Walking the Speyside Way
As one of Scotland’s four official Long Distance Routes, The Speyside Way was opened in 1981 offering walkers a scenic route from Spey Bay to Ballindalloch. The route proved popular, and in 1990 was extended from Ballindalloch to Tomintoul. In 1999 a route was added from Fochabers along the coast to Buckie, and in April 2000 the Speyside Way was extended from Ballindaloch to Aviemore, with plans in the pipeline to continue the route through to Newtonmore. Today, walkers can enjoy a route connecting the Moray coast with the foothills of the Grampian Mountains, primarily following the River Spey.
Parts of the route are suitable for cycling, including the stretch between Fochabers and Ballindalloch, and Nethybridge and Aviemore. The route can be walked in its entirety, either from the coast to the mountains, or following the downstream flow of the River Spey from the mountains to the coast, or walkers can choose sections of the route they would like to cover.
Starting from the car park near the police Station in Aviemore, the first section of the Speyside Way covers a distance of 6 miles to Boat of Garten. Birding enthusiasts will be interested to note that the Abernethy Forest RSPB Reserve located on the shores of Loch Garten is home to up to a population of Ospreys. These large raptors were on the brink of extinction, until in 1954 a pair of Ospreys made their home at Loch Garten resulting in a conservation effort that has regenerated their numbers in the area.
The next section of the Speyside Way travels from Boat of Garten, through the RSPB Abernethy reserve, to Grantown on Spey, covering a distance of 11 miles. The third section of the route between Grantown on Spey to Ballindalloch incorporates forest tracks and some disused railway tracks. At Ballindalloch walkers can tackle the 15 mile route to Tomintoul, passing Glenlivet along the way. This is the highest section of the walk and does require doubling back on the same track to rejoin the main route from Ballindalloch. Those who have walked it agree that this is no hardship as the scenery is spectacular.
The route from Ballindalloch to Craigellachie covers a distance of 12 miles and takes walkers through one of Scotland’s prime whisky producing areas. Walkers should make a point of visiting the Speyside Visitor Centre in Aberlour, as well as the Aberlour Distillery. The 4 mile spur from Craigellachie to Dufftown offers walkers the opportunity to explore the town and visit Balvenie Castle and Glenfiddich Distillery. The 13-mile route from Craigellachie to Fochabers travels through the picturesque Craigellachie Forest, and the 10 miles from Fochabers to Buckie takes walkers along some spectacular coastline. Certainly the Speyside Way is a route well worth exploring.