The Speyside Way may not be your first thought when thinking about a long-distance walk in Scotland but it is one of Scotland’s Great Trails; stretching 65 miles from Buckie on the Moray Coast, to Aviemore on the edge of the Cairngorms. After walking the West Highland Way and experiencing its stunning Highland scenery I was unsure of how the Speyside Way would compare. I can now confidently say that although different, both trails are rewarding and the Speyside Way is the perfect choice for your first long distance walk!
In comparison to classic Scottish walks, the Speyside Way is generally flat as you are walking in the valley of the River Spey. On the other hand, it has more facilities, attractions and towns along the route so you have plenty opportunities for breaks; I can now personally recommend many distilleries along the way where you can ‘rest your legs’!
I honestly could not think of a better introduction to self-guided walking than this trip. I found the waymarking brilliant, met lots of locals along the way (you never feel too far away from civilisation), explored distilleries and historic railway stations each day and stayed in such welcoming and comfortable B&B’s each night! Here are my 4 top reasons to choose the Speyside Way as your next walk:
Most of the route follows the former Great North of Scotland Railway which has not been in use since 1971, allowing for easy, flat walking. Because of this, I found myself surrounded by trees on most days but you don’t have a chance to miss the open countryside as there is so much railway history to discover along the way. Making my way along the old railway trackbeds I came across many Bridges, Viaducts and Stations that give a glimpse of a previous way of life. My personal favourite was the Bridge of Garten Station where you can sit in the historic waiting rooms and feel like you have been transported back to the 50’s! There is also the chance to experience the historic Steam Train between Aviemore and Boat of Garten at the end of the walk!
The River Spey is the one constant throughout this walk, even when I couldn’t see the River I could still hear the fast-flowing waters following my every step. Famous for salmon fishing and whisky, I soon learn that the distilleries now rely on the springs from the river to produce their distinctive Scottish Malts. The Speyside Way is not a busy trail, I met many day walkers on the trails but not too many walking the full route, and actually saw more anglers than walkers. It is the ideal place to try some angling – just let us know and we can include extra days in your itinerary!
A real highlight of the trip for me was the Tomintoul Spur, after a few days of easy-going forest and railway tracks, this optional route provides such a welcome change of scenery and terrain. Leaving the railway line and River Spey behind, I finally reach open countryside and can see for miles around. The walking is more challenging, but I am rewarded with wild scenery and great views of the Cairngorms. With the chance to visit Ballindalloch Castle and Glenlivet Distillery too, this spur is not to be missed!
Speyside is home to over half of Scotland’s Malt Whisky distilleries and the Way itself is accessible to at least 6! If you are a whisky-lover there is no question that this is the trip for you. But if like me, whisky is not your preferred tipple, there are still lots of ways to enjoy this walk! The Distilleries along the trail gave me the perfect opportunity to take a break from walking, have a change of scenery and learn about the distilling process. When given the chance, I was happy to sample some of our most famous export too! Distillery tours are also available, I would recommend to book these in advance by phone. The biggest surprise of my trip was enjoying a ‘Gaelic Porridge’ one morning, where your porridge is accompanied by a ‘dram’ to set you up for the day ahead!