To amuse ourselves while the Missus was finishing off the northern section of the N7 cycle route, Jazz and I decided to do the Badenoch Way and then the first day’s part of the Speyside Way. Conveniently the two routes now link up in Aviemore (or will, officially, soon – the path is there it just has a few fences in the way…). Although we split it over three days, we’ll join this all up into one, east-to-digest post that takes us from Insh near Kingussie to Grantown-on-Spey.
The walk starts near Ruthven Barracks just outside Kingussie: it should logically start in the village where it would connect up with other routes but I suspect the pedestrian-unfriendly bridge over the Spey gave the planners legal worries. So we start in the car-park for the RSPB Insh Marshes reserve – well worth visiting, especially in winter when the wildfowl will be in. It’s a big reserve with only a few viewing points giving great views over Strathspey. The first section wanders through nice woodland and moorland before popping out at Tromie Bridge with a lovely view down to the river. Soon we are into forest as we skirt Insh village and then pop out on the B970. You need to be a bit careful here as the path does a sharp, unsigned right turn and returns to the forest between two houses’ drives. After a bit of ugly commercial forestry we return to the B970 and cross to enter the lovely woodland on the south bank of Loch Insh. After a meander that includes a nice loch-side bench from where we watched a brood of Scottish Goldeneye we return to the B970 and again you need to watch out for the Way skirting around the back of some houses (some improved signage would help here folks). After going through the water-sports centre it’s on to the lovely village of Kincraig (make a point of visiting Insh church with its simplicity perfectly situated beside the loch, and watch out for fishing Ospreys).
The next section is from Kincraig to Aviemore. The original path stopped at Dalraddy but has just been extended all the way to Aviemore. It’s a beautifully constructed path that follows the railway and some power lines: the view is a bit limited, but this is a minor quibble. It also quickly gets you to Aviemore and fortunately the Speyside Way quickly gets you out of Aviemore.
The first stage follows the steam railway to Boat-of-Garten. This is lovely with gorgeous views over moorland and birch forest to the Cairngorms that were still getting fresh snow (in June!). The village itself is nice enough with all its smart holiday and retirement homes but I felt it lacked character and so after a sandwich in the well-maintained public garden beside the station we headed over the Spey again into Garten Woods. This is part of the RSPB’s huge Abernethy Forest reserve and home to all the fab wildlife of the area: Osprey, Crested Tit, Capercaillie, Wildcat, etc. We saw two Robins and a Wren. It was very pretty though with Birch, Scots Pine, heather, Blaeberry all looking beautifully integrated: this is a lovely woodland walk that emerges at Nethy Bridge. I instantly liked the place as the first (modern) house is called “Swamp Castle” – nice Python reference. It also has a nice Telford bridge complete with interpretation boards: my sort of village.
The path leaves the village following the old railway. Here you notice that the valley is broadening and the river looking pretty big. This is serious angling country with strange men (and it was all men) spending fortunes to stand up to their armpits in freezing cold water. The path goes through a working farm at Balliefurth where the farmer is going to a lot of effort to encourage wildlife and has installed information boards explaining what they are doing and what species have been seen. We thoroughly approved of this.
The path emerges at Speybridge (better signs here please) and another crossing of the now seriously wide Spey. I spotted a bunch of French anglers packing their car and gave a hearty “hello”: so much fun watching them squirm as they tried to recover their Gallic rudeness and not respond. The path doesn’t have to pop into Grantown-on-Spey as it continues to the east but the Missus had left the car there and so we headed in through Anagach Wood – a reason on its own to move to the village – stunning. It’s also the starting point of the Dava Way – another in the long list of long-distance paths I’ve started and need to finish.
So this is a cracker of a walk through stunning scenery that is easy to do. What’s not to like: go do it.
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