The Speyside Way is a long-distance path in Highland Scotland, coursing 85 miles / 137 km southwest from Buckie on the Moray coast, upriver to Grantown, Aviemore and Newtonmore in the Spey Valley. Most of it is also suitable for cycling and horse-riding.
The Speyside Way was created in 1981 from the coast to Ballindalloch, about half its current length. In later years it was extended in stages up the river valley, with the latest extension in 2021 reaching Newtonmore. This is where the valley emerges from the Grampian mountains to broaden into the "strath" around Aviemore, before narrowing again towards Grantown to thread through forested hills. This was also the route of the Strathspey Railway, dismantled in the 1960s but now partly restored as a heritage line, and much of the path follows the trackbed or parallels the railway. This means it's low altitude with firm going suitable for cyclists. The spur to Tomintoul is the main exception, crossing higher rougher ground.
There are no plans to extend further upriver, but with OS maps you can find your own trail over the watershed to Spean Bridge. This is on the Great Glen Way, a trail coursing northeast to Loch Ness and Inverness, and southwest to Fort William and the West Highland Way. So the upper Spey Valley feels like a missing link in the national network of trails.
The best maps are the OS Landranger series, with map numbers stated below. Buy them online if you can't find them in a bookstore or public library.
Walk Highlands Speyside Way have detailed online maps and trail notes.
Speyside Way Visitor Centre, Old Station Building, Aberlour (near Craigellachie), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. This remains closed.
Get in edit
See individual town pages for travel routes. Whilst all of them can be reached by public transport, this is sparse M-Sa and almost non-existent on Sunday. You probably need your own vehicle or to have arranged a relay.
Section 1: Buckie to Fochabers, 10 miles, OS Map 28
1 Buckie is a fishing village on the Moray coast. From its centre, follow the coast west to Kingston (coincident with the Moray Coast Trail), where you turn inland to Fochabers.
Section 2: Fochabers to Craigellachie, 13 miles
2 Fochabers is a planned village laid out on a grid pattern in the 18th century, and has many preserved old buildings. The main attraction is Gordon Castle gardens. The onward route is mostly on minor roads, but climbing over the shoulder of Ben Aigen via Craigellachie Forest.
Section 3: Craigellachie to Ballindalloch, 12 miles, OS Map 37
3 Craigellachie is in whisky-distilling country. Big names from here include Macallan, Aberlour, Glenfiddich and Glenlivet, and several offer tours. Balvenie Castle is a scenic ruin.
From here the trail follows the track of the former Strathspey Railway, so it's easy hiking, cycling or horse-riding.
A spur courses 4 miles south from Craigellachie to Dufftown, and yet more whisky distilleries.
Section 4: Ballindalloch to Tomintoul, 15 miles, OS Map 36
4 Ballindalloch is roughly mid way along the main trail. The route to Tomintoul is a long spur off this, but sufficiently rewarding to be labelled a section in its own right, which you can retrace back to Ballindalloch next day or organise a ride. It enters Cairngorms National Park and is the highest part of the trail, climbing twice over 1800 ft. However these muddy uplands are not suitable for cyclists, who should stick to the lanes.
5 Tomintoul is the highest village in the Highlands (Wanlockhead and Leadhills above Clydesdale are higher), and winter lingers long here. Like Fochabers it was laid out on a grid in the 18th century by the Duke of Gordon, who thought this would curb cattle-thieving and illegal distilling. Good luck with that: in 1860 Queen Victoria rated it "the most tumble-down, poor-looking place I ever saw".
Section 5: Ballindalloch to Grantown-on-Spey, 13 miles, OS Map 36
The main trail continues through the Woods of Knockfrink on the fringe of Cairngorms National Park then descends to Cromdale. Cyclists should bypass this soggy section via B9102, as should dog owners, as cattle here have been known to attack dogs. Cromdale old railway station has been privately preserved, the heritage Strathspey Railway doesn't extend this far east, but the trail from here is firm going on the old track into Grantown.
Section 6: Grantown-on-Spey to Aviemore, 17 miles, OS Map 36
This is a long section but easy level going, on the old railway track as far as Broomhill the north terminus of the Strathspey Railway, and then alongside. You could break this section after 11 miles at Boat of Garten, which has the railway's main collection of locomotives and rolling stock, or wimp out altogether and ride the steam train into Aviemore. Continuing along the trail, take the loop near Granish for the Bronze Age stone circle and annular burial cairn.
Dava Way is a 24 mile trail north through the hills from Grantown to Forres, along a separate branch of the former railway. Here you can re-join the Moray Coast Trail to return to Buckie, a 95 mile triangle.
Section 7: Aviemore to Newtonmore, 20 miles, OS Map 35
The path is firm level going beside the mainline railway but this section is too long for most walkers, you might break it at Kincraig. It thereafter follows B970 through the woods.
9 Newtonmore is the chilly village at the terminus of the Speyside Way. The river valley ascends several miles further west, taking A86 over the watershed to Spean Bridge, but there are no plans to extend the trail.
Stay safe edit
The route is mostly low altitude, but dress for the weather. Higher hills are crossed on the branch trail to Tomintoul.
Be aware of human hazards, such as driving whilst weary from a long hike.
Go next edit
Other long distance paths in Scotland include:
- Pennine Way traverses northern England then follows the Scottish border along the ridge of the Cheviots before descending to Kirk Yetholm.
- Southern Upland Way is a 212 mile walking route across the Scottish Borders on the east coast to Dumfries and Galloway in the west.
- John Muir Way is a 130 mile walking and cycling route from Dunbar on the east coast via Edinburgh to Helensburgh on the west coast.
- West Highland Way is a 96 mile walking route from Glasgow to Fort William.
- Great Glen Way is a 73 mile walking and cycling route from Fort William to Inverness.