A Journal From The Speyside Way Walk

A Journal From The Speyside Way Walk

Recently I headed up to Scotland to do a couple of long distance trails. Below are some of my thoughts and experiences recorded in my journal as I walked the Speyside Way.

Day 1

29/07/14, 12km Buckie → Nether Dallachy

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My flight to Inverness was delayed an hour and a half but the busses to Buckie were straight forward. Stocked up on food but could only find a huge gas bottle. Very tried from the journey up here, on top of a late night while visiting a friend in Birmingham yesterday. Starting in Buckie at 5:30pm, I had to bribe myself with the reward of a pub in 8km in order to start walking. Saw about 50 seals lounging on the beach which helped!

The pub however turned out to be a gold course and not open. I made a slight detour to Nether Dallachy but the pub on my map turned out to be non-existent. I came across a very interesting old viaduct while looking for a camping spot and talked to a father and son who were local and suggested I try a little further down the path. I found a suitable spot and could not wait to climb in to my tent. Stalked by a deer as it was getting dark.

Day 2

30/07/14, 22km Nether Dallachy → Craigellachie

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Walked to Fochabers, it amazes me how quickly civilization feels like a novel luxury. Had coffee and a “Bridie” (pasty) on park bench. Lots of strong accents! Lots of road sections, hard on the feet. Some hills into forestry but mostly flat. I put my flip flops on to make the road a little easier. Hardly saw anyone outside of the small towns.

Free campsite in Craigellachie over the river from a pub. Very local, very small and no food. A beer was still appreciated. I found a pub serving food with a very impressive whisky selection. Made me wish I drank spirits! Sat next to a very boring middle age couple.

Day 3

31/07/14, 22km Craigellachie → Ballindalloch

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Flat walk along old railway track that followed river. Arrived at Charlestown of Aberlour, got a few supplies and wanted a coffee but the only two options were bistros. My chosen bistro had a weird, quiet atmosphere. Needles to say I got a few odd looks. I popped into the Speyside Way Visitors Centre to inquire about the trail’s ‘spur’ section and more specifically how to get back (the spur is a one-way day’s walk from the main trail to Tomintoul which I didn’t fancy doing both ways) but shockingly it turned out I knew more than them on the matter – which was next to nothing.

The trail carried on along the old railway, flat and not much to see except some cool old stations and a few distilleries that weren’t much to look at. It rained hard and I got soaked through. Caught up to my first Speyside Way walkers – a German family. The mother and daughter were chatty but their son was a little strange and raced ahead of me, but kept having to wait for his family. Each time I caught him up he refused to make eye contact. Evening in tent sheltering from the rain in a free campsite, but I’m not complaining.

Day 4

01/08/14, 22km Ballindalloch → Tomintoul

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Started off with wet feet. Never a good start. Better views climbing up and over the hills. Very quiet. The sheep don’t seem used to hikers out here and let out a strange hiss directed at me while standing their ground. Had an iffy stomach all day which made the going hard coupled with the feet. Walked through Glenlivet distillery past 83,000 litre vats. Odd smell, neither good nor bad.

Bit of a struggle up the hills. Made it to Tomintoul at 6pm and went straight to the pub for Gammon and beers. Another customer wanted to push two tables together (including the one I was sitting at) to make room for a large group. I happily obliged, she bought me a beer and I had friends for the night.

I went to put my tent up in the town’s free campsite which turned out to be a complete joke. The ‘pitches’ were uneven and full of tree stumps! I did the best I could and made my way back to the pub where I found all of the patrons, including my new friends, singing Scottish songs to the sound of an accordion. It was a late night.

Day 5

02/08/14, 19 km Tomintul → Grantown

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Woke up a little hung over to find a pile of fruit had been left for me outside my tent. Confusing but very nice. Got a bacon and egg roll and a coffee in Tomintoul before getting a taxi back to Ballindalloch to continue along the main trail. It has been hard to find good coffee. American tourists everywhere – looking forward to getting back on the trail.

Struggled a little mentally today – not helped by bland terrain, poor weather and (still) wet feet. Met a few groups en-route. This included refreshment at the home of Erika and Charles in Grandale, who as I walked past were toasting whiskey with a group of American hikers and invited me in to join them. It turned out that Erika had set up a refreshment stand for hikers and she made me bacon on toast with some wild mushrooms she had foraged that day. I chatted with Erika and Charles after the American hikers had left, who turned out to be very interesting couple. Erika especially was very full of life and a pleasure to be around.

I was looking forward to a shower and the opportunity to dry my shoes, but the bunkhouse in Grantown was full. I went for a pint to make up for it and met the American hikers again. We chatted over a couple of drinks before I ventured back into the woods to find somewhere to sleep. My chosen site was questionable at best, though I was in no state to care.

Day 6

03/08/14, 24km Grantown → Avimore

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Fine day, flat to Nethybridge along old railway track. Shoes dried a little. Burger and a pint in  Nethybridge. Still pretty flat, another pint in Boat of Garten then the rain starts. Pretty dull, flat forest walk to Avimore. Got the finger from a honking car for no apparent reason other than for wearing hiking gear then screamed at by someone else, also in a car. A very warm welcome indeed!

I couldn’t find the ‘end’ to the trail despite an information board about the walk so I gave up and walked to the hostel. Lucky to get a room and have a SHOWER! I had a curry at the local indian restaurant to continue my end of trail tradition. Went for a pint and then back to the hostel for an early night. Tomorrow will be a day off before starting the East Highland Way to For William.

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