Speyside and Moray Self Guided Cycle Tour
Cairngorm National Park
Speyside Whisky Trail
Spectacular Lochs, Mountains and Beaches
This self-guided cycle trip will take you through the Cairngorm National Park, Speyside, and Moray. This is a breathtaking adventure that will take you through some of the most stunning landscapes in Scotland. As you cycle through the park, you will be greeted by towering peaks, deep valleys, and expansive forests that will leave you in awe of the natural beauty surrounding you. In Speyside, you can visit some of the world-renowned distilleries that produce some of Scotland's finest whiskies. In Moray, you can explore charming fishing villages along the coast, rolling farmlands, and historic castles that dot the landscape. Along the way, you will encounter abundant wildlife, including red deer, golden eagles, and ospreys. This cycle trip will take you through picturesque towns and villages where you can take a break, enjoy delicious local food, and chat with friendly locals. With so much to see and do, a cycle trip through Cairngorm National Park, Speyside, and Moray is an experience you will never forget.
Check in to your accommodation and explore Inverness. There are several good pubs and restaurants. The Castle Tavern is always popular, and you might want to make a booking with Rocpool Rendezvous as a treat on your return at the end of the week. If you’ve got time, swing by our base in Bellfield Park to try the bikes or pick up last-minute essentials from the town centre
Depart Inverness at the mouth of the River Ness and head south along the signposted cycle route number 7. The route climbs steadily as you leave the city and crosses the River Nairn valley with views of the 29-span railway viaduct at Clava, the longest masonry viaduct in Scotland at 1800 ft (549 m). As the road emerges from the forest onto more open moorland, the route tracks and then crosses the River Findhorn just south of Tomatin. Tomatin is the last chance for refreshments before Carrbridge and also provides the first distillery visiting opportunity of the tour. The Findhorn is one of Scotland’s longest rivers, popular with kayakers and anglers. The mountain pass at Slochd marks the highest point in the route today. This pass is an ancient route and was formerly a “drove road” used to move cattle on the hoof from Highland crofts to markets in southern Scotland. The Bridge from which the village gets its name dates from 1717 and is the oldest in the highlands. The day ends in Aviemore, once a railway junction, then a ski resort and now a bustling village, popular all year round with visitors to the Cairngorms National Park.
The village of Newtonmore is the village closest to the geographical centre of Scotland. The Highland Folk Museum is a fantastic open-air depiction of highland life through history and was featured early on in the TV series Outlander. The route there passes The Highland Wildlife Park at Kincraig. The Highland Wildlife Park is affiliated with Edinburgh Zoo. It is home to many of the species that have at one time or another been native to the Highlands, including pine martens, wildcat, lynx, wolves, owls and most recently, Hamish, the first polar bear cub to be born in Scotland for 25 years. The return route passes the remains of Ruthven Barracks, which was built following the first Jacobite Rebellion in 1715 and saw action in the build-up to and aftermath of the Battle of Culloden thirty years later. It’s nearly three hundred years since the Battle of Culloden, but you can still witness skirmishes between Highlanders if you catch a game of Shinty. Shinty is the traditional ball and stick game contested between teams of twelve which shares a common ancestry with Irish hurling. Newtonmore and Kingussie are two of the most successful teams in Shinty, and games occur most Saturdays throughout the summer.
Just a short cycle today, so maybe tackle the zip wires, balance beams, and hanging platforms at TreeZone, head on to the water at Loch Morlich or travel back to the age of steam, The Strathspey Steam Railway, a 10-mile section of the old Highland line brought back to life by volunteers. The cycle route winds northeast through the native pines and juniper of the Abernethy Forest, home to red squirrels, wildcats, deer, grouse and birds of prey. You can learn more about the area's natural heritage and Ospreys, particularly at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds nature reserve at Loch Garten. The pretty forest village of Nethybridge provides a convenient refreshment stop on the way to today’s destination, the traditional Highland town of Grantown on Spey.
This is the “lumpiest” day of the cycling holiday as you traverse the moorland landscape at the northern edge of the Cairngorm Mountains. Tomintoul is the highest village in the highlands and provides a good opportunity to refuel after the biggest climbs of the day. Tomintoul has a great wee art gallery, and the range of Whiskies for sale at The Whisky Castle will amaze anyone. It’s not all downhill after lunch, but there are a couple of long descents along Glenlivet, then Glen Rinnes to the “Malt Whisky Capital of the World” – Dufftown. Dufftown is home to the world-famous Glenfiddich Distillery with a top-rated visitor centre.
