Friday 13th May
Unfortunately last weekend was a disaster from a weather point of view, all three days were a complete washout. Ah well not much we can do about it and since it was the first complete washout of the year we can't be too disappointed.
With us going off on holiday this weekend, we decided that a shorter, less strenuous walk would be more appropriate. The Dunecht estate on the western extremities of Aberdeen was somewhere that was recommended to us a few years ago from a guy I used to work with and we’ve explored it a couple of times – once in winter and once in the autumn – so having a walk round in the spring was a nice change. We parked just up from the imposing gates around half past nine.
The weather was bright but with a brisk, cool wind. The drive winds its way up between trees that I don’t know the name of, (we really need to do some studying on tree recognition), and we were lucky enough to catch a quick glimpse of a red squirrel, so it’s nice to see that they’re still hanging in there. At the end of this first part the drive turns right between a couple of gate houses and the trees change to copper beech, (much easier to recognise), then eventually to chestnut. Rather bizarrely, there's also a cricket pitch, complete with sight screens and scoreboard!
Just past the cricket pitch and what looks like the gardener’s house and workshops we climbed up some steps at the side of a stone shed to have a look over into what had obviously been a walled garden in the heyday of the estate. It looks now like a market garden or nursery with the obligatory poly-tunnels and greenhouses which seems a shame because it looks to have been a nice spot. Just past this the road splits and the right hand branch takes an arrow straight route up to the big house. If you'd like to read a brief description and history of the house you can find it here .
The building itself is huge with well tended gardens set within a locked up fence. We did climb the gate on our last visit but on our way out that day we bumped into another couple who had been warned not to enter the gardens as they were strictly private, so this time we restricted ourselves to taking photos from outside the boundary fence. There are gates at either end of the courtyard that have always been open at the time of our visits and they have a couple of strange designs. It would be interesting if there was an explanation somewhere!
We made our way through the courtyard towards the back of the house, at least I assume it's the back of the house, and along the side of the chapel. Why a house, even a house of this size, would need a chapel of this big must be open to debate, It is however extremely impressive.
The road carries on out the other end of the courtyard through more trees that I can't identify and up towards a small group of cottages that were probably, and possibly still are, part of the estate. It then loops round the cottages with a branch heading off towards another exit, however our route followed the loop all the way round and we headed back towards the centre of the grounds.
The estate also boasts a nine hole golf course and it was at the 6th /12 tee, which overlooks a sheltered pond, that we sat and had our coffee and the obligatory chocolate. It was a pleasant spot, sheltered from the wind but in a nice sunny position.
From here we continued on the tarred road until we came to a gate house and yet another exit from the grounds, but just before we reached it we cut left onto a farm track that leads along the edge of the grounds. After a hundred yards or so we made our way down through the woods to pick up a path we had found on our previous visits that runs along the banks of the ornamental loch. We were still well sheltered from the wind at this point and it was turning into a very nice day.
We sat again at the top end of the loch, but by that time we were out of the shelter of the trees and the wind was still brisk and cool, so we followed the road across the centre of the golf course, where we picked up the end of the drive up to the house. Our walk however was not quite finished. After retracing our steps past the cricket pitch to the twin gate houses we turned right rather than left so that we could have a look at the other, smaller loch. This loch always seems to have more wildlife on and around it. I'm not sure why, it just does.
From here it was a pleasant walk back down the tree lined drive to the car. We had set off just after half past nine and were back just before twelve so a nice easy walk before we set off on holiday to Glen Affric tomorrow.