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Cairngorm attack from sea level

Cairngorm attack from sea level

Postby Klemens1410 » Fri Oct 05, 2018 11:38 am

Route description: Speyside Way

Date walked: 05/09/2018

Time taken: 8 days

Distance: 141 km

Ascent: 1245m

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I've made this report to help with planning and organizing similar excursions effectively. In case anybody has any questions concerning the details of what we have experienced, I hope I can be reached via WalkingHighlands web page.

We were travelling as a pair with a tent. The weather was not typically Scottish - there was no rain at all, so some usual problems didn't occure. We were using three maps and a compass.


Sometimes we were using Google Maps to find our precise position. The Speyside Way is marked with yellow arrows on brown posts. Sometimes these are only posts, where the path does not turn. In my opinion the map is vital and it is not possible to travel using only path marks. Comparing it to Polish sign standards, the route is poorly marked. Our journey lasted 8 days from 29th Aug to 5th Sep 2018:
1. Buckie - Fochabers (16 km)
2. Fochabers – Speyside Gardens (23 km)
3. Speyside Gardens - Dufftown - Speyside Gardens (19 km)
4. Speyside Gardens – Blacksboat (16 km)
5. Blacksboat – Tomintoul (28 km)
6. Tomintoul - Avon Waterfall (13 km)
7. Avon Waterfall - Fords of Avon refuge (17 km)
8. Fords of Avon refuge – Cairngorm Mountain (9 km)

We walked days 1. - 5. along the route described in Speyside Way map booklet. Days 6. - 8. were spent en route improvised by ourselves.

1. Buckie - Fochabers
The first section was easy to follow, since we were going along the coast line. There's a useful shortcut through the golf course, accessible without any restrictions. Just be aware of stray golf balls. We passed two groups of players and fortunately nobody was shot.


By the mouth of the river Spey we found Scottish Dolphin Centre.


After leaving the coast it was also hard to loose ones way, since it sticks along the river. We had only problems at the very end to find the camping site in Fochabers, but a very nice lady helped us. In fact it was really easy - we needed to go up the stream to reach the area. The camping in Fochabers was perfect, since there were no people there (even service people) and it was surrounded by pure, untainted nature. We paid remotely according to instructions sent to us - we were asked to put money into the box, so we put it there only to realize it was an ashtray. I hope we are forgiven :).

2. Fochabers - Speyside Gardens
The beginning was very easy, since we travelled an asphalt road more or less up to Bridgeton. On the way there was a large place to rest with a path leading to a viewpoint for Spey.


When the asphalt road became a forest path we started to ascend. In the forest we found something weird. There was something similar to a traffic light there, which was red. The information said we were near a shooting range and advised extreme caution. We stopped, but after 15 minutes we lost our patience and just passed by. Fortunately nobody was shot again.


After a long walk in the forest, we finally went down to Craigellachie and then walked along an old railway route (which goes under a complicated junction) in the direction of Aberlour in order to get to our camping site - Speyside Gardens. This camping was not empty - there were people in campers, clearly bored with reading their newspapers again, so it was a much different atmosphere to the one in Fochabers. But showers were clean and warm, so we didn't complain. I also must admit that the location of the site is beautiful.

3. Speyside Gardens - Dufftown - Speyside Gardens
After a tiring day 2. we decided to rest a little and we made one day excursion leaving the backpacks behind. Our goal was to visit Dufftown and to take pictures of as many distilleries as possible. I think that in the end we managed to find 7 different ones. We were walking along the route described on pages 50 and 51 of Speyside Way map booklet. To find our route we turned right after leaving Speyside Gardens camping and quickly we turned left upwards, not approaching the farm buildings. Then the route led through pasture roads and it was vital to track the map carefully. In the forest we found three big boletuses, so we didn't have to worry about our supper. After leaving the forest we found a fantastic view of Glenfiddich distillery.


Then we descended to Glenfiddich distillery itself and we went to Dufftown, walking along River Fiddich. It was nice experience, the many varying distilleries popping left and right in every bigger bushes.


We went back to Craigellachie along the old railway. In the building of old railway station at the beginning of the route there is a small museum led by a very pleasant old couple. The route itself is a little boring, since it is all the time the old railway.


4. Speyside Gardens - Blacksboat
In the morning we quickly reached Aberlour (unfortunately missing on the view of the Aberlour distillery) and we replenished our supplies. After walking around for two hours, I had realized that we were on the wrong side of the River Spey. While changing from pages 30,31 to 28,29 of Speyside Way map booklet I switched the sides of the map.


So we didn't cross the river as we were supposed to, but rather we were still walking alongside it. Fortunately the map was an accurate one, so it was possible to go along alternative paths shown there. And in fact the way could be little shortened in comparison with the original Speyside Way. Unfortunately when we were at Culquoich I didn't realize we had already reached it. So we continued along the pasture border instead of straight upwards, along the track. When we approached Spey, we had to go off the beaten path and through some bushes upwards to correct that mistake. But fortunately after some effort we finally reached it and were rewarded with a beautiful view on Knockando and Cardhu distilleries.


Then we passed by Hill of Phones and Phones as well reaching asphalt road where we met first people that day - a local family during a bike excursion. We reached Blacksboat going across the pasture. We crossed Spey to find an old railway station there.


According to the information from Walkinghighlands web page it should be an old camping site, but we didn't find a place to put a tent close to the station. Fortunately it was one just on the bank of Spey and it was even equipped with a bench :). Night in Blacksboat was perfect since the place is nearly uninhabited.