Much of the flavour of whisky comes from the barrels in which it matures, and a visit to the Cooperage at Craigellachie, just four miles out of Dufftown, is highly recommended. One of the most famous whisky names, The Macallan, has opened a fabulous new distillery and visitor centre just south of Craigellachie, where you can see how the traditions of whisky production are married to modern technology. The route sticks close to the River Spey as you descend steadily towards the coast. Fochabers lies at the halfway mark, and here you can visit Baxters Highland Village, part museum, part shop, part cafe at the home of the Baxters food company or the restaurant at the Walled Garden of Gordon Castle. Continue towards Spey Bay, where the river meets the sea. Here you‘ll find the Scottish Dolphin Centre, a haven for seals, ospreys, coastal birds and dolphins. There’s much to learn, and the location is beautiful too. Retrace your tracks to cross the Spey via the old railway bridge. Continue along the signposted NCN Route 1 through the village of Garmouth and on to Elgin. Here you visit Elgin Cathedral. Close by is Johnstons of Elgin, where you can tour this well-known textile mill and see how raw cashmere is transformed into beautiful knitwear.
Leave Elgin and cycle along quiet country lanes to the coastal village of Hopeman. Keep an eye out for dolphins again as you follow the coastal path to the nearby village of Burghead, where the visitor's centre tells the story of the area from its time as a Pictish fort to the herring boom, which peaked in the early 1900s. A few miles further on, you’ll pass the former air force base at Kinloss. This was once home to the RAF Nimrod anti-submarine squadron and mountain rescue operations. The small aviation museum “Morayvia” is highly recommended, with many ex-airmen on hand to tell the story of the interactive exhibits. The route takes a short detour to the eco-village of Findhorn, which has a beautiful beach, harbour and small heritage centre. Findhorn is also home to the well-known spiritual community of The Findhorn Foundation. Return to Kinloss, then pass by the attractive town of Forres, home to the Benromach distillery. From Forres, the route again mostly follows the NCN route 1. Brodie Castle is far from ruined and is a great place to see how Scottish nobility lived from the 16th century onwards. The castle has an excellent collection of art and furnishing and an extensive library. You can eat at the castle or the nearby Brodie Countryfare, which has outstanding quality Scottish products in its food hall, clothing, gifts and interior departments, and an ever-popular restaurant. Continue along NCN1 by Culbin Forest to Nairn.
Nairn is known for its two championship golf courses and the sandy beaches which attract crowds on sunny days. There’s a lot to pack in today with visits to the historical (and current) army base at Fort George, Cawdor Castle, Clava Cairns and Culloden Battlefield along the route, and you might need to plan your time carefully. Cawdor Castle is a fantastic place to visit to experience life in a castle through history to the present day. There is a fun 9-hole golf course, woodland walks, gardens and a restaurant. The Cawdor Tavern in the village serves excellent food too. The route then follows the south side of the Nairn Valley and, under the impressive masonry arches of the Culloden Viaduct, glimpsed on day one. Visit the prehistoric burial cairns of Bulnuaran of Clava, which have long been a source of wonder and have gained international fame recently, having featured in Outlander. Nearby lies Culloden Battlefield, the site of the last battle fought on British soil in 1746. The top visitor centre shows the timeline of events before, during and after the battle in great detail. Follow NCN1 again into Inverness, then NCN78 back to the finish at our base in Bellfield Park.
The trip has finally come to an end.
Departure in your own time, or why not add on a few extra days to explore the Highland Countryside?
Why take this tour?
The Scottish Highlands offer some of the world's most evocative, dramatic scenery. This sparsely populated, mountainous region has a history, culture and climate all of its own. This tour is focused on what is known as the Speyside region, defined by the river of the same name.
This is a fairly relaxed trip with a great mixture of cycling and sightseeing. It also has spectacular scenery, including mountains, forests, open moorland, farmland, lochs and the coastline.
The adventure starts and finishes in Inverness, passing through what is perhaps better known as Scotch Whisky Country, as it is home to over half of Scotland’s Distilleries, including some of the most famous.
It is hard to fully convey the wild beauty of the Highlands, with the Cairngorms and the coast close by. The mountains around the Cairngorm National Park offer great mountain scenery, and the coast is home to seals and dolphins, all the stuff of legend and folklore. Exploring by bike gives your that vital connection, allowing you to see and feel everything.
You will mainly cycle on quiet roads and good cycle paths.
THIS IS A JOURNEY NOT EASILY FORGOTTEN
Accommodation on Bed and Breakfast basis
Bike Hire - available at extra charge
Baggage transfers - available at extra cost