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ACTIVE OUTDOORS: Traffic-free trail is perfect for families on the Speyside Way at Cragganmore and Aberlour


By John Davidson

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The girls heading for the Ballindalloch bridge.
The girls heading for the Ballindalloch bridge.

Railways once provided connections to places large and small across the country, but many of those routes were abolished in the 1960s. Thankfully more and more of those abandoned routes are being reinvented as traffic-free trails.

This stretch of the Speyside Way is among the best of them, with the 10 miles between Cragganmore and Aberlour offering a wonderful way to travel, especially with children.

At Cragganmore there is a small parking area beside an informal camping area – with a single portaloo.

The downside is that there’s no realistic way to get here by public transport, especially with four bikes and a tagalong, so we offloaded the bikes from the car and set off along the path over the Ballindalloch Bridge.

This A-listed structure makes a great start to a ride back in time, as you head north onto the west side of the River Spey. The historic railway infrastructure continues throughout the route, with old station platforms, bridges over the old track as well as some signs and station buildings.

The Moray Trail crew on the trail.
The Moray Trail crew on the trail.

There are also a number of newly built bridges which enable the route to continue over burns along the way and, having passed the first one over the Allt a’ Gheallaidh, we were soon at Blacksboat where we were meeting up with Jim Sutherland and the Moray Trail crew.

Blacksboat is another good access point to the Speyside Way with a small parking area beside the old station. Jim was repeating a two-day ride around the full Moray Way circuit that I’d joined him for last year, following the Speyside Way from Grantown to Spey Bay, then joining the Moray Coast Trail from Lossiemouth through to Findhorn and Forres, and finally heading over the Dava Way back to Grantown.

I couldn’t join them for the full trip this year, so we decided to bring the family and join them from here into Aberlour. The surface of the route at this point has been massively improved since last summer and in fact the whole route was a nice smooth surface, with small bits on tarmac and most of it on a nice whin dust finish through beautiful countryside.

Being on Speyside, there are plenty of distilleries to pass on the way, including at Knockando and Tamdhu, where you cycle between the old station platforms. The cycling was great for the children, with an easy surface and no traffic to worry about.

We reached a gate beside some houses, where the route continues on a path separated from the road to pass the huge Dalmunach Distillery which was opened seven years ago by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Passing Tamdhu between the old station platforms.
Passing Tamdhu between the old station platforms.

Crossing the road and heading left here, the route continues right at a sign for a shared-use tarmac path at Carron. This lovely spot includes a little village green with a train made from whisky barrels as well as a phone box which has been converted into a snack shack that takes donations in exchange for food and drinks for hungry and thirsty Speyside Way users. What a great idea!

We headed along the path, keeping an eye out for posters for the planets on a scale model of the solar system, with Carron as the sun.

Soon we reached the Carron Bridge, which in 1863 was the last cast iron bridge to be built in Scotland. It offers a great view over the Spey and tends to be a bit of a gathering spot for people on the route.

Beside the bridge is one of a number of bike repair stations, installed along with resurfacing works to help make Aberlour and this stretch of the route a ‘low carbon hub’.

John and Matthew heading over the Carron Bridge across the Spey.
John and Matthew heading over the Carron Bridge across the Spey.

The last stretch of our trip into Aberlour continued on the excellent surface through nice open woodland and Jennifer was delighted to see a horse in a field beside the path, which she videoed on her little camera.

It wasn’t long then before we arrived at Aberlour where we’d planned to have a picnic lunch and spend some time at the playpark. Jim and the others headed to the pub to refuel with a hearty lunch while we enjoyed the open space near the river, as well as exploring over the other side of the Victorian suspension bridge.

The Victoria Bridge is a pedestrian crossing over the full width of the Spey, and is another A-listed structure, this one built in 1902 to replace a once dangerous ferry crossing at this point.

After spending some time at Aberlour, all that remained was to retrace our tracks along the old railway route, albeit against the wind this way. The children managed well, though, and we had another stop to play on the train at Carron before a final race to the end that Jennifer won, managing to stay ahead of me and Matthew despite our best effort!

Finally we passed back over the Ballindalloch Bridge and came to a halt at Cragganmore.

Jim and Meg cycling on the newly surfaced trail.
Jim and Meg cycling on the newly surfaced trail.

Route details

Cragganmore to Aberlour on the Speyside Way

Distance 20 miles / 32km return

Terrain Smooth surfaced traffic-free cycle trail

Start/finish Cragganmore

Map OS Landranger 28; Harvey Speyside Way

A family friendly bike route following an old railway line in the heart of Speyside

The Penny Bridge at Aberlour.
The Penny Bridge at Aberlour.
This is one of the best traffic-free sections of the Speyside Way.
This is one of the best traffic-free sections of the Speyside Way.
A sign at Cragganmore, close to the old Ballindalloch station.
A sign at Cragganmore, close to the old Ballindalloch station.

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