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Following the Spey on a circular walk in whisky country


By Peter Evans


Scotland's second longest river flows for almost 100 miles from its origins, high up on the Corrieyairack Pass, to join the Moray Firth at Spey Bay.

And like its longer counterpart, the Tay, the Spey is also famed for its salmon fishing, as well as a plethora of whisky distilleries where it passes through Moray.

This straightforward walk follows the last few miles of the river before it enters the sea, making a pleasant circuit, inland to Fochabers up the east side and back to Spey Bay on the west side, crossing the shapely Spey Viaduct. It could also be tackled by mountain bike or hybrid.

Our journey starts where the river's journey ends, at the seaside car park adjacent to Tugnet Ice House. The largest surviving ice house in Britain, it was built in 1830 to store ice for the local salmon fishermen but now houses a museum describing the history of salmon fishing in the area. It's part of the Scottish Dolphin Centre, which is well worth a visit at the beginning or end of the walk, and not only for its café.

The mouth of the river was re-formed in 1989 to prevent it engulfing the village of Kingston on the west bank.

To begin the walk, go through a gate at the far end of the car park and take the path along the river bank. This is the start of the Speyside Way and our walk follows it as far as Fochabers.

Where the initial path reaches a track, keep straight on, using Speyside Way markers as a guide. The track veers away from the river here but rejoins it further on. It's also possible to take anglers' paths if you want to get closer to the water. As long as you keep going south, you can't go far wrong.

Our route crosses the old railway line used on the return leg, which is now a cycle way and footpath. Around a kilometre further on we loop round to the river bank, which is then followed to a point where it comes alongside the B9104. From here, a footpath passes through Bellie Wood to go under the A96 where the road crosses the river on the outskirts of Fochabers.

A diagonal path with a wooden handrail ascends to the old bridge over the Spey, these days used as a cycle path and walkway. As you cross there's a wonderful view upstream along the river towards Ben Rinnes.

Cross the bridge, passing the former toll house and continue past the Baxter's visitor centre and factory. The thriving family food business was founded in 1868 by George Baxter, a former gardener for the Duke of Richmond and Gordon.

Keep on the footpath past the factory to enter the village of Mosstodloch. Take the first turning on the right, signed for Speymouth Parish Church. This is our return route and although it's on the black stuff the road is quiet. The church, known as the Red Kirk because of its livery, is reached in less than a kilometre and is set in an attractive glebe of beech and sycamore trees.

Carry on along the road, passing Essil cemetery, which contains some interesting graves, towards the outskirts of Garmouth. A plaque in the village commemorates King Charles II's landing here in 1650 from his exile in Europe after defeat at the hands of Oliver Cromwell.

A sign points the way down some steps to the old railway line and the Moray Coast Trail. Turn right to walk across the Spey Viaduct, built in 1886 by the Great North of Scotland Railway Company at a cost of £100,000. Further on, turn left to return along the outward route to Spey Bay.

Route details

Spey Bay circular

Distance 10 miles / 16km

Terrain Tracks, paths, and minor road

Start/finish Spey Bay

Map OS Explorer 424, Buckie and Keith

An easy, level walk taking in Moray scenery along the final stretch of the River Spey before it enters the sea



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