Craigiellachie to Ballindalloch 12m
Well preserved Aberlour station and visitors centre
Firstly, let me say that staying at the Highlander was an experience – a very enjoyable one. The owner is Japanese and, for want of a better description, is a whisky nut. Almost every square inch of wall in the bar was covered by whisky bottles, mostly Scotch, but also some award winning Japanese whisky – apparently their distillers are some of the finest in the world.
Anyway, when in Rome and all that. As I was nursing my beer a bottle of Craigellachie 29 year old caught my eye. I’m not really a whisky drinker, but this was sublime – I could be converted yet. The highlight of the evening was an American couple appearing in the bar and asking (bearing in mind that we were in the heart of whisky country) if they had any Irish Whiskey.
Small station for a distillery
There were also comprehensive whisky tasting menus, with around six different types to sample per “flight”, ranging from common malts to unusual rare (and rather expensive) examples. A good excuse to head back there at some point!
Best view of the day when crossing the bridge at Carron
We started out under a murderous sky, fearing the worst after seeing the terrible weather forecast that morning. There were one or two drops of rain early on, but nothing serious as we headed for Aberlour. We were close to the river here and would be criss crossing it all day on the old track bed. We were gently climbing all the time, and the path was pleasant enough without being particularly exciting. There were lots of nice little old railway details from time to time, including the remarkably well preserved station at Aberlour. The station also doubled as the Speyside Way visitors centre – shut for the winter unfortunately.
A rare glimpse through the trees
The path passed into a heavily wooded area as we left Aberlour and began a long steady climb which seemed to go on forever. I’m not a great fan of railway paths, and this one was not much different. Distilleries would appear thick and fast close by and occasionally the trees would give way to a view or two to break the monotony.
Another well preserved station
One of the best views was where the path crossed the Spey, an unusual set up where the railway and road shared the same bridge close to Carron distillery, one that looked as if it had recently reopened.
Preserved signal box
Having crossed the river we were now high above it. There were occasionally tantalising glimpses through the trees that promised much. Ironically, these views were probably better at this time of year due to the lack of foliage. Dare I say that a bit of thinning along the path might improve things greatly. Once again though the woodland floors were carpeted with bluebells – a springtime walk might just be a little more rewarding.
Soggy path stretching into the distance
The shining light of the day were the lovingly preserved stations along the route, giving rise to bags of nostalgia, especially the well preserved station building (now a visitor centre for the distillery) and signal box at Tamdhu.
A little less well preserved station
The poor weather that had been predicted hadn’t materialised which helped greatly. There were a couple of soul destroying moments where the line just stretched away into the distance. At times the track was quite muddy, a stamina sapping gloop which made finding traction somewhat difficult.
An impressive girder bridge, recrossing the river at Cragganmore marked the wind down point for the day. There was a walkers campsite here, with basic facilities, although the former bunkhouse in the station building had closed to become a private residence.
This was also the point at which the longer spur route to Tomintoul split from the main route which we were missing out on this occasion. From here it was a short walk to our B&B for the evening, a lovely victorian house which was a real time capsule.
Day Rating 7/10
A very generous score for the day, it just scrapes it for the old railway interest which added a lot to the day. A section of walk that promises much but is a very frustrating experience, so many places that had obscured views. There were quite a few interpretation boards along the route as well adding to the interest. A bit of thinning of the “trackside” vegetation would improve things markedly. Overall a bit of a trudge which we were glad to see the back of.