We chat to Kelly Morrison, the author and creator of new book The Deeside Way- A Companion Guide about her passion and inspiration behind writing the guide. As well as discussing some recommendations for coffee stops and points of interest along the 41 mile route that capture the essence of the places traversed, delving into the history and heritage of each location.
Hello, thanks so much for joining us. Please tell our readers a bit about yourself and introduce us to your new book.
Thank you for this opportunity! I’m Kelly Morrison and I am now a self-published author. Originally from Aberdeen, I have studied and worked in the areas of communications, tourism, heritage and place promotion for a variety of organisations. These interests led to me creating a companion guide book to the Deeside Way, a long-distance trail that runs between the city of Aberdeen and the village of Ballater in Aberdeenshire. It is a route that I have a particular fondness for, and wanted to share with the world.
What was it that made you want to start writing the Deeside Way companion guide?
I was in a bookshop looking at the section on walking and the outdoors, and noticed there were no guide books at the time on the Deeside Way. I felt strongly that there should be, so I decided to write one! I feel it’s a route that does not get as much profile as others, and I wanted to showcase it in a slightly different way to some of the more traditional guide books. Sharing an in-depth local perspective through recommendations, snippets of heritage and
Including the voices of those who live, work or have connections to Way was an important focus throughout. My intention was for readers to get a deeper sense of the landscape, businesses and communities of Deeside with the path as the thread that connects them.
One thing I also wanted to highlight was that Nan Shepherd was born and lived in Aberdeen, the renowned author of The Living Mountain. Her former home has a plaque commemorating her life and work, and visiting that to pay homage to her is only a 5-10 minute detour off the route. These were the types of highlights I wanted to share, bringing to life the whole route in a way I felt I could through my personal and professional interests and experience
Can you tell us a bit about the process of writing the book, and your favourite part.
The process has certainly been an interesting and enjoyable one. Having not done anything like this before, much of it continues to be a steep learning curve. I started off by re-walking parts of the route regularly and taking voice notes on my phone, looking at it through fresh eyes as if I was going on a walk with a friend who had not been there before. It was always my intention for people reading the book to feel like I was speaking to them directly, which is why it was called a companion guide.
I knew I wasn’t going to be able to do everything myself, so I found a designer to help bring the book to life. Charlene Cheesman of Bosk Creative really ‘got’ my vision for it, and working with her was a great experience as she was so passionate about it too. Although I had quite a bank of photographs, I wanted the book to be very visual, so I approached Elin Beattie who also works in the Park Shop which is featured in the book. I loved her Instagram images and reached out to ask if she wanted to work together. Spending days out together capturing Deeside was really good fun, and bringing others into the process was so valuable. The pieces soon came together and made the project more tangible.
Narrowing down the content was one of the more challenging parts, and working out how to structure all the things I wanted to include as there was so much! I spent hours in various libraries researching the many books written about Deeside which was fascinating, and gave me so much context and background information to weave through. Speaking to businesses and organisations about what I was doing was also a key part of the process, and reaching out to the other contributors whose voices are shared.
Ultimately my favourite part was revisiting the route so regularly and learning even more about it myself. Hearing that the book has helped others get to know the route better too is really rewarding.
The book is filled with amazing people and businesses, can you give us a taster of a few places we might experience along the track?
There were so many people I wanted to speak to, and businesses and attractions I wanted to mention in the book. Sadly, I couldn’t include them all, so I have signposted to other resources such as VisitAberdeenshire, which covers even more about what the north east has to offer. An intention I had was to promote the numerous independent businesses that can be experienced on or near the route, which of course includes several cafes – many of which are dog friendly. One place that is located in a really nice section of the Way is the Potarch Café, by Potarch Bridge. It is family and dog friendly, and serves great coffee and pastries, and locally-sourced venison is on the menu too.
There is an eclectic range of shops, mostly in the villages, towns and hamlets along the route, including social enterprises such as Studio 1 in Banchory which sells a range of products from local artists and makers. There’s also a fantastic shop featured which is filled with products created by Scottish makers, and even has a travel planning station. Some of you may have heard of… it’s called Hidden Scotland.
I hoped to emphasise the variety to experiences that are available, including the Royal Deeside Railway Preservation Society at Crathes, which offers a glimpse of the days of rail
travel along the track, and you can find out more about the history of the remnants that are still evident today. Numerous bike hire and guiding companies show the route off at a difference pace and perspective, and an interesting business for cheese lovers which also features in the book is the Cambus O’May Creamery and the Milk Hoose Café. You can find out more about this artisan hand-made cheese company and sample its produce at the café which has extensive outdoor seating, right beside the path.
As well as writing the book, you’re also part of a digital heritage storytelling project, can you tell us about that?
For the past three years I’ve been working (mainly remotely) on a project called ‘Coast’ or ‘The Coast that Shaped the World’ to give it it’s full title, through the University of the Highlands and Islands. It focuses on the heritage of the west coast of Scotland, with stories gathered from within the communities themselves, somewhat of a challenge during covid. The stories were then curated and shared through a website, app and series of exhibitions. Working on the two projects in tandem has been helpful in reflecting on what connects people more deeply to a place, so they can understand, experience and appreciate them more fully. More about the project and the 400 stories gathered can be found on their website.
Lastly, when you’re not walking and writing, what are you getting up to?
Those are two things I certainly love to spend time on, and I’d also say that unsurprisingly as a writer, I love reading too. When I’m not outdoors, the places I like to frequent include coffee shops, bookshops, libraries, and also museums and heritage sites. I love exploring and travelling, especially in Scotland and in Nordic countries, and I’m an avid lifelong learner. Experimenting with a variety of creative pursuits fills my time, whether that’s drawing, photography or video editing. Essentially, I tend to follow my curiosity and interests. Researching, immersing in places and cultures, interpreting them creatively and then sharing that response is my ultimate joy.
Oh, and I’ve just completed the Couch to 5k programme which took me a long time, but I enjoyed it. I finished it on the Deeside Way which was apt!
INTERVIEW BY Eryn Inglis
IMAGES BY Elin Beattie