Speyside Way - Blog 3/3 - The Walking Bit...

There is a good reason to leave the blogging of a long walk a week and a bit, the highs are less high and the lows are less low.  The born-tired weariness has left the body, the blisters are well on the way to healing, and the clothes are in the wash...

So, I have notes from each day and some bits I will be emailing the guidebook people and the mapping people...

Day 1 - Aviemore to Nethy Bridge

12 miles, a gloriously sunny day that was only marred by Scotrail being very uncomfortable and late. A simple walk along a disused railway, alongside a working steam rain (to Boat of Garten) and then a wander through Caledonian forest and plantations.  The views in places were superb...

Looking back there was still snow in the corries of the mountains, and as I wandered I saw my first deer of the week.

The walking was easy trails, navigation was fine - apart from the pylons having moved since the book was written...

Nethy Bridge took me to the Lazy Duck hostel, imagine your dream eco-hostel and the picture in your head is the lazy duck... Wood fire to keep the chill at bay, cosy beds behind privacy curtains and wildlife to share your breakfast with....

Day 2 - Nethy Bridge to Cragganmore

23 miles

A day of two halves.... The first 11 miles were more of the same, good trails through conifer... Granton-on-Spey was a perfect tea stop... Then it started raining...

The short section to Cromdale was memorable, if only for Charles and his very welcome approach to providing hospitality - a huge family dining room table, a giant tea pot, homemade cakes and an honesty box... Combined with sage advice from previous walkers about just how bad the next section was...

And boy was it.  In terms of rough walking it wasn't bad (bad day in the Peak District) but in contrast, in the rain, it was unwelcome.  The route deviates from the OS mapping (the Harvey is ok) as the local farm moved the path in the height of the foot and mouth.  The Cicerone guide says it requires careful navigation, I'd say it was easy - there were plenty of waymarker posts and thistles.  It did require concentration in the wet, as it was rubble covered in mud for a couple of miles.

Dropping back to the railway I saw a mountain hare, and also either a ginger rat with cute ears or a pine martin - I'm going with pine martin.

Then it was Cragganmore House, my B&Bs for the night.  I can't recommend Tony and Helen's pad enough.  From excellent food, through to a giant bath, free WiFi and most importantly for the end of that day - a boiler room where they kindly hung my gear to dry out.

Day 3 - Cragganmore to Tomintoul

15 Miles

After a great fry up, it was a two hill special via Glenlivet, the rain of then day before had turned some of the paths into streams.  A long slow grind uphill, was followed by a short sharp descent into the valley - there was a minor detour along the road to a suspension bridge for walkers and then Glenlivet Hall - which in August is taken over as an arts, crafts and most especially food centre.  Local ladies were serving homemade food for MacMillan, and it seemed rude not to stop (another thank you to Helen who'd suggest this as a port of call).

Through the distillery, and up and over the next hill... The highest on the route (well my version of the route), with friendly if well accommodated cows watching my passage.  Down through the woods to Tomintoul was a bogfest - Three metre wide tracks ankle deep in mud across their full width isn't conducive to clean walking. 

Tomintoul is a long, thin town... and the Smugglers Cove Hostel is at the other end of it.  However, clean, warm, cosy, with an excellent kitchen area I was happy as a bug in a rug.

Day 4 - Tomintoul to Cragganmore

15 Miles

Yep - I was heading back - the plan being I had a bit more time to see a distillery, and explore a bit... The top of Carn Daimh had a random post on it, on closer inspection its an "authorised" camera post...

Not a bad view...

Dropping back into Glenlivet, I timed it completely wrong... I arrived just as four coaches did... So I went back to the hall for lunch and carried on over the next hill, the paths were drying out and the walking was good.

I tried to visit Ballindoch... but for a visitors centre it seemed to fairly unwelcome to visitors - by appointment only and £35 a visit... So I popped into Cragganmore, had a lovely couple of shorts and a good chat to some of the staff.

Back to Helen and Tony's - duck pate, followed by cannon of lamb.... delicious... and a good nights sleep before the longest day.

Day 5

26 Miles

Helen looked sceptical and mentioned that there were buses... I looked at the map again, and reckoned that I would be fine. 

The first 13 miles were genuinely easy walking - disused railway all the way to Aberlour, a pub lunch at the Mash Tune, and blat on for the hard bit.  The road section was as weary as they ever are, then the forest track began.  Hemmed in, in high humidity, hard tracks... limited views due to the trees...

Yup, it was one of those moments when you start questioning your own sanity...

However, just as boredom and footache was getting to be annoying, along came the organisers of the following day's Speyside Way Ultramarthon.  A chat about runs done, and inanities shared I saw the first of their "motivational" way markers....

And for the next eight miles, they made me groan, grimace, smile and be very glad that I wasn't running it... The hills aren't massive, but they are short, sharp and irritating when you've a big rucksack on your back.

Into Fochabers, to a lovely pub, a local bungee me a tenner for the cause and a pint later I was almost human - well human enough to find fish and chips, relax and find my compeed - 26 miles had rubbed badly.

Day 6

10 miles.

This was the gentlest of walks.  Pancake flat, to the coast.  Stop at the Dolphin & Whale centre of tea and cake, do a sharp right turn and walk into Buckie.  I was serenaded by silliest as I went, 30-odd seals on the beach, just enjoying the sun... Through small coastal villages with history, catching German spies in WWII, and the last stretch into Buckle itself.

What Aviemore seemed to lack in official markings of the way Buckie relished in...

Overall, it's a good easy walk (especially if you break it down to more days that I did), the way marking is good (apart from where the pylons have gone) and the paths are 90% very good.

One thing I did find interesting, is at no point did I see the official sign of the way.  The thistle, almost everywhere, the Cairngorms National Park more than once.  Something with a leaping salmon, never... I also passed no walkers going my way, and only about eight going the other, all week.  So if you want a break from busy routes this could well be for you!

Oh, and there also seems to be a lack of commemorative tat... I like fridge magnets or t-shirts of walks!

I raised awareness when I chatted to people and will have fun of doing it all again in a couple of weeks, this time England and St Cuthbert's Way




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