This trip was actually done about this time last year, I just never got around to posting it up. As I haven’t posted anything for a very long time I think this is a good way of getting some housework done! So to begin.
The trip was a circular affair connecting the Speyside way, Dava Way, part of the Moray coast route and Speyside way as a complete day from Spey bay to Aviemore. I did it over 3 days, as I was pretty unfit (which persisted for several months) and I wanted to get away from home/work for a few days!!
The weather for the whole trip was pretty settled, slightly overcast on the first day, though nice light to finish the day off. Having followed the Spey Way as far as Grantown on Spey, I then picked up the Dava Way at the caravan park just off the high street. The route basically follows the old Grantown-Forres railway line, as such it is pretty flat for the most part, though it is a little convoluted for a little way north where it bypasses Cottartown, but once past this it is pretty easy going and very easy to follow.
The going is a little loose/rough in places but certainly not unridable, even on a road bike given wide enough tyres, 32mm or so. The section across the moorland is has some fine views of heather and hillside with a few tracks cutting of in various directions. One of which was used by the red coats patrolling about the moor.
Riding along a flattish section I saw what I thought was someone walking a dog maybe, a few hundred meters ahead, not sure what direction they were going. As I got closer I was pretty sure I could make out movement, though they didn’t seem to be heading in any particular direction. Eventually I got close enough to make out the shape of what look to be quite a big guy, a good 2mtrs tall, pretty imposing looking too! Bit of a comedy moment when I finally “caught up to him” to see it was in fact a large wooden carving of said red coat!!
The final run down in to Forres was pretty uneventful, though the moor was very brooding with some lovely blue, dark cloud to the north.
The wooden structure is known as the “halfway house”, I assume because of it’s location between Grantown and Forres, and is effectively a bothy. There are some seating platforms and a bench inside, with more than enough room to sleep a few folk. There is a small info board inside that mentions the last family to live here, Early 1900s if memory serves! Shame it wasn’t further along, or I was at the end of my day. Worth making a mental note as a stopping point if I was to start the route later for a half day overnight.
I arrived in Findhorn in time to visit the bakery in town, run by the Findhorn Foundation. Great coffee and cake in the coffee shop, and some really nice artisan breads in the bakery side. I headed to the beach after the visit with a loaf and some fillings from the local store, sat on the bank overlooking and had a lovely picnic watching the sun go down.
Finally, a short ride to the far end of the beach toward Burghead I found a small flat spot with a picnic bench, perfect for eve brew and pitching camp.
The following morning was a short ride into Burghead for breakfast, via these wind turbines. Not entirely sure who they belong too, the Foundation or the RAF at the adjacent Kinloss airbase? Still, the local artists have spent a lot of time and effort making them a little more visually attractive, close up at least.
Not a great deal of this
Plenty of this.
The ride between Burghead and Lossiemouth is torturous in places, to say the least. Landcover tracks over loose shingle, some of the stones the size of tennis balls! presumably made by the RAF patrols when the base was open, and some meandering tracks along the shingle/maram grass line at the back of the beach made for very slow going. As I was pretty tired by this stage, and quite hot, I passed through Lossiemouth directly onto the beach for the final run into Spey Bay. I used the footbridge that take you onto the strand as the tide was out, thinking I could probably ride most of it if I stick to the top of the tideline…. not so much. I basically walked the entire beach, barring a few hundred metres, all the way along to Kingston. It’s only about 9ml but after a hot day in the sun, no water to speak of and trudging on soft sand or shingle I was pretty knackered, hence the lack of pics toward the end of the day! I had a really good pub lunch in Garmouth and finally rode the cycleway over the Spey following NCR1 and then turned right, picking up the Speyside way once over the old railway bridge.
About 5km further on I found a spot behind this shed, a fishing hut I presume, and pitched for the night. It made for a very good windbreak, as did the Gorse bush as there was quite a strong wind blowing down the river. It was a fitful night as just there was a road on the other bank, which was really popular with what sounded like the whole of Speysides boy racer collective!!
the final day was pretty much a grind back home on the road. I had been having some issues with the free hub for most of the previous day, which I suspected was down to the sand etc on the march out of Lossiemouth. The freewheel would suddenly disengage leaving me with a spinning chains and some interesting bruises more than once! I figured that if I could get it to work, which it would do intermittently, I could limp home if I just slowly span on the road keeping the hub under tension. For the most part it worked, there were a few sessions of taking the wheel off and trying to persuade it to re-engage, but we got there in the end. Can’t remember the milage but it took me about 12 hours to get from Fochabers to Aviemore!!
The road through the Spey valley is a very empty place in terms of services of any kind, I struggled to find anywhere to buy food and drink, just the garage at Ballindalloch. between here and Grantown there is nothing, not even a loo etc to fill a water bottle.
It was quite a chore riding through the valley with little food and finally no water until I got to Nethy Bridge, too late for the spar but at least there is a public loo there for water( which as since closed!) I also discovered that the saddle I had on the bike, though fine for mountain biking and off road touring, is something of a torture implement on a road ride! Sitting on the saddle for several hours at a time and not wanting to get out of the saddle to peddle lest I manage to disengage the free hub was “testing” to say the least. I didn’t walk properly for several days afterwards is all I will say on the matter….. Again, a lack of pictures will attest to my state of mind and my lack of interest in anything other than getting the day done.
Apart from the mechanical issue at the end it was a great trip, the Dava/Speyside way loop is a lovely 3-4 day trip which I would like to try again. Though I would probably ensure I was a little better prepared on the final leg next time. A little slow to publish the write up, maybe the memory was just too painful eh?!
As an late edition, I did a road version following much of this route just last week, almost a year later. The section between Charlestown and Grantown is even more devoid of suitable rest stops. As I was a little later in the day the Garage at Ballindalloch was closed for the day(16.00!) and the Hotel in Cromdale is now closed down.