Summer has arrived with a bang and although I intended to run, it seemed like a waste of this linear, low-level route to walk it; better to walk around in shorts and a t-shirt, admiring nature as it changes from the browns and yellows of prolonged winter to lush greens.
Starting from central Aberlour, I went uphill along Queen’s Road, soon passing Fleming Hall and Fleming Hospital. Both of these buildings are named after philanthropist James Fleming, best known for founding the Aberlour Distillery, and in addition to funding community buildings, his legacy also includes the Victoria Bridge over the Spey.
Turning left after the hospital, I followed the quiet road that climbed to the right and up between the trees, past a few isolated houses before becoming a track and continuing to climb under dense pine trees.
The path dropped me off on Allachie Drive and I turned left, squinting in the sudden light after the relative darkness among the pines. With a hot wind blowing my back, I quickly reached an old metal kissing door leading left onto a path. The explosion of plant life meant that I was soon walking down a narrow alley of tall grass and trees finally adorned with leaves spreading in the strong wind.
Entering the woods I followed the left fork in the path onto a clear road above Walker’s shortbread factory. The wonderful smell of the sweet cookies floating through the trees made me wish I had brought any provisions.
Keeping to the right at a crossroads, the path leads to Aberlour House, a surprisingly grandiose building if you’ve never seen it before. Today it is the headquarters of the Walkers, who extensively restored the house and grounds.
Passing the back of the building, along the back alley and over a bridge, I turned right onto a forest track, then quickly turned left to follow the trail as it went up the hill .
The little extra effort under the scorching sun was noticeable, and I was delighted to have an excuse to stop as the gradient faded and spot the whiskey casks surrounding the Speyside Cooperage, their geometric pyramids contrasting with the hills and moors of Speyside. .
The path ends at a viewpoint above the River Spey, the aptly named Queen’s View.
The river glowed blue, a sliver of reflected cloudless sky snaking through the green fields that surrounded it. After soaking up the bold color contrast below, I turned to walk back down the path I had taken, enjoying the view of Ben Rinnes on the horizon. At the bridge I went down the steep path very carefully to the road below, then crossed the A95 to join the Speyside Way towards Craigellachie.
The improved Speyside Way is used very well and I have passed walkers of all skill levels, cyclists and runners, everyone enjoying the sun. The highlight of this section is always the rail tunnel; homely dark and cool today, it was a big change from the middle of winter when large icicles hung from the vaulted roof for weeks, sometimes crashing alarmingly in milder times.
Shortly after the tunnel a series of steps descends to the river and it is impossible not to stop and appreciate the sight and sound of the water as it chatters over the gravel in the sweep of the turn here.
The path winds between gorse and broom adorned with their yellow flowers scented with honey. In a fishing hut the path becomes a track and my eye was drawn across the large open field to the unmistakable span of the Telford Bridge in front of us. Walking along the solid track, I soon reached the bridge.
After taking the time to watch the clear water flow under my feet, I then followed the old road, climbing the hill on the line of the old road as it veers off the main road at a rest area. Upon reaching Archiestown Road, I descended the incline to walk along a narrow edge towards the main road – with the Macallan Distillery just uphill there was no shortage of trucks to watch out for!
At the end of the large parking area, I crossed the A941 and went down the bank to join a path that follows the route of the old railway line. Despite the proximity of the road, I was protected from traffic by a row of deciduous trees, including a particularly large rowan tree, with branches weighed down with dense clusters of flowers. The path crosses a track then climbs to follow the road behind an Armco barrier.
It’s hard to deny that for this short stretch the rush of the River Spey to the right is sometimes drowned out by vehicles rushing down the busy road just a few yards to the left, but it’s brief and I’m was soon moving away from the road on a track to the right of a house.
Right after the house there is a pedestrian gate which leads to a very well paved path, newly constructed as the first part of the Rothes Way to be completed. This is a community project with the goal of providing a multi-use trail from Rothes to Craigellachie, providing a safe, off-road route for walkers and cyclists to travel between villages and join the Speyside Way.
The last kilometers of the road back to Rothes passed quickly over an easy surface, and soon the lone wall of Rothes Castle on the hill above the village appeared.
Staying on the trail next to the fields and then between the houses I reached Seafield Square slightly ‘sun kissed’ and very happy that I decided to take my time and enjoy the trip for as long as possible.
To learn more about the Rothes Way Project, including how to get involved and more about the route, visit www.rothesway.com
Aberlour to Rothes
Distance 6.5 miles / 10.5 km
Ground Clear paths, short sections of road walking
Beginning end Aberlour / Rothes (bus n Â° 36 between villages or alternate return on foot east of the main road)
Plans OS Landranger 28; OS 424 Explorer
A low level route through Speyside with lots to see and an easy walk