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Sports, Activities & Attractions




The fishing at Lower Dess is on an exceptionally attractive, secluded left bank stretch of the river Dee which can be fished at low, medium and high water. Whilst the Dee’s reputation has traditionally been for prime spring fishing, more recently the summer fishing has been equally productive. The Dess fishings also benefit from a very good sea trout run in late June and July. View latest catch records.

The beat is 2.25 miles long and includes 16 named pools many of which are against a woodland backdrop. The river bank is well maintained and there are a number of gabions and croys which have been carefully sited to improve the fishing. The beat is fishable at all heights and most of the pools can be covered without wading. This is a 5 rod beat until the end of June and 4 rods thereafter.

Fishermen and their guests can avail themselves of either or both of the fishing huts on the estate. The award-winning hut at Upper Dess was built in 1998 and provides a feature fireplace, an outside terrace, kitchen and cloakroom.

When you fish at Lower Dess, you are in the capable hands of our ghillie, Eoin Smith. Eoin has fished these beats of the river Dee for the last 35 years so his experience and local knowledge are unparalleled. He is on hand to consult and advise throughout your stay.

For information on availability and rod rates, please contact Strutt & Parker on 01330 826819 / 824888.

Book your fishing on the river Dee here.



Some of the best grouse shooting in the UK is available less than 30 miles from the Lodge at the Invercauld Estate. Let days can be arranged with sufficient notice.

Please contact the Estate Office direct on 01339 741224.



The International Mountain Bike Association (IMBA) has recently awarded Scotland the worlds’ top mountain bike destination for the second year running. Ballater in Royal Deeside lives up to this accolade and is an ideal location from which to explore natural trails and various purpose-built centres. Nestled on the Eastern side of the Cairngorms National Park, Ballater is surrounded by terrain suitable for all abilities. From easy forest trails to single-track descents you can explore for an hour, a day or a week. The quiet roads give a spectacular window into local nature and history. To enjoy this unique way to explore, visit Cycle Highlands or call 01339 755864. The team there will be happy to provide qualified mountain bike guides for all abilities. They also offer a delivery service so you can pedal straight off from the Lodge.


Bird Watching & Wildlife

The Lower Dess Estate offers a phenomenal range of wildlife from roe deer and red squirrels to a bird list of 76 species including ospreys, golden eagles, peregrine falcons, hen harriers, whooper swans, curlew, sandpipers, warblers, skylarks and linnets. The woods, wet flushes and rough pasture are home to woodcock, snipe, lapwing, curlew, spotted and pied flycatcher, siskin, wood and garden warblers, the greater spotted woodpecker, buzzard and sparrow hawks.

If this remarkable spectrum of biodiversity is not enough then the Braemar Highland Safaris, operating from the gateway to the Cairngorms National Park, will take you in a comfortable air conditioned vehicle along the mountain tracks to the heart of the park. Your experienced guide will show you the fantastic wildlife and tell you about the history, folklore and management of the area. For more information, visit their website or call 01339 741420.

Wild Flowers: From springtime onwards you can enjoy the fantastic displays of wild flowers that grow abundantly on Deeside. In particular, look out for Harebells, Foxgloves, Wood Sorrel, the Yellow Cat’s Ear and Spear Thistles whose colour adds to the summer glory.


Eating Out

The team at Mill of Dess Lodge can of course provide lunch by special request. However, you may wish to explore some local treasures. Just a mile away, Dee’s Vintage Tea Room in Kincardine O’Neil offers delicious local homemade fare for lunch and tea every day except Monday. Call Denise and her team to find out the daily specials on 01339 884202. Four miles down the road, Aboyne has two excellent coffee shops serving food all day – Corner House (01339 886427) and the Black Faced Sheep (01339 887311). The Boat Inn at Aboyne (01339 886137 ) – recently renovated, this pub offers quality food and a varied selection of hot beverages, real ales, wines, spirits and soft drinks. The Milton Brasserie (01330 844566) near Crathes Castle  – a Plate Proud restaurant whose chefs are working towards the Grampian Chef of the Year Award.


Speyside Whisky Tours

You might want us to organise a driver for this one! The biggest region in terms of production, half of all Scottish distilleries can be found here. Speyside single malts are noted in general for their elegance and complexity, sometimes with a refined smokiness but more often a fruitiness ranging from ripe pears to sultanas.There are 14 distilleries to choose from including the most famous names; Glenlivet, Aberlour and Glenfiddich. For more details visit their website.



The Mill of Dess Lodge is at the centre of a vast and rich array of cultural and historic venues. If art is your thing, we can suggest the famous and contemporary Lost Gallery (01975 651287) at Bellabeg just 25 miles away. If this whets your appetite you could drive on just another half an hour to the Braemar Gallery (01339 741681). You might also like the McEwan Gallery at Ballater (01339 755429) and the Knock Gallery at Crathie (01339 742360) which are in striking distance of each other and could be enjoyed on the same trip. Closer to home we can recommend the Butterworth Gallery (01339 886104) at Ballogie on the south side of the river.


Deeside Activities Park

Just a mile from the Dess estate is the award winning Deeside Activity Park which was recently voted the ACSTA’s Best Outdoor Adventure Experience of the Year for 2015/16 for being the most exciting, friendly, action packed premier outdoor adventure experience for the whole of the North East. Not only does it welcome a whole host of Organisations, Corporate groups, Private bookings such as Stag and Hen Parties, Birthday Parties but is able to teach you a wide range of new skills from Clay Shooting, Quad Biking, Fly Fishing to 4×4 Off Road Driving, all with first class professional instruction in an amazing setting on Royal Deeside.  For more information, or to book, visit their website or call 01339 883536.



