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Speyside Way - With Add On's

Speyside Way - With Add On's


Postby Gordie12 » Sat Jan 12, 2013 2:23 pm

Route description: Speyside Way

Date walked: 23/05/2012

Time taken: 7 days

Distance: 185 km

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This has taken a while to do.............I finished my last attempt (in July) and failed to save it properly - so this is attempt two!!

Looking back on it now I was so lucky with the weather, my first five days were wall to wall sunshine with the BBC news telling me each night how Aviemore was warmer than Athens. The main problem over those first few days was finding enough liquids to keep hydrated (hard to imagine with the weather we have had since).

I wanted to do the Speyside Way but at 67 miles I was looking for something longer so I added on a day from Ballindalloch Station to Tomintoul, the following day I walked back on the same route and I also added in a Dufftown loop from Craigellachie, all in all this took me up to 115 miles which was about the distance I wanted to cover.

My 'O' Level Geography taught me that rivers flow downhill to the sea so decision taken, I would walk from Aviemore to Buckie (I also preferred the idea of finishing by the sea in Buckie as opposed to Aviemore railway station).

Day 1

Aviemore - Grantown On Spey

The Stats

18.1 Miles
5hrs 32 mins moving time.
45 mins stopped.

This was a really nice start to the week. Driving between the two towns I was used to seeing a lot of open fields so it was a surprise on leaving Aviemore to be on open moorland for a couple of miles.

Steam Train on Strathspey Line Nr Aviemore.jpg
Steam train heading for Boat of Garten


The track is close to the railway line all the way to Boat of Garten and most of the time meanders through Birch woods.

Between Aviemore and Boat of Garten.jpg
Track between Aviemore and Boat of Garten


On leaving the Boat there is a short section of tarmac pounding before reaching the turning for Loch Garten where the track then runs parallel with the road. Before reaching the loch the route crosses the road and then enters more dense woods which feel a bit enclosed with no opportunity to see the surrounding countryside. After about 3 miles in the woods the track links up with a minor road and runs parallel with it in to Nethy Bridge.

The section between Nethy Bridge and Grantown On Spey is on a disused railway line so very flat and easy walking and a good finish to day 1.

Disused line near Grantown on Spey.jpg
Near Grantown on Spey


This was an easy, flat and enjoyable first day on the Speyside Way.

Day 2

Grantown on Spey - Ballindalloch Station

15.6 miles
5hrs 28 mins moving time
49 mins stopped time

Learning from day 1 it was straight in to the bakers in the village for an additional two litres of water to try and keep hydrated. While I carry a hydration system with 2 litres of cold water in my rucksack the additional bottles are on the outside pockets and so need to be drunk fairly quickly before they warm up.

The track skirts the GOS golf club as it heads towards Cromdale.

Leaving Grantown on Spey.jpg
Track near Grantown on Spey Golf Club


Once out of the woods there is a very flat section leading to a bridge over the Spey (there are surprisingly few views of the river during this walk!) and then a further half mile to Cromdale when it is back to disused railway lines.

Cromdale Station.jpg
Cromdale Station


Warning Sign beside Cromdale station.jpg
Warning Sign at Cromdale Station


About a mile past Cromdale I upset a large group of nesting seagulls and suffered 5 minutes of dive bombing so was glad when they decided I was out of range and they could leave me alone. After crossing the busy A95 there is a short section through woods which then leads to the most frustrating section of the week, namely never ending metal squeeze-stiles. I suppose they are a necessary evil, without them there would probably be issues with the local farmers whose land I'm passing through but it makes for a lot of stop-start walking. There is also a bit more climbing as the track undulates before crossing the A95 again and picking up more disused railway line for a nice easy flat finish to reach Ballindalloch Station.

