It was -2 degrees as Dave brought the trusty Range Rover to a halt and parked up at Mill of Sterin on the oposite side of the River Muick from the more familiar access road leading to the Spittal of Glen Muick. Parking at this location not only saved us the parking fee but more importantly extended our journey out into the countryside passing a nice waterfall and fish ladder before arriving  at the north east side of Loch Muick. We grabbed a quick bite to eat watching the stalkers ponies, just up from the car park at the Ranger Station before heading out on the good land rover track on the north side of the loch that eventually brought us to the Royal Hunting Lodge at Glas Allt Shiel.
This impressive lodge is used by members of the current Royal Family while they are staying at Balmoral  Castle and was also a much loved retreat for Queen Victoria in days gone by. 
We had a quick look at the Allt Shiel bothy which is located in one of the outhouses adjacent to the lodge before we headed to the end of the loch. From this point the track deteriorated for a mile or so and involved a bit of hike & bike before the land rover track started again and from this point it was a fast downhill descent back to the car park. The light was starting to fade as we re-traced our wheel tracks downhill back to the car before hitting the Balmoral Inn in Ballater for a well earned light refreshment.  
There are an abundance of great trails in this area that will be worth checking out over the summer months when the days are longer and the weather a good bit warmer.
Yes, I can feel a return visit coming on!  for further details and route info
The route
The profile of the route
The total distance was around 20.5 miles