19th May 2022: Boat of Garten to Kincraig – 13 miles

It seems I jumped to premature (and incorrect) conclusions last night, and in my grump I bundled Fraoch Lodge in with the Boat House B&B. The two establishments couldn’t be more different and I apologise for any slight (on the former) that may have been implied in yesterday’s journal. I had an excellent night’s sleep, despite the foot board on the single bed, which I padded with a spare blanket and which seemed to appease my subconscious as I wasn’t awake all night trying not to break a toe on it! 

A late arrival was in the room next to me when I got back from the pub, a lady walking the TGO, I found out when I met her in the breakfast room next morning. This was located in the main building, and it was full of walkers – it turns out that Fraoch Lodge is an independent hostel and walking company. It was a friendly, chatty atmosphere which reminded me of some of the communal breakfasts from my first coast to coast and Pennine Way. There was the TGO challenger, a couple of guys doing something I couldn’t quite catch from a very strong accent, and a couple more were off up Ben Macdui now the winds had died down to a safe level. I definitely dodged a bullet when I was moved here! I paid Rebecca, despite the other B&B having my card details, and there’s a chance he could have already processed that, but I didn’t want to leave Rebecca out of pocket, and I’ll cross the other bridge if I need to. I don’t do hostels (not since my experience on the Pennine Way in 2010) and I wouldn’t normally have booked this, but I’m glad I ended up here.

I was out about 8.45 and I’d put my shirt on again, based on the blue sky, bright sun and the tree tops not moving. As I was shouldering my pack on the little bench outside the B&B I felt damned chilly and almost swapped into the softshell, but thought I’d give it a while and see how I got on. This turned out to be the right decision.

The Speyside Way continued from back at the pub, quarter of a mile back through the village, and then it uses a road for another quarter of a mile, so I’d chosen another route. It cut through behind the B&B to the community hall and then along a track through local woodland to meet up with the Way at the railway line. It was a good choice and although the track is wide and harsh, the woods stretch away in all directions, deep and quiet. I thought I could probably find a quiet spot in there somewhere, set up a small camp and probably not see anyone for days at a time. I kept an eye and an ear open for Capercaillie which are supposed to live here, and also for red squirrels, but I saw nothing but song birds and butterflies. This ended up being another off-piste route that was better than the official alternative.

Once I’d passed underneath the railway line (the same one I’d used 6 days ago to get to the start) the terrain began to change. I left behind the old growth forest, part of the old Caledonian forest, and entered a much more open environment, but no less lovely than the one I’d just left. On the map it doesn’t look like much, just lots of eyelashes with the occasional pine tree icon. On the ground it was totally different. The wide cycle path snakes off through a mix of heather, lots of small pine trees and smaller groups of taller pines, birches and other broad leaf varieties. Behind these are the surrounding hills, still mostly brown with a smattering of snow patches in the more sheltered or north facing corries. It was a lovely few miles.

I was passed by a few bikes, most of whom were courteous as they flew past, but I was walking to the left of the track anyway so as not to be an obstruction. A couple of local joggers slowly overtook me at one point too. I had a good long chat with a couple of walkers (married couple) who were coming towards me. They asked if I was on the Speyside Way and then confirmed they were also doing it, having just started that morning in Aviemore. I gave them some impressions (mostly positive I have to say) and we both mentioned we’d watched Iain Robertson’s TV show covering the trail. If you haven’t seen this yet, it’s on iPlayer right now, so go and watch it. We must have chatted for 10 minutes and I was enjoying it, but I could see the guy was getting itchy feet (like I do normally at times like this), so I said my farewells and let them get on.

This two mile stretch of the Way runs right beside the railway line, but you’d never know as the trains are so rare and it doesn’t impact the scenery at all. It was a lovely open, but wooded section, I know this sounds contrary, but hopefully some of these photos will explain what I mean.

The final half mile before Aviemore takes you through some truly spectacular trees, they’re huge, red and feel really old. They made me think of giant redwoods, but were some sort of pine or spruce. I wanted to put my arms round one and give it a hug, but that would have been a bit daft, so I just took a few photos instead. 

I soon went back under the railway again and joined the Aviemore Orbital, a path that circles around the outside of the town, with little paths that branch off into it. Locals can have access to a great circular walk from wherever they live. I followed it for a while and then diverted into the Co-op to get an ice cream and a drink. I then walked into town down the main drag, looking for a cafe to spend some time in. I picked up another scotch pie for second lunch at a butchers and soon found a nice looking cafe with a window seat available. I had a pot of tea and then ordered a bacon roll (I saw someone else order one and it kicked me off, it’s called FOMO, the fear of missing out). About 30 minutes later and I was out into the sun (and wind) again, walking out of what is a really long town. I’m sure there are commercial reasons for dragging Speyside Way walkers almost 2 miles along the ridiculously busy tarmac streets of Aviemore, but I’d have been quite happy if the route had gone round and given you the option to cut in if you wanted to. 

