The final day, and it was a long one, due to my bad planning so I can’t blame anyone else. My left ankle was quite swollen, stiff and sore, but I still can’t remember doing anything traumatic to it. However, some paracetamol, ibuprofen and a bit of exercise seemed to do the trick.
The path goes through the park, near the outdoor shop, and essentially follows the River Dee, and the line of the old railway.
The weather was threatening rain, and the showers started shortly after I left Drumoak. The path takes a dogleg here south for a bit, and then picks up the line of the railway after about 3 Km or so after a few paths and minor roads. Once the Way hits the outskirts of Peterculter, the track surface is either tarmac or very hard at best, not brilliant for walking, but good if you are on a bike. This section is a bit boring, but music on the ipod shuffle came to the rescue. On the Deeside Way, no one can hear you sing.
The rain was pelting down now but I was making good time so decided to carry on a bit before stopping for lunch. At one of the bridges where there were a set of steps, so I left the Way and made my way up to the main street of Bieldside, where there was a line of shops including a pub, a Scotmid (shop) and a tea room. I opted to try the Victorian Tearoom (which also offers sewing service). Now, at first this was promising. The woman serving was very friendly, and I had a chat to a cyclist who was not on a jaunt along the Deeside Way, but was a mobile piano tuner (a piano tuner who was mobile, that is, not one who tunes the piano app on your phone). There is a piano in the cafe which he had just finished tuning.
The food was good, but a bit expensive, and there was even wee proper towels in the restroom to wipe away the sweat and grime. There were lots of china things which you could easy prang with your rucksack, but there was no way I was leaving the rucksack outside in case the charity shop next door thought it was a sack of donations.
A few regulars came in followed by a “posh bird” who reminded me of Patsy in “Ab Fab”. This was the shop owner.
She sat down with one of the regulars and sent the friendly waitress (poor Cinderella) into the back shop to do some sewing (I don’t think they have a “darn your socks while you wait” service, but I did not ask). Then the owner proceeded to ignore everyone else. She looked a bit peeved when I disturbed her in order to pay. Perhaps the Rab TGO 2013 orange tee-shirt did not conform to the dress code or probably she is just normally torn-faced. Anyway, I paid, and exited the shop without breaking anything and headed back to the Deeside Way in the rain. I guess I should have tried the pub instead. After a while the rain went off, and the rest of the day was fine weather-wise.
So onwards towards Duthie Park. This stretch is pretty uninspiring, although there is quite a nice bridge crossing the road at one point, but I was too bored and tired to take a photograph. Like most narrow bridges on the Deeside Way, it had a sign for horse riders to dismount while crossing, but did not have the handy stone blocks to aid dismounting that most of the other narrow bridges on the Way had. It is handy to know that Aberdeenshire is a horse friendly area. The next time I do the challenge I will bring a pack mule. Dogs are banned but there is no rule about taking other animals along, I think.
Just before Duthie Park, I was confronted with a woman pushing a pram and hanging on to two small dogs on stupidly long leads, who were approaching me in a V-formation, taking up the whole of the wide path. I stepped off the path to the verge, but Archie, the dog nearest me, made a dive for my ankle, but luckily the woman pulled him off in time. Not a friendly welcome to Aberdeen. I also noticed that unlike the other stretches of the Way, nobody, walker or cyclist, bothers to smile or say hello. Perhaps my choice of finishing at Aberdeen was not a good one.
Anyway, I reached Duthie Park about 4.10pm, and of course in true Scottish style the small cafe was shut (it closed at 4pm). Great. So no point hanging around. I could not find any marker indicating the start/finish of the Deeside Way, and was not going to waste time looking for one. I worked my way through the traffic and past the harbour. On the way to Girdle Ness, my nominated finish point for some reason which I can’t remember, there was an RSPB van in a car park, with a sign advertising a dolphin watch. There were two helpful girls staffing the RSPB stall with binoculars etc, and they pointed out some dolphins swimming quite close to the shore (and yes, they always get asked what the RSPB has to do with dolphins). This dolphin sighting, and meeting cheery folk for a change today, perked me up a bit, and eventually after a short crawl, I came to the lighthouse and made my way to the shore to stand in the water at the east coast.
I took a few photographs of myself, but they were rubbish, so they got deleted. Then I phoned a taxi. It arrived in 5 minutes and the chatty driver dropped me off at the railway station. I bought a ticket, the train left in 5 minutes, so it was a quick journey from Girdle Ness to Montrose, and I signed in (out?) at TGO Control at 7.15pm.
Gayle was the only one around, as everyone else was at the dinner. After a chat with her, picking her brains and experience for next time (if there is a next time), I headed towards the town, had a quick meal, got the train to Dundee, Ishbel picked me up, got home – and that was that.