The first time we walked the Dava Way I used minor roads from Cawdor to reach Dava and did exactly what the sat nav said. That worked out fine, the only snag being that driving into the low sun meant glare on damp winding single track roads. For the second stage we were meeting at Dunphail and I decided to follow the A96 as far as Forres then take the A940 to Grantown. I should just have done that, using a map, but having put Dunphail into the sat nav, Irish Sean kept telling me to take minor roads as per the previous time. I resisted his every instruction to turn right off the A96, despite being stuck in a trail of slow traffic behind a farm lorry, until almost at Forres and then I crumbled. Maybe there was a good reason to avoid the centre of Forres so I'd take the road he said.
This was a mistake. Following the directions along twisting minor roads took me to a place claiming to be my destination but it was not Dunphail. It was a place called Relugas. Meanwhile Moira was waiting at Dunphail, which turned out not to be that far away as the crow flies, but was longer by twisting minor road. As she pointed out to me I shouldn't have relied exclusively on sat nav but should have had a road map open beside me to check where I was being taken. My feeling about that is if I can't trust the sat nav I'd rather not have it at all.
The slow traffic and ending up in the wrong place wasn't the best start and I was annoyed with myself for getting it wrong and keeping Moira waiting. She had been standing at the side of the wooden building (Edinkillie Community Hall) in case I missed the turn into the parking area (which given my performance so far was a fair possibility!) and was feeling the cold, something that happens to me too if I can't keep moving. I quickly parked the car for our return and we headed south to Dava to start walking from there. Compared to my daft car journey the walk itself was easy to follow along the old railway line with signs and information boards at regular intervals along the way.
We had talked about including the Knock of Braemoray but with the delayed start the hill lost out to Househill Farm cafe (outside Nairn), a place we frequent whenever we're in the area and have never been disappointed yet. The wee hill would be tucked away for some future occasion.
Knock of Braemoray ahead
It was a beautiful morning in the low autumn sun
Railway workers built a hut out of old railway sleepers. If this hut is the hut they built, it's still in remarkably good shape.
The hut was locked but there was an outside bench had we needed it
A lovely wooded section with mature Scots pine
Vivid colour against the dark sky
The railway builders had to cross a small lochan at this point by means of a causeway. To the east what looks like solid ground is in reality a 'quaking bog' and the area is important for plants that thrive in wet conditions. It is one of about 240 blanket bogs in Scotland which are protected as Special Areas of Conservation.
Bogeney is the most recently occupied of the crofts on the moorland section of the line. The present ruin probably dates from about 1860 and Bogeney continued to be occupied until after WW2. Electricity didn't come to Dunphail until 1951 and never reached the crofts. There is a story of one of the crofters who ordered supplies from Forres and trained her dog to pick up packages thrown from the train as it passed. It's just as well the dog was a collie. Delivering home a package containing anything edible would have been a sore temptation to a labrador.
The Bantrach woodland consisted mainly of pine along with some Japanese larch and supplied timber needed during WW2. After that the open ground was used for sheep grazing but since 2012 the Dunphail estate aims to build up the grouse population to attract a more lucrative business.
The Divie viaduct is a seven arch viaduct, 477 feet long and stands 170 feet above the River Divie. Unfortunately when walking across it you don't get a feel of what a graceful structure it is. It was built in the 1860s at a cost of over £10,000, a huge sum in those days. At the time the railway closed Lord Hector Laing bought it for £90 to save it from demolition but a recent repointing of the stonework cost £100,000 so it maybe wasn't such a bargain in the long run.
Edenkillie House (former C of S manse) from viaduct
Trees leaning in to form an arch over track
Slender silver birch trunks and old Dunphail station
Walk done and cars collected we headed north for coffee at Househill.
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