It’s strange to be writing about this run while in the Mediterranean sun, thousands of miles away from a Scotland that is firmly in the grip of winter. My most recent run, under a cloudless blue sky and with temperatures into the high teens, was up Pico de los Reales, a mountain similar in height to Ben Nevis.
The view from the top revealed the mountains of Morocco, their summits just appearing above the hazy surface of the Straits of Gibraltar.
Despite the sunshine it wasn’t hard to take my mind back to Moray, and a recent blustery winter’s day with gale-force winds on the tops of the hills. Because of the wind my running partner Dave had suggested a low-level circular route that headed out along the Speyside Way, then crossed the river at Blacksboat to return north along minor roads and forestry tracks on the east side of the river.
Starting in Carron, we turned south along the Speyside Way and immediately it seemed as though the wind was determined to block progress. The effect the stronger gusts had on me was similar to hitting a large puddle in a car, jerking me to a standstill, and my erratic progress made it hard to get into a decent rhythm.
Maybe it was partly because of this that the old railway track seemed to stretch endlessly ahead of us, the gentle curves taking my eye forward to focus on small features far away that seemed to take an age to draw near.
It was with relief that I followed Dave as he ducked down a steep banking to make his way under the long-distance route and down to a path along the river.
The path passed fishers’ benches and it was pleasant to be out of the wind and engaging my brain by picking a way over rocks and round tree roots. The River Spey beside us was in mighty form, full of meltwater from a temporary thaw – the snows of the Cairngorms now making their way back to the sea.
The path took us back up onto the Speyside Way and we approached Tamdhu distillery. The revamped railway station looked ready to welcome the imminent arrival of a train and, despite the lack of tracks, I wouldn’t have been surprised to find rail passengers rather than kayakers sheltering from the wind in the former waiting room.
It was time for another deviation from the main track as we took a trod left before the distillery warehouses, following the river as it takes a bold, sweeping loop. The single-track path brought us out at fishing huts and we stopped to watch the river as it made its spry way northwards under the grey sky, the strong wind rolling the clouds into waves above us.
After following the access track we hopped over a wall to again rejoin the Speyside Way. It wasn’t long before we reached Blacksboat station, boasting another platform that looks ready to accommodate a stationmaster, pocket watch in hand, set to check the speed of passing runners.
Climbing up onto the road we crossed the river and watched as the cloud began to break, scrappily revealing the blue sky above. Climbing up towards Marypark I thought the change from headwind to side wind might help, but any easing of the air speed was negated by an increase in incline as we climbed towards the village.
At Marypark we turned left to take a minor road along the brow of the hill, now finally helped by the wind at our backs. With arms out it was possible to use my windproof as a sail and finally have a chance of keeping up with Dave’s rapid pace.
Following the road as it swung left we took the forestry track just to the right of a house and then took the right-hand fork at the next junction, continuing uphill to reach a high point.
Turning left here we descended quickly, the track then levelling out as it passed an abandoned house.
Clear felling to the left of the track opened up the view and, still high above the Spey, we were treated to a grand view of the bridge at Carron, its light grey span reflecting the winter sunshine.
At the bottom of the track we turned left to briefly run along the forest road before heading towards the river on a little trod to emerge at the base of the bridge.
From the banks below the bridge we watched as water running the rapids was caught by gusts of wind, whipping the peaks of the waves into a line of white kelpies and sending spray up into the air.
The winds began to chill me so it was time to turn away from the river and head home. We scrambled up to join the road and crossed the bridge to run the last, short stretch back into Carron village.
Spending the last few weeks under a Spanish sun I have missed the adventure of being out in the sometimes challenging Scottish weather. My return to winter will be a shock to the system, but I suppose that’s what thermal leggings are for!
A Speyside Way circular
Distance 10.5 miles / 17km
Terrain Good tracks and minor roads
Start/finish Carron, Speyside. Grid Ref: NJ222412
Maps OS Landranger 28; OS Explorer OL61
A simple circular route using the Speyside Way that gives great views over the river