Friday 7 June 2013

Aviemore to Hopeman Day 1 - Aviemore to Grantown-on-Spey.

Near the start of the Speyside Way, just north of Aviemore

Rafe and I set off at 09:30, dropped off at Aviemore Station by Jim, on his way south (far south) to pick up Friddie from Uni and to do a little family visiting in North Yorkshire.

Rafe on the Speyside Way,  just north of Aviemore

It was almost a mile of street walking in Aviemore, pleasant enough in the warm sunshine, before the first waymarker was spotted - the Scottish thistle in brackets - for the Speyside Way, as we reached the northern end of Aviemore.

The River Spey, just north of Aviemore from the Speyside Way

We headed east on good tracks, through pretty woodland with vews of the snowy Cairngorms to the south, between the trees, a mixture of mostly Scots pine and silver birch, with the occasional hazel and oak. We had just one brief view of the River Spey...

The Cairngorm mountains from the Speyside Way, just north of Aviemore

On the Speyside way, north of Aviemore

Before long we struck out northwards on the open moorland, alongside the Strathspey Railway, but the only time a steam train went by, it was deep in a cutting, so all we saw was steam and smoke.

Rafe beside the Speyside Way on the moor north of Aviemore

The views were expansive, mountains in the middle distance with woods, moorland and hills nearby, the trees golden with spring. The River Spey itself was away to the east and we wouldn't see it again for a while yet. Rafe was loving the freedom, bouncing about in the heather and jumping up at the branches.

The Speyside Way, looking south, from just north of Aviemore

There were few people about, mostly cyclists, making the most of the good path and the lack of ascent. We saw more people as we approached Boat of Garten, back in the woods, the leaves sparking with sunlight. Boat of Garten itself started within the wood itself, the odd chalet at first, then more substantial houses, some with security gates and Grecian potrico's, but all with great views to the mountains. It actually got a touch boring with each house obviously trying to outdo the next.

The Speyside Way from north of Aviemore

The old village centre of Boat of Garten was charming. Quaint and pretty with well cared for gardens around old croft cottages and farm houses. I passed the shop without calling in, hoping for a cafe with outside seating, but no luck. There was hotel, but it wasn't for the likes of us, a sweaty backpaker and a slightly muddy dog.

The Cairngorm mountains from the Speyside Way

We had only our second encounter with the River Spey at Garten Bridge as we left the village, Rafe having a paddle and a drink. We crossed the bridge, a fairly busy road, before slipping back into the forest again, initially just within the trees, beside the road and then deeper into the woods.

The River Spey at Boat of Garten

We met an interesting group of walkers here, four German men, all with big packs, almost at the end of their Speyside Way. All big burley men with brown limbs, big smiles and the shortest shorts you can imagine, in various shades of psychedelic, we met and passed with a cheery "good morning" and the encounter kept me chuckling for quite a time afterwards.

Lochan in Abernethy Forest (NH967193)

A small lochan on the boundary of Abernethy Forest (NH967193) was alive with dragonflies and damselflies, wonderful place for a few minutes pause...

Damsel fly in Abernethy Forest (NH967193)

We stopped for elevenses (even though it had gone twelve) in Abernethy Forest at a spot with marvelous views through a gap in the trees, to the hills in the east (NH979193). The sun was hot, hot, hot by this time and we were ready for a drink and a snack.

A good spot for some elevenses - looking east from NH979193 in Abernethy Forest

I think I was trying to walk at my normal pace here, on the good tracks through Abernethy Forest, not taking into account the extra weight I was carrying on my back. My right calf decided to throw a spanner in and I pulled a muscle rather nastily. I hobbled on through the beautiful surroundings, hoping that it would improve...

Another wildlife hotspot in Abernethy Forest by the Speyside Way

I bought some lunch at the little shop in Nethy Bridge and we sat beside the River Nethy, enjoying the warmth and the views as we ate. Rafe would have been in for a swim, but he was detained as the bank was sheer and climbing out would have been impossible for him.

