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Beltie Burn


Catchment Information

The Dee catchment lies in NE Scotland. The catchment area of the Dee is around 2105km2. The source of the River Dee is the Wells of Dee, a spring high on the slopes of Braeriach in the Cairngorm Mountains. It is 137 km in length and flows from the Cairngorms, through the rolling hills to the largely arable plains before discharging into the sea at Aberdeen. The river is renowned for Salmon fishing and this pursuit contributes significant income to the local economy. The Dee is a designated SAC for Atlantic salmon, freshwater pearl mussels and otter. 

The River Dee has a history of flood rich and flood poor periods interspersed by large flood events.  The greatest recorded historical flood event was the ‘Muckle Spate’, of August 1829.  It destroyed the bridge at Ballater and inundated settlements and large areas of the floodplain.  The December 2015 Storm Frank flood was of a similar magnitude and resulted in extensive damage to property and infrastructure along the whole Dee valley.

The Beltie burn is a typical agricultural stream Aberdeenshire in north east Scotland, close to the Deeside village of Torphins. Its 20 km course drains a catchment of around 80 square km, entering the river Dee near Banchory. The bedrock geology of this sub-catchment is dominated by the Argyll Group – metamorphic rock formed between 1000 and 542 million years ago. These rocks were originally sedimentary, formed in shallow seas, then later altered by low-grade metamorphism. The mean annual precipitation of the sub-catchment is approximately 1200 mm. 

Stage of project

Work completed

Monitoring Undertaken


Modelling Undertaken


Project Descriptions

Until the mid 1700s the Beltie followed a sinuous course through very wet ground. During the last 250 years the burn has been extensively straightened and deepened, resulting in poor and uniform instream habitats. It had become overwhelmed by silt and completely disconnected from its floodplain which had lost its wetland characteristics. This part of the burn created a break in the connectivity of the river system. Nothing shows this more clearly than the fact that Atlantic salmon spawned in its lower and upper reaches, but not in these degraded middle reaches.

The restoration project has transformed the middle reaches of a degraded agricultural stream into a rich complex of wetland habitats in the river Dee catchment in north east Scotland. The new meandering watercourse flows through three new wetlands, connected to backwaters and adjacent wet ground that has been enhanced with wader scrapes. The restoration brings many benefits for biodiversity, water quality and climate resilience in the catchment. The site is being used to evaluate and demonstrate river valley restoration techniques.

The works created:

  • A new 2 km meandering watercourse
  • Natural bank and bed profiles and full floodplain connection
  • Five instream wood structures
  • 100 m of Atlantic salmon spawning habitat
  • Riparian areas and wetland fringes to be planted with native trees
  • Improved riparian connections within the river system
  • New instream wetlands covering 5 ha
  • Six islands of varied size and height
  • Backwater habitats in the old channel
  • Ephemeral wetlands enhanced by wader scrapes
  • Opportunities for community access via integration with a new cycle path project
  • A research project to evaluate the ecological benefits


Dee Catchment Partnership

Dee District Salmon Fishery Board

James Hutton Institute

cbec engineering

Edinburgh Napier University

McIntosh Plant Hire


River Dee Trust

River Restoration Centre

Scotland the Big Picture

Woodland Trust

Aberdeenshire Council

Cairngorms National Park Authority

NatureScot Biodiversity Challenge Fund

Scottish Environment Protection Agency

Scottish Forestry

Total Energies