Nr Ballindalloch Station.jpg
Nr Ballindalloch Station


Day 3 Ballindalloch Station - Tomintoul

14.8 miles
5hrs 18 mins moving time
43 mins stopped time

Tomintoul is an alternative starting/finishing point for the Speyside Way and it looked like a chance for a bit of variation as I would be in the hills for the next two days. I also thought it would give me a break from the heat as there would be a nice cool breeze - wrong!!

Leaving my B&B I walked along the A95 and opposite the garage had a wander around the old road bridge over the River Avon.

Old Bridge over River Avon.jpg
Bridge over River Avon


At the junction with the B9008 I took the minor road which had a mile of roadworks with cars passing through in convoy. The gravel spreader driver stopped and offered me a lift - no thanks mate!!

This day was fantastic but could be described as a climb, followed by a descent, followed by a climb and finishing with a descent into Tomintoul. Sounds dull but I loved being in the hills with fantastic views all around and brilliant weather thrown in.

Heading towards Glenlivet.jpg
Heading towards Glenlivet


Glenlivet (and it's distillery) is about halfway between BS and Tomintoul, on leaving Glenlivet I passed this cottage.

Cottage Nr Glenlivet.jpg
Panoramic views........in need of sympathetic upgrading.


The track climbs up and over Carn Daimh before descending through woods with the odd muddy bit to work round (if it was muddy the week I was there it makes me wonder what it's like in a normal spell of weather). After leaving the trees it's a gradual descent towards Tomintoul.

Heading towards Tomintoul.jpg
Avoiding the bog!


I absolutely loved this day but with the knowledge I was retracing my steps the following day I found myself looking backwards a lot and thinking "this descent is great but what does the climb look like tomorrow"?)

Day 4 Tomintoul - Ballindalloch Station

16.2 miles
5hrs 46 mins moving time
30 mins stopped time.

I started earlier this morning to try to get some cooler conditions - it made absolutely no difference. Another fantastic day but by now I'm just hoping for a lttle breeze to cool me down.

Carn Daimh.jpg
Summit of Carn Daimh


Looking towards Ballindalloch.jpg
Final descent towards Ballindalloch


I was staying at the same B&B from the end of day 2 and the owner had been telling me about all the tracks through the forest at the back of the house. Looking back on it I was probably a bit daft and went out for a wander at night and finished up covering another 8 miles.

Day 5 Ballindalloch Station - Craigellachie

14 miles
4hrs 27 mins moving time
31 mins stopped time

During May Ballindalloch Station bridge was closed for repair work so courtesy of Moray Council I had a free taxi trip from my B&B to Blacksboat. It felt wrong to shorten the walk so instead of heading towards Craigellachie I headed in the opposite direction (away from Craigellachie) and walked back to the closed bridge then turned round and retraced my steps.

Blacksboat Station.jpg
Blacksboat Station


I'm now in to distillery country and pass several during the day. This was the smartest looking building and worth a quick pic on the way past.

Distillery.jpg
Knockando Distillery?


The vast majority of this day is spent on disused railway lines close to the Spey, this was a short section of narrower track.

Approaching Aberlour.jpg
Approaching Aberlour


Finally, in Aberlour, clear and uninterrupted views of the river!

River Spey, Aberlour.jpg
River Spey, Aberlour


Day 6 Craigellachie - Dufftown - Craigellachie Loop

12.4 miles
4hrs 4mins moving time
34mins stopped time

Bang.............the temperature has dropped twenty degrees, a real shock to the system!

Like the two Tomintoul stages this is another add on to stretch out the distance I covered during the week. Originally, Dufftown was part of the Speyside Way and was an alternative starting point but the way status was removed several years ago so the track no longer has the official Speyside Way thistle waymarks. Nevertheless, this is still an enjoyable detour.

The first two miles were back to Aberlour and just like the day before when I walked back from Blacksboat to Ballindalloch I found it hard mentally to be walking in the opposire direction from the finish but at least it was flat so was a good introduction to the day.