Some of the top golf courses in the world are located within an hour’s drive of Mill of Dess. The Lodge provides a perfect base to challenge your Links skills. In particular you may be interested in:-

The Trump International Golf Links (35 miles, 1 hour) 01358 743300

The Royal Aberdeen Golf Club (27 miles, 50 minutes)  01224 702571

The Cruden Bay Golf Club (47 miles, 1 hour 15 minutes) 01779 812285

The Carnoustie Golf Club (51 miles, 1 hour 20 minutes) 01241 852480


Aboyne Golf Club (above)(01339 886328) – this excellent 18 hole course is friendly, charming and just 3 miles from the Lodge with a challenging mixture of parkland and hill.

Within 6 miles of the Lodge there are three charming 9 hole courses. The Torphins Golf Club 01339 882115, the Tarland Golf Club (where play might be interrupted by deer on the course!) 01339 881000 and the Lumphanan Golf Club who offer a warm welcome to visitors 01339 883480.

After a memorable day on the golf course, you can return to the Lodge for a delicious dinner and then indulge in some late night fishing. What a perfection combination.



For those of you keen to enjoy the unparalleled beauty of Aberdeenshire, the Walk Highlands website suggests an excellent range of walks around Lower Deeside across a range of distances and difficulties.

For those of our guests who favour a chaperoned trek, our preferred walking guide is Garry Cormack of Hillgoers (below). Garry can be contacted on 07753 488688 or we are happy to make the reservation on your behalf.

Lower Dess Garry Hillgoers

Equally of interest is the Deeside Way, an ancient path that runs from Aberdeen to Ballater across 41 miles largely along the route of the Old Royal Deeside Railway. The track is suitable for walkers, cyclists and in some sections horse riders too. There are two sections within striking distance of the Lodge. Banchory to Aboyne is 13 miles and includes a 500m climb (and descent) and takes you past the Falls of Dess and to Kincardine O’Neil, the oldest village on Deeside. The Aboyne to Ballater route is a much flatter 11 miles and gives you views of Lochnagar and the Cambus O’May Suspension Bridge.



Only eight miles away from the Lodge you will find the Glentanar Equestrian Centre which offers safe, quality riding along riverside, woodland and mountain trails. A one hour ride can take you round the loch, into the Ancient Wood of Caledon and through the Water of Tanar. The team offers exciting hacks for experienced riders and more gentle treks for the novice. Please email gtec@talk21.com, call 01339 886448 or visit their website.



If you have achieved even half of our Activity suggestions, it might be time to indulge in a little “Me Time”.

At Mill of Dess we have trialled and selected preferred salons to treat our guests. Just 9 miles away in Banchory, we would like to recommend:

Riah Body & Soul, Scott Skinner Square, Banchory, AB31 5SX, 01330 820677.
Or phone the owner Julie on 07969 806076.

Expect a warm, friendly welcome and quality, aromatic treatments at Riah Hair & Beauty for sensible value. A small salon with well trained, friendly and accommodating staff. A local escape tucked into the market square off the Banchory High Street.

Just down the road in the village of Aboyne, we also work with:-

At Eaze, Ballater Road, Aboyne, AB34 5HT, 01339 887012. Or phone the owner Sara on 07815 453349.



There are several historic castles to visit in less than half an hour from the Lodge.

Craigievar Castle: is a classic fairytale castle just 9 miles away and appears to have grown naturally out of the rolling hills. It is amongst the best preserved and most loved monuments in Scotland. The Great Tower stands just as it did when completed in 1626.

Close by is Drum Castle where you can take in an enormous sweep of Scottish history as well as the walled garden that contains a fine collection of historic roses.

Crathes Castle at Banchory has everything you would expect of a castle – turrets and towers, winding staircases, ornate ceilings and ancient sculpted yew trees. Combined with the gardens and 240 hectare estate, this is a great day out for any and all generations.

In the very heart of the Highlands, Braemar Castle has played an important role in the story of Scotland. Experience 400 years of Highland history in this hunting lodge and hear stories of royals, rebels, redcoats and clans. Expect a warm welcome from our local volunteers and take a guided or an audio tour.

Balmoral Castle: Of course Balmoral deserves a section all of its own. This royal estate lies in the shadows of Lochnagar, made famous by the children’s stories written by HRH The Prince of Wales. Queen Victoria described it as “my dear paradise in the Highlands”. You could certainly spend the whole day here enjoying the audio tour of the art on display in the Ballroom, Ranger guided walks, safari tours, the 9 hole golf course as well as lunch in the Coffee Shop and a visit to the world-class Gift Shop. However, please be aware that the grounds, gardens and exhibitions are closed to the public throughout August, September and October as the Royal Family are in residence. For full details please visit their website or call The Estates Office on 01339 742534.

The Victorian Heritage Trail: Since Queen Victoria first visited Balmoral in 1848, Royal Deeside has become Scotland’s crowning glory. The Victoria Heritage Trail pinpoints many of the historic places that make the Dee and Don valleys so majestic. Beginning at Drum Castle and ending at Braemar Castle, you can pick and choose which sections you wish to visit.



There is an excellent and eclectic selection of shops in Ballater and a good variety of craft and clothing stores at Milton of Crathes, close to Crathes castle – a great chance to combine culture with a spot of retail therapy. Brodie Country Fare (01309 641555) is a couple of hours drive away but well worth the trip. A similar distance will take you to the world famous House of Bruar (01796 483236) where you can purchase all manner of things Scottish. Closer to home, Orvis (01330 824319) at Banchory (9 miles) offers an excellent range of leading country wear brands and exclusive styles for the countryman and sportsman.

A big thank you to everyone who made our stay so comfortable.

Robert G R Smith, 2015