a track to the right, with the first of the cairns not too long a walk from here.

Balmoral Cairns, Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire

Balmoral Cairns, Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire

Balmoral Cairns, Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire

The route is circuitous and uphill at points, taking in eight different cairns in total, with views over Balmoral Castle (where Prince Charles and Camilla were apparently in residence) and some stunning scenes across Royal Deeside from the higher vantage points.

View of Royal Deeside from Balmoral Cairns route Aberdeenshire

View of Royal Deeside from Balmoral Cairns route Aberdeenshire


Balmoral Cairns, Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire

View of Balmoral Castle Royal Deeside Aberdeenshire from cairns

Balmoral Cairns, Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire


We stopped for lunch in a clearing with spectacular views over a snow-capped Lochnagar, lounging in the sunshine before heading off on the steepest part of the trail to reach the largest in the series of cairns.

View of Lochnagar from Balmoral Cairns route Aberdeenshire

Balmoral Cairns, Royal Deeside, Aberdeenshire


Views over royal deeside Aberdeeshire

Erected "to the beloved memory of Albert the great and good Prince Consort. (..) By his broken hearted widow Victoria R. 21st August 1862," this is not merely a mound of rocks like many of the others, but an enormous, solid-structured pyramid that can be seen from the road on the approach to the estate.

Prince Albert's cairn - Balmoral Cairns Aberdeenshire

Prince Albert's cairn - Balmoral Cairns Aberdeenshire

From this point, the descent down was enjoyably easy, taking in one small, final cairn before reconnecting with the path that leads to the cottages - where we piled happily onto our minibus - and, eventually, the car park with its small gift shop, where we took advantage of the toilet facilities and the opportunity to refuel on warm cups of coffee.

All in all, a not-too-taxing walk with some incredible views that made those little uphill spurts so very worth it!

Aberdeenshire can be so beautiful!

xo

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