After an easy opening two miles I left the river behind and walked through Aberlour then climbed up past the hospital and on to a narrow C class road as it climbed sharply to gain the high ground above the town. On the way I had a chat with an old guy who was working in his garden and after a chat covering everything from whisky to walking via motorcycle racing he insisted I top up my water from his outside tap as his water is the “best around”. I wasn’t going to argue as keeping topped up with water had been a problem on the previous 5 days so I wasn’t going to miss an opportunity. Once out of Aberlour I met up with a farmer and was chatting to him for about 15 minutes. To be honest I was happy to stop and chat as the climb had been tough so it was a chance to have a break.

After Aberlour there was a climb of about a mile on tarmac and a further mile of climbing through a forest on a good track but with no views of the surrounding countryside. At the top of the climb I left the forest behind and got my first view of Dufftown.

The descent down to Dufftown was on a narrower track and on the lower stages nearer town was through farmland. Dufftown is an attractive small town but despite the cooler weather my only thought was to find a shop and stock up with drinks.

After Dufftown there is a short section on a path beside the A941 passing Glenfiddich Distillery and then after half a mile the track turns right and through the Dufftown railway station (only used at weekends in the summer).

Dufftown Railway Station.jpg
Dufftown Railway Station


The return journey to Craigellachie is now on disused railway line and is the section of old Speyside Way from Dufftown to Craigellachie.

Dufftown - Craigellachie.jpg
Dufftown - Craigellachie


This was my least enjoyable day due to a big drop in the temperature and not particularly feeling that good (possibly as a result of 5 days continuous wall to wall sunshine). This was my shortest day but physically and mentally it was easily my hardest.

Day 7 Craigellachie - Buckie

24 miles
7hrs 9mins walking time
18mins stopped time

After a second poor night's sleep and unable to eat any breakfast it was time to start the final day.

When planning this walk I wanted the final day to be tough so I scheduled a 24 mile finish. At the time it seemed like a good idea but the way I was feeling I wasn’t sure if I could complete this last section, I just hoped that I would get a mental lift from knowing that today was the last day and the finish line was nearly in sight.

The first mile is flat and along the river bank and I was surprised to find that once I started walking I actually felt quite good, hopefully this would last the day!

After the nice easy start there was an uphill 2 mile tarmac section on a quiet C class road. I thought this climb was quite steep but it was nothing compared to the forestry track that climbs through Ben Aigan woods. At the top of the climb my guide book refers to the first sea views looking north but all I could see today was grey low cloud. As the track dropped down from it’s high point it narrowed as it headed past a rifle range before exiting the woods.

From Boat O Brig to Fochabers there is about 4 miles of road walking which is reasonably flat but with one big drop down and climb back out of a deep gully. The tarmac walking is quick and easy so my pace increases and Fochabers is reached ahead of schedule. The track skirts round the edge of Fochabers and at the north end there is a lovely small park.

Fochabers.jpg
Park in Fochabers


River Spey at Fochabers.jpg
River Spey just after leaving Fochabers


The four miles to Spey Way were enjoyable and frustrating at the same time. The walk was mainly through woods but also with views over open farmland, the frustration was that I knew I was close to the river and the sea, but could see neither.

This was my first view of the sea, 200 yards from Spey Bay….

Mouth of the Spey.jpg
Spey Bay


By now I had covered 19 miles with only 5 left and I was well ahead of schedule so I phoned Andrea to check on her progress as she was due to pick me up in Buckie having collected my bag from The Highlander in Craigellachie. I was surprised when she told me she was on the A90 at Strathcathro as she was probably at least two hours away so I would need to slow my pace to the finish.

Spey Bay is a nice little coastal village but is spoiled by the sight of a big hotel which is clearly shut and spoils the look of the place. The track is now very narrow as it runs through trees and gorse whilst it skirts Spey Bay Golf Club.

For the next two miles the track runs through the gorse and woods it feels like you are never more than a couple of hundred yards from the sea but sadly you never actually see it.