Eventually I was back under the railway for a third time today and following what was a pretty crappy (compared to this morning) path beside the rail track. It felt like a farm access track, but without the charm. Within a mile or so it improved thankfully and although it’s still a wide cycle track the country to the left is beautiful and the further out you look, the wilder it becomes with the lower hills of the Cairngorms dominating the view. 

Several bikes passed me and a couple of walkers, but the path is pretty quiet and I stopped whenever I found somewhere convenient to sit, to kill some time and to take in the quiet and the views. I was way ahead of schedule, as always, and I only had a couple of miles to go and a couple of hours before the bus arrived. There is no accommodation in Kincraig at the end of today’s walk, and as I didn’t fancy adding 6 miles and walking into Kingussie, I’d decided to catch the 3pm bus from the Kincraig Community centre into Kingussie and my B&B for tonight. In the morning I’ll reverse the operation and walk all the way through Kingussie and onto Newtonmore and my car. 

Since I left Aviemore I’d seen almost no Speyside Way signs, just a few large horizontal wooden signs like you get on the end of your road. The path has only recently been extended from Aviemore to Newtonmore and the signage hasn’t caught up with the path extension yet. For the past few days I’ve not needed to look at my map once, there’s always a marker post when you need one. I don’t mind navigating along a route, and I enjoyed the random nature of the signage on last year’s Cross Borders Drove Road, so the lack of signs wasn’t an issue. It was a bit of an annoyance though, especially when it almost cost me the best path of the walk so far. 

At or around Dalraddy, the Speyside Way begins to share some of its route with the Badenoch Way. The two routes aren’t exactly the same though and in places on the OS map it’s difficult to know which green diamond relates to which waymarked trail. On the ground there are loads of Badenoch badges, but very few Speyside ones. Just beyond Speybank there’s a fantastic bench overlooking a big section of the Spey, so I diverted across to sit on it and kill some time. The path here was a wide cycle track and I was blindly following it. As I left the bench I noticed a thin path snaking away into the brush, away from the main path, which I would not have seen if I’d not stopped at the bench. This track was the one I’d decided to follow when I’d done the route planning for the walk, simply because it looked like it offered better views of the Spey. 

The path was easily the best one of the walk so far. Thin (so no cyclists), twisting and closely hemmed in by undergrowth it also offered vertical views down onto the Spey far below. It’s only 300-400 yards, but I would have missed it, as there is no indication that it belongs to either the Badenoch or the Speyside and it must belong to one or the other because it has green diamonds on it! I’m sure the signage will follow at some point in the future, but for now you just need to be aware that you need to keep an eye on the map. 

I’d seen a combination art gallery / cafe on my map when I’d looked at this section and I diverted to find it as I entered the outskirts of Kincraig, hoping to have another cuppa while I was waiting for the bus. It was shut of course. So I just headed for the bus stop, despite being 30 minutes early. When I got to the community centre, I had a quick recce and found an outside tap, so got some fresh, cold water in my bottle and turned it into squash with my Robinson’s Mini. The bus was 3 minutes early and made quick time in Kingussie. 

My B&B is quarter of a mile out of town, up a hill, so I hummed and hawwed about whether to go there first or hit the Co-op first. The scotch pie I’d bought in Aviemore was still in my pack, and that made my mind up. I’d shop now, and buy a picnic tea for my room. I was also catching the early bus in the morning so I’d already opted out of a cooked breakfast, so I bought something for that too. I packed all my provisions, along with a big bag of ice, into my pack and headed up the hill to my B&B. 

I was shown to my room and was a bit gutted to find no en-suite and not even a sink. I think the bathroom I was shown is just for me though, so my ice has gone in that sink, along with a couple of bottles of Diet Coke, some water and a small bottle of milk for tomorrow’s breakfast. 

I’ve finished my picnic tea now and I’ll get this posted and then finish watching the James Bond series. I’m looking forward to getting the walk finished tomorrow, not (as I would have thought if you’d told me this on Sunday) because I’ve not enjoyed it, but because I’m missing my grand-daughter!

Share this

Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Email

1 thought on “Speyside Way – Day 6”

  1. Really glad you enjoyed Fraoch Lodge after all – its a great place and we’ve been back many times.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.