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Speyside Way in 4.5 days May 2015

Speyside Way in 4.5 days May 2015

Postby shug2515 » Wed May 27, 2015 7:17 pm

Route description: Speyside Way

Date walked: 11/05/2015

Time taken: 4.5 days

Distance: 110 km

2 people think this report is great.
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Firstly I would definitely recommend this route to anybody interested in walking, you definitely don't need to be super-fit, just enjoy walking! The way is so well sign-posted you almost don't need a map. A quick summary of the way we did it:

Day 0: Sleeper train from London Euston to Aviemore
Day 1: Aviemore to Grantown
Day 2: Grantown to Ballindalloch
Day 3: Ballindalloch to Craigellechie
Day 4: Craigellechie to Fochabers
Day 5: Fochabers to Buckie

Day 0: We decided to get the sleeper train to the start (Aviemore) and walk with the river to the coast. This seemed the best option to us, as we could arrive early morning, have some breakfast and set off. The sleeper train itself is a bit of a novelty, very comfortable and although I didn't sleep brilliantly I'd recommend using it. We set off from Euston about 9pm.

Day 1: Arrived Aviemore 7:40am, and looked for somewhere to have breakfast. We went to the Cairngorm hotel just opposite the station who were more than happy to accommodate non-residents and had a great breakfast there! Then set off just after 9 to the first pit-stop at Boat of Garten. The first stretch of the walk is just getting out of Aviemore, then on alongside a golf course before you get on to more interesting paths through a bit of moor and wood. Not much to see at Boat of Garten but handy to stop for loos/a drink etc. As this was our longest day of walking (17 miles) we pushed on to Nethy bridge soon after. Until this point the sky had been clear and blue but we saw a storm approaching quickly, and decided to start putting coats on. It's quite impressive how quickly the weather can change in the area! It rained hard the whole way to Nethy bridge, the path was mostly through woods which provided some shelter but by the time we arrived we really wanted some shelter and a cup of tea. We'd have liked to detour to Loch Garten on the way to see the Ospreys but the weather was too miserable really. Nethy bridge hotel did sandwiches for lunch so along with a cup of tea that sorted us out. It was sunshine and showers all the way in to Grantown. We stayed at Rossmor guest house which was the far end of Grantown from the way but well worth the extra few minutes walk. They were well set-up for walkers and gave us lots of tips for places to eat etc. In the end we just went for pie&chips at The Craig Bar.

Day 2: Aviemore to Ballindalloch. This was probably the hardest day, partly because the route is hillier, but mostly because it isn't "as advertised" any more. From what we heard, local land owners don't always want the route going through their land, so it's far more wiggly than shown on the official maps, and resulted in a lot of extra stops as we tried to work out what was going on. We thought this added around 2 miles, and a group that were doing the route on the same schedule as us said they thought it was about 3km extra. Unfortunately our B&B was a way off the main route, but fortunately the owners had offered to pick us up from Ballindalloch station so we didn't have to do any additional walking! We stayed at Woodville, another place to recommend, very friendly couple and they also dropped us off and picked us up at a local hotel for dinner which was kind.

Day 3: Ballindalloch to Craigellachie (via Macallan!). This section was very welcome after the past 2 days, being both shorter and flatter. The path follows the river/the old railway line the whole way so really is as flat as a pancake, but still quite interesting as you pass quite a few distilleries and the landscape varies around you. We were booked in for a tour of The Macallan at 2pm so didn't really have much time to stop, but did have a brief look in at the Speyside Way visitor centre in Aberlour. Aberlour itself looked quite nice but sadly we didn't get chance to wander round, so along with Grantown this is somewhere I'd like to revisit. One tip that wasn't obvious from our map is that you can cross over Victoria bridge (just by the car park as you come in to Aberlour from the South) and there's a path running alongside the other bank of the river all the way up to Macallan. This allowed us to cut the corner slightly and meant we were just in time for the tour. I'd highly recommend this one as it covered the whole whisky making process in great detail and the tasting at the end was good too. Had a slightly hairy walk back in to Craigelllachie as we walked along the main road for part of it, as we couldn't see another route, although there must be a better way. We stayed at the Highlander Inn, another great place for whisky!

Day 4: Craigellachie to Fochabers. There's a reasonable amount of climbing along the first section, and the weather was quite warm that day, however the shade from the wood did provide reasonable shelter. The woods were great to walk through and we saw lots of species of birds, with the track providing easy walking. Look out for your first view of the sea after having climbed a few hundred feet and getting to the North side of Ben Aigan - a nice place to take a few photos! From there it's descending out of the wood then fairly flat along the river which was pleasant enough but fairly unremarkable. We stayed at the Grant arms in Fochabers and got a pizza from the takeaway place, overall the village was nice but not somewhere I'd rush back to.

Day 5: The last stretch along the river to Spey Bay is very nice, alternating between woods and views of the increasingly spread-out river. Spey Bay itself is great, a fairly rough sea coming in to a pebble beach with lots of people out spotting whales/dolphins and a nice cafe. Unfortunately the last section of the walk from Spey Bay to Buckie is by far the worst - we all wished the path had ended in Spey Bay! The path takes you between a golf course and a rubbish dump (so the path is full of rubbish that gets blown in) then follows the coastal road for quite a way past some houses and a fair few abandoned buildings. Buckie itself wasn't particularly inspiring either, I'm really not sure why the Speyside Way finishes here! Still, it was good to do the whole of it (excluding the Tomintoul spur) and I'd like to revisit the area at some point.
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Joined: May 18, 2015

2 people think this report is great.
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