|Distance (km)||Ascent (metres)||Number of days|
|107||1245||5 - 8|
|Start: Buckie||Finish: Aviemore|
Linked to other Scotland’s Great Trail(s):
Moray Coast Trail Dava Way
Linear, from Buckie to Aviemore and beyond; planned extension from Aviemore to Newtonmore open only as far as Kincraig (6.5 mi/10.5 km); optional spur to Tomintoul (adds 16 miles/25 km and 865 m of ascent to data in route statistics)
Traditionally walked from Buckie to Aviemore because the daily distances are shorter and flatter near the coast. However, the prevailing winds are from the south-west, so some prefer to walk from Aviemore to Buckie, which is also downhill on trend.
The Way starts near the mouth of the dynamic River Spey and generally follows its valley upstream to Aviemore. The Tomintoul spur offers very fine scenery and a distillery experience, but transport is needed to return to the spine of the Way. The route features great scenery in the Spey valley, in places following the river banks closely, elsewhere crossing open moorland or following disused railway trackbed. You progress from the Moray Firth to the Cairngorms in a valley that saw the birth of legal whisky distilling.
- WDC Scottish Dolphin Centre at Spey Bay
- distillery visits, especially Aberlour and Glenlivet
- great range of habitats including coastal, Caledonian pine forest, open moorland and river valley
- Highland wildlife, including deer (red, roe and reindeer), red squirrels, capercaillie and the endangered Scottish wildcat
- Loch Garten Osprey Centre at Abernethy
- viaducts, bridges and the Strathspey Steam Railway
- great scenery, especially on the Tomintoul spur (Cairn Daimh)
- in wet conditions, some sections between Ballindalloch and Cromdale are challenging
- if you continue beyond Aviemore to Kincraig, you need a bus to return to Aviemore: for updates on the planned Newtonmore extension, check with the Cairngorms National Park
The Speyside Way is generally suitable for beginners because waymarking is good, facilities are plentiful and the overall ascent (main spine) is relatively modest (1245 m/4085 ft). Note that Grantown to Aviemore is a long section (17 miles/27 km) which can be broken at Nethy Bridge or Boat of Garten. The terrain is most challenging between Ballindalloch and Grantown, where recent reports suggest slow going in places. The Tomintoul spur may require some map-and-compass competence if visibility is poor and in low cloud: it is waymarked, but it crosses wild moorland to one of Scotland’s highest villages. There is the option to break your journey at Glenlivet Distillery.
The route is long-established and passes through attractive villages with welcoming B&Bs, many with a range of accommodation choices. However, some are closed out of season, most are busy in season and advance booking is essential. The official accommodation guide is available here.
Be aware that Ballindalloch is the name of a former railway station, rather than a village, and there is very limited accommodation nearby (e.g. Cragganmore House). However most B&Bs listed in the Ballindalloch area will pick you up from the trail by arrangement. There are hostels at or near Nethy Bridge, Grantown, Tomintoul and Aviemore.
There are many camping options, both at commercial and at free campsites (basic facilities or none). Wild camping is legally allowed in Scotland if practised responsibly under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
Companies offering accommodation booking and baggage transfer:
Reaching Buckie is simplest by taxi from Keith station, which lies on the railway between Inverness and Aberdeen. The alternative is to take a train to Elgin, then direct Stagecoach bus no 35 to Buckie. Access to Aviemore is easy by train (it’s on Scotrail’s main line between Edinburgh and Inverness) or express bus. For those arriving by air, there is an airport at Inverness; depending on your starting-point, Edinburgh or Aberdeen airports may be relevant.
Local transport between sections of the Way is more difficult, with buses less frequent and some on certain days only, or linked to school term-time. Bus timetables are given on the official website. Taxi firms normally charge mileage from their base, so check fares before booking. The Strathspey Steam Railway plies between Broomhill (near Nethy Bridge) and Aviemore but as a heritage railway its service is irregular.