Sine Birkedal Nielsen February 8 2016

My legs are weary. The path has been climbing steadily all day and I’m almost at the top.

The last couple of days on the Speyside Way have been leading up to this moment. I’m about to reach the highest point on the route – the summit of Cairn Daimh – and be rewarded with wonderful panoramic views.

My adventure started three days ago in the small fishing town of Buckie on the rocky shore of the Moray Firth. I went to sleep to the sounds of a roaring Atlantic storm, worried about my raingear, but awoke to the most beautiful autumn sun beaming down from a perfect blue sky.

The Speyside Way is a waymarked long-distance walk running from the east coast of Scotland through our whisky country to the foot of the stunning Cairngorm Mountains. It’s not as challenging as its famous sibling – the West Highland Way – the terrain being flatter and the distances shorter, but it will take you on a journey through the most diverse of landscapes, full of wildlife and whisky distilleries. A worthy rival in my opinion!

Named after the fastest flowing river in Scotland – the Spey, the official route runs for 80 miles, gently following the valley of the riverbed with the option of tagging on the wild Tomintoul spur. From the centre of Buckie the trail travels along the rugged coastline for 5 miles before emerging at the mouth of the river at Spey Bay.


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Walking with the River Spey

When I arrived at Spey Bay I had already been lucky enough to spot a colony of grey seals enjoying the morning sun and a huge bird of prey, which sadly took flight before I could identify it. Even more was to come. Home to the Scottish Dolphin Centre – Spey Bay is teaming with wildlife from dolphins to seabirds and you feel surrounded by life as the path makes it way inland.

As I make my way up the last steps to Cairn Daimh I’m filled with memories of walking along the gentle path through pine and birch forests, farmlands and heather-clad moorlands, stealing glimpses of the river always beside me. Each section has its own charm and set of distilleries, inviting you in for a wee dram of world-class whisky.


Sampling Single Malt

Walking the Tomintoul spur gives you the opportunity to visit the legendary Glenlivet Distillery. A guided tour is free and includes a sample of their famous Single Malt Whisky.

I decided to sample the 18-year-old Scotch – rich, warm and fruity – the perfect medicine for tired legs!

At the top the views are gorgeous but it occurs to me that the Speyside Way is so much more than a viewpoint.

It’s not the kind of walk you undertake because you want to reach a summit … the real attraction is all around you and up close. It’s the vibrant flora and fauna, abundance of wildlife, charming villages and whisky experiences that keep drawing people in year after year since the trail opened in 1981.

My advice: take your time and enjoy every moment!

Sine Birkedal Nielsen

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