A varied and interesting walk that matches sweeping coastal perspectives and crashing pebble beaches with rural farmland, a racing river, and reedy backwaters. The Spey Viaduct makes for an awe-inspiring crossing between the old Moray villages of Spey Bay, Garmouth and Kingston.
Duration: 3 hours.
Duration: 3 hours.
Transport/Parking: No bus services to Spey Bay. Park on or off road near the walk start/end point at the east end of Spey Bay, near the The Bay golf/caravan park clubhouse.
Length: 9.930 km / 6.21 mi
Height Gain: 68 meter.
Height Loss: 68 meter.
Max Height: 24 meter.
Min Height: 2 meter.
Surface: Moderate. Mostly, good paths and pavements.
Child Friendly: Yes, if children are used to walks of this distance.
Dog Friendly: Yes, but keep dogs on lead on public roads and near farm animals.
Refreshments: We have visited, and can recommend the Garmouth Hotel and the Dolphin Centre cafe. The Bay golf/caravan park clubhouse at the walk start/end is also open to the public.
This is a coastal walk with a difference, in a special natural environment. The route varies from beach to rural estuary, to beach, and back again, visiting three unusual little Moray villages with individual histories, along the way. Spey Bay is a unique coastal nature reserve with the largest shingle beach in Scotland. To quote an old saying – “The Spey’s a wanton wuman, who’ll nae stay in her ain bed.”, and so the fast flowing river creates habitats that are constantly changing, from huge banks of shingle to windblown coastal grasslands, sleepy saltmarsh, and wet woodland. Depending on the season, you may find large numbers of wildfowl offshore, breeding terns at the river mouth, wildflowers and butterflies in profusion. In summer, ospreys frequently fish here, and bottlenose dolphins are also attracted to the river’s out-flowing bounty, accounting for the presence of the Scottish Dolphin Centre, housed in historic salmon-fishing buildings dating back to the 18thC. To make the route possible, we cross the hugely impressive Spey Viaduct railway bridge, the building of which was an immense civil engineering challenge. Passing through pretty and peaceful Garmouth, it is hard to imagine a scene in 1885 when the police in Elgin were called to deal with 300 navvies marching through the streets in angry protest at being refused a 1d per hour increase in wages for their labours on the bridge! The settlement at Garmouth is very old, and although little evidence is left today, it was once one of the busiest ports along the Moray Firth coast, becoming the prime locus for the export of logs floated down the Spey from the Rothiemurchus Forest. On our route we pass a plaque commemorating the annual “Maggie’s Fair”, first held in 1587, and another plaque marking the landing of King Charles II here in 1650, to launch his campaign to topple Cromwell’s Commonwealth. Nearby, tiny Kingston, huddled at the sea-front, was founded in 1784 by a Yorkshire family who set up shipyards and sawmills there, naming the place after Kingston-upon-Hull.