Facts About Britain's Four River Dees

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facts about the River Dee, facts about the River Dee in Wales, facts about the River Dee in Cumbria, facts about the River Dee in Aberdeen, facts about the River Dee in Galloway, source of the River Dee, bridges over the River Dee, tributaries of the Rive

There are four River Dees situated within Great Britain, two in Scotland, one in England and one which flows between Wales and England. 

The name Dee comes from the Roman word Deva which means goddess.

Below is a list of each of the four River Dees with some information about each one.


Scotland’s River Dee, Uisge De, is situated in north east Scotland and rises on the plateau of Braerioch, a four thousand foot high summit of the Cairngorm Mountains. The river starts life as several small pools and tiered waterfalls known as the Wells of Dee, before travelling for eighty seven miles towards it’s estuary on Aberdeen Harbour where it drains into the North Sea.

The river is renowned for having the highest elevated source in the United Kingdom and its drainage basin at Aberdeen Harbour is home to the largest marine centre in Europe which covers some eight hundred square miles.

The river has several tributaries including the Rivers Muick and Gairn, Lui and Quoich Waters and Coy, Clunie and Geldie Burns. The river is also the site of a small tiered waterfall near it’s confluence with the Geldie Burn, known as the Chest of Dee.

The river’s course passes through some of Scotland’s finest heathland and Caledonian pinewood forests, the Cairngorms National Park,the Cairngorms National Nature Reserve and the towns of Aboyne, Braemar, Banchory and Ballater and the City of Aberdeen. The river also encompasses the area of Strathdee, also known as Royal Deeside, which is situated between Ballater and Braemar, so named as it is home to nearby Balmoral Castle.

The river has exceptional stocks of salmon and is also renowned for its large pools of rapids, making it popular with both fly fishers and canoeists.

The river is spanned by several bridges including the Victoria Bridge at Torry, The King George VI Bridge which carries the B9077 road, The Queen Elisabeth II Bridge in Aberdeen, the Maryculter Bridge situated in the town of the same name and the multi arched Bridge of Dee on the outskirts of Aberdeen, built in 1527 which was built with golden coloured, Elgin sandstone.

Another unusual bridge is the St Devenick’s suspension, footbridge situated in an Aberdeen suburb, which was built in 1837.


The River Dee in Cumbria is a tributary of the River Lune which starts life at Dent Head situated along the Dales Way National Trail. The river travels in a northerly direction for about ten miles through the area known as Dentdale, where it goes on to join the River Rawthey at Catholes, near Sedbergh.

The river's entire course takes in the green, rolling countryside of the Cumbrian Dales as it passes through the villages of Cowgill, Dent, Gawthrop and Stonehouse.

Some of the old, stone bridges that span the river are Abbot Holme Bridge at Sedbergh, Bridge End at Stonehouse, Church Bridge at Dentdale and Tommy's Bridge. There is also a small, stone footbridge situated at Cowgill.

The river also has a small, tiered waterfall situated just outside Sedbergh.

The area along the course of the river is popular with ramblers and hikers. The river is little used by fishermen, despite evidence of trout in its waters, owing to its inaccessibility for fly fishing.  


Scotland’s other River Dee, also known the Dee / Ken System, is situated in the south west of the country in Dumfries and Galloway, where it rises on Loch Dee in the Galloway Mountains and travels for thirty eight miles as it makes it’s way through Clatteringshaws Loch, Loch Ken and the Water of Ken, before entering the Solway Firth on the Irish Sea at Kirkcudbright Harbour.

The river passes through the towns of Bridge of Dee, Crossmichael, Glenlocher, Kelton, Kirkcudbright, Parton and Tongland.

Thomas Telford built a stone, single arched bridge at Tongland in 1806, and the river was also dammed at Tongland during the 1930’s to form part of a hydro – electric plant.

There is also an interesting four arched bridge at Kelton which was built from rubble masonry during the early 1800’s.

The river is renowned for being home to the ruins of Threave Castle, a twelth century, stone walled tower and keep, built on an island in the river, near the town of Castle Douglas.

The river has several small tributaries including Tarff Water, the Water of Ken, the Water of Deugh and Shirmer’s Burn. The waters of the River Dee and its tributaries are reknowned for their large population of salmon and sea trout, making the area along the course of the river popular with fishermen as well as ramblers and hikers.


The River Dee in Wales, Afon Dyfrdwy, is a sixty eight mile long river which starts life at Llanuwchllyn in Snowdonia. The river travels in a south easterly direction making it's way across the border into England, before changing course to a northerly direction out towards it's estuary, situated between North Wales and The Wirral Peninsula in England, where it drains into Liverpool Bay on the Irish Sea.

The river's course takes it through the Welsh towns of Berwyn, Corwen, Llangollen and Wrexham and the English towns of Connah's Quay and Farndon and the English City of Chester.

At Wrexham the river sets a natural border between the two countries and at Connah’s Quay the river becomes tidal for its last sixteen miles.

The river feeds several lakes and resevoirs along its course, including Bala Lake, just ten miles from its source, Llyn Brenig, Llyn Celyn and a resevoir at Tegid.

The river has several tributaries including the rivers Afon Alun, Afon Alwen, Afon Ceiriog, Afon Clywedog, Afon Meloch, Afon Mynach, Afon Tryweryn and the Wych Brook.

The Dee is spanned by hundreds of bridges, with the two oldest being the Llangollen Bridge in the town of the same name built in 1345 and the Old Dee Bridge in Chester originally built around 1387. 

Other interesting bridges include the rivers newest bridge, the Flintshire Bridge, an impressive,  cable stayed bridge built in 1999 at Connah’s Quay which carries part of the A548 road, the Chain Rail Bridge at Berwyn built in 1814, a medieval sandstone bridge at Farndon and Britain’s largest aqueduct, the Grade I listed, UNESCO World Heritage Site of Pontecysyllte Aqueduct which carries the Lllangollen Canal over the River Dee near Wrexham. The aqueduct was built in 1805 by Thomas Telford and William Jessop and is 1,007 feet long and 126 feet high.

Other interesting features of the river include the man made Horseshoe Falls at Llantysilio, constructed in 1808 by Thomas Telford, which are 460 feet wide and link the river with the Llangollen Canal, and the Grade I listed Chester Weir, originally constructed in 1093 in order to power local corn mills. 

West of Chester the river was canalized during the 1700’s in order to alleviate the river’s natural, heavy build up of silt. The five mile long channel diverted the course of the river out towards it’s estuary by setting the river on a more northerly course.

It’s estuary is situated between the North Wales coast and the Wirral Peninsular coast and covers an area of some fifty square miles. The Dee Estuary consists of extensive mudflats and salt marshes and was formed thousands of years ago by glacial erosion. The estuary waters are a haven for wading birds and Atlantic grey seals, resulting in the area being designated as both an SSI - Site of special scientific interest and an SPA – Special protected area. 

The estuary also contains three uninhabited islands, the largest of which, Hilbre Island, is an eleven square acre, nature reserve which can be accessed at low tide. The estuary is also the location of the small Port of Mostyn in North Wales.  

Overall the river is renowned for being one of the country’s premier fishing locations for catching Atlantic salmon as well as sea trout, lamprey, freshwater pearl mussels and grayling.

Some other river articles you may be interested in, by the same author 




Title image – Pontecysyllte Aqueduct, which carries the Llangollen Canal over the River Dee in Wales. With grateful thanks to Peter Craine, wikimedia commons.


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