Once out of the woods there is a mile of disused railway line which is much more enjoyable as now I can see the sea and in the distance the finish at Buckie. The only problem in this section was four groups of women out for a leisurely stroll. They were so busy talking that they didn’t realise I was catching them up quickly and because they were spread out over the track I couldn’t pass them until a wider section of track and of course I shocked all the groups as they had no idea they had someone behind them. In my own sad way I felt like a Grand Prix driver lapping slower paced drivers (sounds like I'm suffering from sunstroke!!).


Having passed the slower walkers I arrived in Portgordon and if this makes any sense it felt like the start of the finish as I knew I now had Buckpool and Buckie following in quick succession.

I was trying to slow down as I knew I had to wait for Andrea but I could feel myself speeding up as I headed for the finish and soon I arrived in the outskirts of Buckie.

Nearly There!!.jpg
Nearly there!!


The side streets down to the sea looked really attractive and a lot of the households have their own benches outside on the street.

Buckie.jpg
Buckie


Having had good signage for the length of the Speyside Way it was really strange to find that there were no signs to indicate the way to the official finishing point. I reached a T junction and just turned right to head up towards the town centre when I saw the finish in a small park off to my right so headed over to complete the walk.

The Finish at Buckie.jpg


Nearly eight months on from completing this walk it seems like a world away (certainly temperature wise).

I was so so lucky with the weather and if these things do average out then I'd better prepare myself for a rough time when I do my next long distance walk in May this year.

In summary, I really enjoyed the experience and with everything booked for my next trip I can't wait to get started.
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Re: Speyside Way - With Add On's

Postby walk aboot » Sun Jan 27, 2013 8:33 am

Great report Gordie12, thanks for persevering and posting it (after your first attempt last July) :D . I am doing the Speyside Way at Easter, so this has got me really looking forward it.
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Re: Speyside Way - With Add On's

Postby Gordie12 » Sun Jan 27, 2013 2:08 pm

walk aboot wrote:Great report Gordie12, thanks for persevering and posting it (after your first attempt last July) :D . I am doing the Speyside Way at Easter, so this has got me really looking forward it.


Thanks walk aboot.

Hope you get good weather and enjoy yourself!!!
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Re: Speyside Way - With Add On's

Postby The Rodmiester » Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:19 am

Hi again Gordie, I'm most impressed with report and the weather you had :D , can you tell me are there endless places to wild camp along the route? I was considering the Cateran trail but have been slightly put off by others suggesting there is little or no places to wild camp as a lot of the route is through farming communities. The Speyside Way looks more attractive anyway with much more to see, and I know Grantown quite well as I have stayed there a few times, and also has the added attraction of the distillaries.
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Re: Speyside Way - With Add On's

Postby Gordie12 » Thu Feb 21, 2013 7:15 pm

The Rodmiester wrote:Hi again Gordie, I'm most impressed with report and the weather you had :D , can you tell me are there endless places to wild camp along the route? I was considering the Cateran trail but have been slightly put off by others suggesting there is little or no places to wild camp as a lot of the route is through farming communities. The Speyside Way looks more attractive anyway with much more to see, and I know Grantown quite well as I have stayed there a few times, and also has the added attraction of the distillaries.


Oops, I think it may have been me that put you off the Cateran (sorry, didn't mean to!!!).

Thanks for your comments, somehow I can't see the weather gods coming up trumps two years in a row but I live in hope.

If your going to do The Speyside Way I would try and add on the Tomintoul leg if you have the time as it is a complete change of scenery (as you head into the hills) and I think this might convince you...............the track goes over the summit of Carn Daimh so a sub 2000 to add to the collection :lol: :lol:

As for wild camping, definitely less farm land (except perhaps a section of a few miles after Cromdale - if like me you start in Aviemore) maybe the only issue would be lots of sections of old railway line where you are a bit enclosed. The Speyside Way website confirm it's OK to wildcamp (see below)

[b]3. Can I camp/wild camp along the Speyside Way?

