The Royal Dee is a jewel of a river, rising in the Cairngorms and flowing past Balmoral to the sea at Aberdeen. The river’s watershed routinely carries less volume than that of the Tay or the Spey and so in summer conditions is characterised by shallow shingle banks for much of its course. In spring or autumn, especially after rain, the river can provide a hugely pleasant 100 km trip with enough Grade 2-3 interest to make it sufficiently challenging for those wishing to progress from moderate water. The river is closely shadowed by the A93 and an assortment of B and C class roads for most of its paddleable length, making vehicle-based inspection of the key rapids achievable (though, with a well-marked OS map, recce’ing from bank or boat can be safely achieved without the need for a pre-recce by car).
We passed Balmoral Castle and negotiated the small and simple rapid beneath the castle’s access bridge (Grid NO 262949) before cruising uneventfully along the 12 km to Ballater, calling at the campsite upstream of the town’s road bridge to take lunch. After Ballater the river quickens as it passes through the relative narrows of Cambus o’ May, the end of which is marked by the Cambus o’ May footbridge (Grid NO 420976). We camped for the night about 1 km after the bridge.
A picture below of the intrepid explorers looking rather happy with themselves.