Tales from the Big Trails, in print on 2nd September 2021, available now for pre-order from Vertebrate Publishing. Featuring all 15 National Trails in England and Wales, and the 4 designated long-distance Scotland’s Great Trails. This is the story of the people I meet, the landscapes and coastal scenery and the sheer joy of walking these iconic long-distance routes in the UK. Click on a link below for a copy.
A cycle track really, but a lovely walk to through the outskirts of the Grampian mountains following the Spey River to the sea at Spey Bay. Quite a few distilleries are on the route, which could slow the pace somewhat for those inclined. The Caledonian forests are very pleasant with the possibility of seeing a Pine Martin to complement Buzzards, Eagles and Deer.
Time of year
Any time of year really subject to heavy snowfalls and midge conditions. The path is good going for much of the route and I met far more cyclists than walkers. I will return to do the same as this is an excellent route for the cycle tourist, with the exception of some pure footpath sections, easily bypassed.
Length of walk
Until recently this used to be the shortest National Trail at 65 miles but is in the process of being extended. I walked from Newtonmore, although the route in 2016 starts from Kincraig. There is a day optional spur to Tomintoul, but if I took all these options I’d never finish. There used to be sections to Dufftown and I am guessing these options have more to do with the requirements of the tourist industry than to create a pleasant continuous route. So I walked some 85 miles at least in 4 fast-paced days from Newtonmore to Buckie.
Plenty of good accommodation, with a few equally spaced campsites near to facilities and shops for provisions. Aviemore is a major tourist destination for access to the Cairngorm National Park.
The wonderful overnight sleeper combined travel and accommodation once again. Quite cheap if you forgo a bunk bed and select the seated carriage. I have disgorged alone at Newtonmore station early in the morning to start the walk along a cycle track into Kingussie for breakfast. This early section at the time was not waymarked, until reaching Kincraig, with it soon to close Post Office, open since 1896! I am travelling fast and light for this trip and camp in Dalraddy shortly afterwards, tired after a train journey and long walk.
Aviemore provides breakfast and entry onto further cycle paths into Boat of Garten, a quite posh residential area with its own steam train. Nice place for lunch at another post office that catered for a wide range of lunch options. No way will this one close as it has a healthy customer base. Nethy Bridge brings me close to the Osprey nesting site, where I hear from fellow day walkers that the fledgeling chicks will soon depart the nest for South Africa. Grantown-on-Spey is lovely, with a nice campsite and usual Co-Op for food.
The latter provides provisions again for lunch for the walk to Aberlour through wonderful pine forests with a chance to see Capercaillie, Pine Martins and Stoats. I only see the latter, plenty of them. The route then picks up a disused railway line for the remained of the day past a number of famous distilleries and warehouses full of their valuable produce. Aberlour is ideal to pick up an evening meal before reaching the campsite where I meet a few other backpackers. The fish and chip van calls that evening and cannot be ignored, so double dinners for me.
The last day is a long 24 miles to Buckie. One backpacker starts at the same time as me, but by his own admission, will not make the same destination. Hardly surprising when you see that his backpack is larger than he is! The early forestry walk gives my first view of the sea and a few Red Squirrels. Much of the forest is being harvested by those War of the Worlds machines, which pause briefly to let me pass, although I could watch them for hours. The path reaches the sea at a Dolphin Watching Centre, where the bottlenose dolphins gather to demolish the salmon as they loiter at the mouth of the river Spey. I walk with a young girl into Buckie, she has been on the trail around the British Coast since November having completed some 4,000 miles. Rock on! We heartily agree why we do this stuff, to make us happy, and in her case, as an excuse to eat lots of cake. My faith in youth is restored.
The bus to Inverness takes and age via Elgin and then on to the sleeper to Kings Cross and the London commuter buzz.
Next time I’ll bring a bicycle.
- Day 1 – 18m – Newtonmore station to Dalraddy – Tent
- Day 2 – 20m – Grantown – Tent
- Day 3 – 24m – Aberlour – Tent
- Day 4 – 24m – Buckie – Bus to Inverness and Sleeper home
Again, Scotrail Sleeper is an excellent way to get to the Highlands.