After seeing the Cairngorms peeking at us from the horizon the day before, we were eager to reach the end of The Speyside Way and begin on our next adventure: exploring the Cairngorm National Park. And so, the early morning light found us briskly walking through the residential part of Boat of Garten and towards Aviemore, the last stop of the trail.
When deciding how to divide up the different walking sections of The Speyside Way, the trail between Grantown-on-Spey and the Boat of Garten left us perplexed. Unlike the previous days’ sections, this portion was flat and straightforward, and as a result many people had combined it with the last section to Aviemore, the end of the trail and only an additional six miles. Given that we had walked 25 miles in the past two days though, we decided our legs had probably earned a rest day and decided to only do the 11 miles to Boat of Garten.
After a heavy session of hiking the day before, our eyes and limbs were reluctant to recognise the morning light coming through our window. This unwillingness was further exacerbated when we remembered that today was the most difficult section of the Speyside Way: 13 miles of hillwalking in the searing heat. However the rumbling sounds of trucks from the Cragganmore distillery next door soon alerted us to rise and shine.
The next section of The Speyside Way, from Craigellachie to Ballindalloch, is a long, straight stretch of 12 miles that follows the old railway route. In fact, throughout most of it, the old station platforms, railway arches and even remnants of discarded railway machinery remained, yet to be claimed by nature.
Just like the Speyside region, whisky is a pretty big deal in our household. We hold regular whisky nights, it’s become the de facto gift people give us for holidays, and our table has become so overrun with whisky bottles that one of my writing desks drawers has become a mini whisky cabinet. So the opportunity to see how one of our favourite drinks is made, and explore it in the gorgeous landscape of Scotland no less, gave us the impetus to rise early and make our first stop of the day: the Macallan Distillery.
On the third section of The Speyside Way, we awoke early like little kids at Christmas, eager to start on the trail. It wasn’t so much the joy of hiking that gave us this skip in our step, as the promise of whisky in Craigellachie. Out of all the whisky distilleries in Scotland, more than half are situated in Speyside, and in particular, where we were staying.
The second day of the Speyside Way trail weaves along pebbly beaches, through woodland and pauses in the heritage town of Fochabers. Expect unspoilt nature, Scottish castles and hearty helpings of cake and whisky.
When it came to choosing a hiking destination in Scotland, we were spoilt for choice. With its rugged mountain scenery and beautiful coastline, it was difficult to choose. All we knew was that it needed beautiful scenery, culture and whisky. Lots of whisky.
So when we came across the Speyside Way, we knew we were on to a winner.
The long-distance hiking trail extends 65 miles across the northern coast of Scotland, through historic towns that have barely changed over the years, to its pine forests and whisky country. Ending in Cairngorm National Park, the Speyside Way highlights Scotland’s history, heritage and countryside in pockets that are not always visited by tourists.
After watching Far from the Madding Crowd recently, I’ve become slightly obsessed with all things quaint and English. I mean, who wouldn’t want to go frolicking in the Dorset countryside in pretty Victorian get-up? So when it came time to choose the next #take12trips challenge, it may have influenced my choice of the Malvern Hills. Pretty scenery? The Malverns is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Quaint housing? More like, can you get any quainter (or English?) than a shepherd’s hut. Victorian clothing? Well, you can’t get everything you want….
After arriving late in the night, I began to question choosing such a remote choice for our accommodation, but waking up the next morning to ducklings playing in the private pond by our hut at the Malvern Holiday Park quickly confirmed that this was an excellent decision.
I am sure everyone reaches a travel rut at some stage. Whether it is visiting the same country every year, taking the same beach holiday or even booking at the same time each year, we’ve all been there. For me, I found myself spending all year saving towards a spectacular (but expensive) couple of weeks away to some far-flung destination, with barely any time off to explore other destinations in-between. Not only that, but the guilt of the environmental cost of such extravagant trips had me questioning whether I could find similar excitement in my backyard.