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23 Dec 2021

A guide to walks during the festive period at our North-East places

Written by Lynne McKenzie, Ranger
A large conifer tree has fallen in a woodland, lying across the ground. A person in a high-vis jacket stands near the tree and looks tiny in comparison.
A large fallen conifer near the Flight Pond on the Alton Brae Trail at Castle Fraser
Storm Arwen caused significant disruption and damage across the North-East to many people and places. Roof slates moved, power lines came down, water supplies were disrupted, and a significant number of trees were blown over.

Alongside managing the tidy-up of the storm’s aftermath, it has been important to communicate with our valued members, supporters and visitors as estates reopen. With many people thinking about a festive walk over Christmas and New Year, this update lets you know about the trails we have managed to make safe and reopen – great for walking off that extra helping of Christmas turkey or the effects of a late Hogmanay night! For specific opening times for the castles, shops, cafes and gardens over the Christmas period, please check the individual property webpages.

If a trail is closed, it will be clearly indicated at the trail head with a sign; often, a barrier will be in place as well. We kindly ask that our visitors respect these signs and barriers and do not use the closed trails – please enjoy an alternative trail on the estate. The closed trails have been assessed and are considered unsafe due to the risks posed by dangerous hanging trees and branches, or they may be impassable due to fallen trees. Please do not take shortcuts off the trails and through woodlands.

A huge amount of time, effort and resources have gone into making as many trails as safe as possible by Christmas, so we ask that visitors use only the open ones, for both your safety and enjoyment.

Crathes Estate trails

We’re pleased that most of the visitor trails on Crathes Castle Estate are now open. Please note that part of the Red Squirrel trail and all of the Silver Birch trail remain closed in the north-west corner of the estate, due to a large number of mature conifers that have fallen and are leaning dangerously. This will require specialist intervention at a later date but this area is currently unsafe for visitors due to the risk of new trees and large branches falling.

The majority of the Red Squirrel trail on the east of the estate (where it follows the Mill Pond and Coyburn) has been made safe and is open, as well as the Kingfisher, Otter and Heron trails. There is a small diversion to the Pine Marten trail, which is signposted.

Drum Estate trails

Tree work has been completed to allow the Woodland Walk within the Old Wood of Drum to reopen. At this time, the Drumhill trail will remain closed due to the extensive area of large Scots pines that have been blown over. The Farmland trail will also remain closed due to forestry operations.

Castle Fraser Estate trails

Both trails on Castle Fraser estate have been severely affected by Storm Arwen. Miss Bristow’s trail has had a large number of trees blown over that block the trail or hang unsafely across it. Similarly, on the Alton Brae trail extremely large and numerous firs, larches and pines have been blown over or are leaning across the trail. These large trees are interlinked in complex ways, making them very difficult to cut, remove and make safe. For this reason, the trails will remain closed until a specialist team can be brought in.

The Flight Pond can be accessed from the event field and forestry track, however visitors must return on the same route due to the Alton Brae trail being impassable. The grounds immediately around the castle remain open at this time, so can be used for short walks.

Fyvie Estate trails

Following a difficult start, when the main drive at Fyvie Castle was blocked by fallen trees on two separate nights, the Lochside trail has been cleared and is now open. Please adhere to any instructional signage on the wider estate.

Leith Hall Estate trails

The large trail network at Leith Hall estate has been checked, and large parts of the trails are currently closed. Most notably, the Village Linking Path (from the east part of Kennethmont village through Pittendreigh Wood) and the connecting track from Pittendreigh Wood to Leith Hall (part of the Kirkhill trail) are closed due to extensive tree falls and large trees leaning over the track. The Village Linking Path that connects the west part of Kennethmont village to the Kirkhill trail (and then to Leith Hall) has been checked and is open.

The Craigfall trail is closed and remains inaccessible due to fallen and leaning trees.

Contractors have been brought in to remove fallen trees on the Pond walk, and it is now open. However, there is no access to the wildlife hide, which is blocked by fallen trees.

Pitmedden Garden estate trails

The Garden Loop trail at Pitmedden is open, following work to move and make safe fallen trees.

The extension of the Woodland trail that takes visitors into the Lime Kiln woods is closed.

Craigievar Castle Estate trails

A small amount of fallen tree clearance was required to make the Woodland trail at Craigievar Castle passable and safe – that is now open for use. The Hill trail that takes visitors over Craigievar Hill has extensive areas of fallen and hung-up trees in multiple locations along the trail – it remains closed.

Haddo House (and Haddo Country Park)

Haddo Country Park is owned and managed by Aberdeenshire Council. Please see their webpage for any updates on closures.

We hope you find this guide useful when planning walks over the Christmas period. As always, please take due care when out walking in any countryside location and respect any guidance and signage for your own safety and enjoyment. Remember to keep checking our property Facebook pages for any updates over Christmas and New Year.

Storm damage

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