5. Blacksboat - Tomintoul
The beginning of the route was simple, since it continued along an old railway. We quickly reached Ballindaloch to buy some protein batons and to welcome quite new distillery (founded in 2014).


Unfortunately the route led alongside a busy road on the distance of over 5 km. Then we turned left where we didn’t find any young pheasants, but there was a large number of cows.


Then route led upwards through the hills with a picturesque heath. The descent to Glenlivet was not particularly well marked, but fortunately we saw our destination from the hills.


After leaving Glenlivet we lost our trail in a forest, but using our map and compass we returned on the proper path. Big ascends and descends exhausted us and we ran out of water (in Glenlivet there was no shop to replenish our supplies). All streams marked on the map, had dried up. When we passed Carn Daimh I found a marked well on my map. I descended from the route there about 100 m. I found a stream by the sound of trickling water. The stream was about 0,5 m below the surface of the ground. When I got back to my companion and the route, we descended through a dark forest and then through broad swamp. Fortunately some good people prepared long plank paths. It is a pity that my phone's battery died there, so you cannot see any pictures. The last difficult point before Tomintoul was a bridge over Conglass Water. The path there led through a private pasture, and there was a written request not to visit the pasture, but to go directly to the bridge. But the bridge is not visible from the top of the hill, so it is necessary to visit pasture, look around for a little bit and then to go directly to the bridge (tip for newcomers: it is more on the left side than on the right side). After passing by this last obstacle we went to Tomintoul and at the very end of The Main Street (it should be called The Only Street) we found The Smugglers Hostel – very good place to stay overnight.


It was possible to put a tent there, but our day was really tiring, so we took an opportunity to rest a little.

6. Tomintoul - Avon Waterfall
That day was the beginning of our improvised trek, rather than following the booklet. We didn’t want to get lost in the mountains, so we chose the simplest possible route – along the river.


And it was a really simple route, since it led along a gravel road, always close to the River Avon. The Avon Valley was spectacular: the views were wonderful and there were no people there. Only three cars passed us by. We put up our tent near Linn of Avon (waterfall) on a sandy beach.


There were complaints it was not possible to sleep because of noise. But the place was beautiful. And nobody there but us and some midges. For real men visiting the place, it is a pure joy to swim in a water under the waterfall.

Phones didn't work in entire Avon Valley. In order to call my wife, I had to ascend about 20 minutes up the hill.

7. Avon Waterfall - Fords of Avon refuge
At the very beginning of our walk we met a nice cyclist, Edward. It turned out to be a very fortunate happenstance, because he informed me that what I took for River Avon was Builg Burn and what I took for Builg Burn was River Avon. It was a major mistake, because Builg Valley is much bigger than Avon Valley, and we would have wasted a lot of time. After this lucky beginning of the day, it continued just as well – we ascended steadily along River Avon without any mishaps. At some point it was necessary to ascend quite high, since the alternative path leads very close to the river and it is entirely unsuitable for people with heavy backpacks. The day was sunny and the road was hot, so we met two adders soaking up the sun there. It was the dangerous species I know from Poland - the adders with a characteristic zigzag mark on their backs. We took care to avoid them.


The final part of our way was across a very steep hill and then across a muddy terrain. We weren't sure whether we could put our tent anywhere. Fortunately in the place called Athnam Fiann we found a hut (and a lot of space to pitch a tent).


It was a crossing of four big valleys with vast expanse, simply spectacular. The night spent there was a touching experience. I highly recommend it. In the evening came a group of young people: Polish girl and two Dutch boys. We spent together nice evening, exchanging experiences (our past was their future and vice versa) and some philosophical ideas.

8. Fords of Avon refuge – Cairngorm Mountain
At the beginning of our journey that day, we made sure to stay focused, since we knew we could expect steep and possibly dangerous ascent. After 1,5 hour trek along a picturesque Loch Avon, we came out at the bottom of really steep path.


We could see there first people during the day. The path was steep, but fortunately we found only one really dangerous place (close to the waterfall). After over 200 m of ascend (measured vertically), the slope of the hill became flatter and more people appeared on our path. On the top of Cairngorm Mountain we had realized that we were approaching the center of the tourist industry. We made use of one of its inventions: we took Funicular Train and then a bus which lessened our effort to get down to Aviemore.

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Joined: Feb 5, 2018

Re: Cairngorm attack from sea level

Postby gaffr » Wed Oct 10, 2018 9:41 am

I would agree with you re-the Speyside Way I would find it too tedious to walk. Never walked it but as a cycling route it is fine all the way down to the sea from Badenoch and since I live in Badenoch there are parts of it that find me on my bike quite frequently.

I think that I am correct to say that it was the first of any of the organised walking routes in Scotland nearly forty years ago. Before then you could use the Rights of Way fingerposts to guide you on a long walk. :)
I think that I am also correct when I write that the way that you took to Tomintoul.. ...presently the wee dead end alternative, was originally considered as part of a route that would take walkers into Glenmore via Bridge of Avon, Dorback, Ryvoan etc.then through the Lairig Ghru and on to follow the Tilt down to Blair Atholl.
I guess that at the time thought to be a route that for casual walkers without services and easy escapes to be a potential problem for many unprepared walkers?
There are many more demanding organised walking routes now available to walk in Scotland today.
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