I pulled back the curtains to see a grey dawn and sprinkling of overnight snow. What a contrast to yesterday! Aviemore seemed grey.
But once out of town – and there are those cruel cruel people who say that the best thing about Aviemore is the road out – I was walking through ancient woods with the Speyside Steam Railway chugging by in the distance ( I waved – did anyone see?).
But I didn’t mind. I love trees: each species has a whole biology, history, culture and myth around it.
In the Abernethy forest there were Scots pines a hundred feet high, creaking somnolently in the soft breeze, and even in dull light reflecting that russet coloured bark and papery skin.
There were birches too, and I’d never seen them so gnarled and old.
Great trees had fallen winters ago and lay covered with lichen, like coral-encrusted wrecks. You could stay in these woods and potter around for ever.
Onto the disused railway track (part of the Speyside Way) at the confusingly named Boat of Garten (not a boat!).
In spite of the cold east wind in my face the path was a delight, for every now and then I passed an information panel which told me about the birds and plants and land around ( Did you know, for example, that aspens ‘tremble’ as an evolutionary defence, to shake leaf-munching caterpillars off them?).
Even better, the panels mentioned the local farmer’s efforts to sustain the ecology along with his farmland: ‘Alistair knows his tractor will compact the meadows, so he leaves it alone’…. ‘if you see any unusual birds tell Alistair’… ‘Alistair’s neighbour remembers when this was a railway line and she could flag down the train to Aviemore to go and see her sister’.
I felt I knew Alistair! What a nice man! Living and working in harmony with nature ( and smart thinking info panel sponsors Moray Council and the RSPB)
In Anagach Woods, so close to the end of the trail (it was a long one – 17 miles), I sat down in the moss. There were waves and waves of it, rolling across the forest floor. It was as soft as a mattress and once down, I didn’t want to get up. Maybe, in this sheltered place, I could build a little moss cave and spend the night. But I heaved my weary limbs Grantown-wards and marched along General Wade’s military road.
What do you need at the end of a long walk with muscles aching and feet like stiff boards? The warmest welcome possible, of course, and that’s what I got from Jane Laud at Kinross House.
And down the road at the Craig Bar, good pub grub, friendliness, cheer and good humour from Robbie the barman (and a huge range of Speyside single malt whiskies)