This stretch of the Speyside Way is the shortest, the easiest and somehow the dullest one. It comprises of two quite different parts. The first one, between Fochabers and Spey Bay, runs along the river Spey to its mouth. The second part goes along the coast to the town of Buckie, which is a bit strange considering the route is called ‘The Speyside Way’. I guess the trail has been extended to allow walkers to catch public buses or to find accommodation; the former is impossible in Spey Bay, the latter very limited.
I needed neither. A friend of mine gave me a lift to Fochabers, where I picked up the route I’d left on Christmas Day, in Ordiquish Road just beyond the southern junction with Castlehill Road. From there I walked on the dirt road at the back – as it turned out – of Milne’s High School. Soon the route turned right and went along the edge of the school towards West Street. A few hundred yards later the route crossed the Burn of Fochabers and followed it towards the river Spey along the dirt road at the back of the houses, safe from any traffic. Soon I reached a park, where I had to take off my fleece – it was much warmer than I’d expected; I never put it back on on that day.
From the park a relatively narrow path led me under two bridges; the old one used by walkers and cyclists, and the newer one carrying all the traffic across the river Spey. Then the path went into the woodland on the bank of the river and ran for a about 2 miles, for a wee while along the relatively busy and noisy B9104. But eventually the road made a detour westward, and it didn’t met the Speyside Way until in Spey Bay. About two and a half miles before the mouth of the Spey the route left the woodland and followed along the edge of the fields on the right, with homes and farm buildings seen on their other side. I wanted to avoid the usually busy Scottish Dolphin Centre by the river’s mouth, so I stopped for my lunch near the old railway bridge about 1 mile short of that place. It was unusually nice and warm for the last day of December; the Co-op sandwiches with a nice cup of tea from my flask were delicious, topped with a Snickers chocolate bar.
As expected there were many cars and people at the Scottish Dolphin Centre, so I just passed through it and followed the tarmac road towards the Spey Bay Golf Course sitting at the other side of the village. A couple of hundred yards further down the road, just beyond a bend, the route crossed it and a narrow path ran through tall shrubs into the woodland ‘naturally’ fencing the golf course. The trail went out into the open space about two miles further on, joining the old railway and then running in an incredibly straight line all the way to Portgordon. In the village the route goes along the road with the sea on left and houses on the right for about half a mile, and then moves into the local harbour and onto the dirt road at back of the houses.
Shortly after I left Portgordon I came to a special spot, where there are many seals lying on the rocks and resting, particularly when the tide is low. This time there were very few of them; apparently they had something better to do… I’d seen them many, many times, so I wasn’t bothered; actually I was pondering whether to follow the path all the way to the official end of the route – which is near the town centre in Buckie – or to use shortcuts known to me and go straight back home. I’d walked this part of the route so many times, and the last bit along a rather busy road had hardly any appeal to my tired feet. Eventually I decided not to be a ‘softy’ and kept going. It paid off. From a spot I would have missed had I shortened my walk I spotted a very strange looking sky. The effect was created by the low Sun and the particular configuration of the clouds. After I’d taken a photo I marched along the unimpressive A990 towards the town centre, and a hundred yards short of Cluny Square I turned right into a sort of small tree-less park, where the Speyside Way starts/ends its run.