The River Nethy by Nethy Bridge - time for lunch

North of Nethy Bridge by Castle Roy

We continued north from Nethy Bridge, along the line of the old railway, pleasant farmland and mixed woodland, stretching to the hills in the middle distance, green and gold, with the Cairngorm mountains now far to the south.

An old railway building by the old railway line,
now the Speyside Way, north of Nethy Bridge

Rafe on the Speyside Way, north of Nethy Bridge

The locals weren't too sure about Rafe...
On the Speyside Way, north of Nethy Bridge

Rafe on the Speyside Way, north of Nethy Bridge

The path took us near to the Spey at times and we climbed over a fence and down to the river at Balliefurth Wood for Rafe to get a drink and a cool off. We didn't linger long though as there were a couple of small birds telling us off, so we climbed back to the path and let them settle.

Rafe in the River Spey at Balliefurth Wood (NJ019246)

The River Spey at Balliefurth Wood (NJ019246)

Rafe by the River Spey at Balliefurth Wood (NJ019246)

The River Spey, nearing Grantown-on-Spey

The path moved away from the river again, edged with cuckoo flower, stitchwort and speedwell, through more woods and fields. Even when we skirted the industrial estate at Grantown-on-Spey the sunshine and flowers made it a pleasure to walk there. We had a slight glitch at the junction of the A939/B970 crossing, where the path nears Grantown, the waymark was out of sight and I had come to rely on them, rather than bother to check the map.

The view west from the Old Spey Bridge at Grantown-on-Spey

The view west from the Old Spey Bridge at Grantown-on-Spey

A quick look at the map though, pointed us back on track and we crossed the very lovely Old Spey Bridge and on into the hamlet of Speybridge. Fishermen were lined up in the river, casting among the sparking waters.

The Old Spey Bridge at Grantown-on-Spey

Rafe had a bit of a paddle here, just upstream from the fishermen.

Rafe - The River Spey by Grantown-on-Spey

A final piece of woodland, Angach Wood, took us to the end of our stint on the Speyside Way. On the outskirts of Grantown-on-Spey, we turned left into the town and the Way turned right onto the next leg. I was quite sad to turn away, its definitely a Way I would like to complete at some time.

The hills to the east of Grantown-on-Spey from the campsite

We continued up a side street to Grantown's town square and spent a few minutes people watching (Friday evening in a small town !!), before trolling the final kilometre to the campsite on the outskirts of town. The site was a Caravan Club site, with statics and tourers as well as tents, well run, clean and slick (there were three caravanners in the queue in front of me when I arrived and so I heard the speal about the rules four times in all). Typically the tent field was as far from the reception and toilets as it could get, but this field wasn't busy (as was the rest of the site) and we soon had the tent up and the stove lit.

I chatted to another long distance walker, from somewhere in North America, who was doing the Speyside Way from north to south. He was struggling with an injury and wasn't sure if he would be able to complete the next day. He was happy to hear that there was little ascent and the path was good the whole way.

A tired Rafe at the Grantown-on-Spey campsite

After a cuppa, Rafe and I walked back to Grantown some provisions, tomorrow would be a wild camp, including a couple of croissants for breakfast and then tripped back (much lighter on the feet without the big pack) to the tent (another two km !!). After a picnic tea and another cuppa in the sun, Rafe and I went for an evening walk (!!) in the woods beside Dulicht Bridge near the campsite. We then did a spot of diary writing, tidying up and stashing all the kit in the porch, before turning in (I love my tent) at about 22:30. The people in the next tent suffered greatly from wind and they found this very funny for a while !

During the night there was some snuffling and rustling noises. Rafe's head was up, listening, but he made no move to investigate. The rustling stopped. Strange...

Route: Aviemore Station (NH895124), Follow the waymarked Speyside Way to Grantown-on-Spey (NJ035276), town streets NE to town square, road NE to caravan and campsite (NJ027283) signposted.

Statistics:  Distance: 28.9km  Ascent: 290m  Time: 8 hours.

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