Yes you can, although there are two free "first come, first served" camping areas on the Speyside Way (Fiddich Park, Craigellachie and Ballindalloch Station). During the summer season these have toilet and fresh water facilities. If you want to wild camp you are well within your rights to do so as long as you comply with the Scottish outdoor Access code. Visit www.outdooraccess-scotland.com for more details.
[/b]

Some blogs refer to The Speyside Way as being boring but I really don't understand that attitude, I loved it but maybe the weather had something to do with that. If I was choosing between The Cateran and The Speyside Way, I'd head for Speyside but with your liking for distilleries I'd allow a bit of extra time for the Craigellachie are (they're everywhere!!).

If you do go, hope you have a great time and look forward to your report.
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Re: Speyside Way - With Add On's

Postby The Rodmiester » Thu Feb 21, 2013 8:57 pm

Gordie12 wrote:
The Rodmiester wrote:Hi again Gordie, I'm most impressed with report and the weather you had :D , can you tell me are there endless places to wild camp along the route? I was considering the Cateran trail but have been slightly put off by others suggesting there is little or no places to wild camp as a lot of the route is through farming communities. The Speyside Way looks more attractive anyway with much more to see, and I know Grantown quite well as I have stayed there a few times, and also has the added attraction of the distillaries.


Oops, I think it may have been me that put you off the Cateran (sorry, didn't mean to!!!).

Thanks for your comments, somehow I can't see the weather gods coming up trumps two years in a row but I live in hope.

If your going to do The Speyside Way I would try and add on the Tomintoul leg if you have the time as it is a complete change of scenery (as you head into the hills) and I think this might convince you...............the track goes over the summit of Carn Daimh so a sub 2000 to add to the collection :lol: :lol:

As for wild camping, definitely less farm land (except perhaps a section of a few miles after Cromdale - if like me you start in Aviemore) maybe the only issue would be lots of sections of old railway line where you are a bit enclosed. The Speyside Way website confirm it's OK to wildcamp (see below)

[b]3. Can I camp/wild camp along the Speyside Way?

Yes you can, although there are two free "first come, first served" camping areas on the Speyside Way (Fiddich Park, Craigellachie and Ballindalloch Station). During the summer season these have toilet and fresh water facilities. If you want to wild camp you are well within your rights to do so as long as you comply with the Scottish outdoor Access code. Visit www.outdooraccess-scotland.com for more details.
[/b]

Some blogs refer to The Speyside Way as being boring but I really don't understand that attitude, I loved it but maybe the weather had something to do with that. If I was choosing between The Cateran and The Speyside Way, I'd head for Speyside but with your liking for distilleries I'd allow a bit of extra time for the Craigellachie are (they're everywhere!!).

If you do go, hope you have a great time and look forward to your report.


Thanks for all that information, will check it out as it seems more my thing rather than the Cateran, I just thought the CT was nearby, easy bus from Dundee to Blairgowrie and off you go. The Speyside looks good, must do some homework now.Thanks again Gordie. :D
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Re: Speyside Way - With Add On's

Postby Johnboy4183 » Fri Mar 09, 2018 12:55 am

Enjoyed reading this. Going to be walking this in a few weeks and really looking forward to it.

On a side note, the old hotel in Spey bay has been demolished and new housing has been built in its place
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Re: Speyside Way - With Add On's

Postby Gordie12 » Fri Mar 09, 2018 6:49 pm

Johnboy4183 wrote:Enjoyed reading this. Going to be walking this in a few weeks and really looking forward to it.

On a side note, the old hotel in Spey bay has been demolished and new housing has been built in its place


Hope the weather is kind and you enjoy it.

This was really my 1st introduction to long distance walking and I have great memories of this trip.

Quite fancy a Speyside Way/Dava Way/Moray Coastal Trail combo some time in the future.
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