Speyside Way: Carron to Ballindalloch Station

Walking between the river and the whisky




6.7 miles (10.8kms)

381ft (116m)
2hrs 45min

About the walk

The Strathspey Railway opened in 1865 as the first rail connection to Inverness from the South. (Before that, the convenient way into the Northern Highlands had been Telford's Caledonian Canal along the Great Glen...) In 1898 it was superseded by the more direct line from Aviemore that's now the East Coast Main Line. And in 1968 is was closed in the Beeching cuts along with most of Britain's other loss-making branch lines.

Steam trains vs feet

The train travellers' loss was the walkers' profit. The Speyside Way, which opened in 1981 long before the current Scottish 'Right to Roam', was made possible by the long through route provided by the abandoned railway. But since 2002 walkers have again had to make way for rail traffic, as the Strathspey Steam Railway, a heritage society run by volunteers, has gradually been replacing the track northwards from Aviemore. But at current development rates it'll be a century or two before the steam trains reach Aberlour and Craigellachie.

Speyside single malt

A single malt is the product of a single, named distillery – as against the cheaper blended whiskies, usually diluted with corn spirit. The Speyside single malts are smooth and subtle, less aggressively flavoured than the wild whiskies of Islay and the Western Isles. So for a first taste of serious whisky, a Speyside malt may be the one to start with.

Knockando's striking pink distillery was founded in 1898 and has attractive stone facing with a smart carved sign and a visitor centre. Tamdhu Distillery (not open to the public) was built here in 1896, next to the railway line and the pure waters of the Knockando Burn. A road had to be built to serve it. The Cardhu Distillery, 1.5 miles (2.5km) away off the B9102, is open to visitors, and has great views from its picnic tables.

Black's Boat

The bridge over the river at Blacksboat was extensively refurbished in 1991. The name is thought to have come from two brothers, John and James Black, who farmed here and operated a ferry in the 18th century (or alternatively, the ferry operator may have been an African-American former slave and servant from Ballindalloch Castle!)

The Spey is crossed for the last time on the viaduct spanning the river at Ballindalloch. The engineer, G McFarlane of Dundee, proudly gives his name at each end, and why not, for this sturdy bridge, built in 1863, is a fine piece of work, as strong today as when it was first opened.


Walk directions

Turning right in front of Carron's distillery, the route heads firmly off towards two others, soon easing off the tarmac lane onto the old railway line. At first the path runs immediately below this tarmac lane.

At Dalmunach, ignore a track forking down to some new houses, but stay on the railbed just below the tarmac lane. This soon turns away, leaving the path running alone through quiet woodland. The railway path runs elevated above the river but with little in the way of distant views. The Spey curves in slow loops here and the path largely follows it towards Knockando, 3 miles (5km) from Carron. The route passes directly behind Knockando Distillery, the aroma either overpowering or inspiring, according to taste.

At Tamdhu Station, steps down from the left-hand platform take you to a canoe launch point beside the river, with a grand view of one of its wooded islands. The main railbed path runs between Tamdhu distillery buildings, forking slightly left under a high overhead pipe (is it really full of golden spirit?) and continuing as a very pleasant green pathway. There is generous tree cover and rabbits and pheasants are almost certain to be seen on this stretch, and maybe even roe deer. These lovely small animals  bound gracefully along in a way humans can only envy; they are often sighted by a flash of white rump. Just 2 miles (3km) from Tamdhu, the path passes under a road bridge at Blacksboat.

Blacksboat station building survives as a private house, and the former goods shed as the Speyside Way. Another easy 2 miles (3km) in pleasant surroundings leads to the fine viaduct spanning the river at Ballindalloch. The viaduct leads to the former station at Ballindalloch, now a private house. From the station, carrying straight on leads in 0.25 miles (400m) to the Cragganmore Distillery, open to visitors April to October. The route, however, goes left on the B9137, possibly one of the shortest B roads in Britain. In 0.5 miles (800m) it leads to the A95, the Avon and the start of the Tomintoul Spur.

Additional information

Wide, smooth railbed path, no stiles

Wooded riversides and fields


OS Explorer 419 Grantown-on-Spey

Carron village, Blacksboat Station, Ballindalloch Station

Below Tamdhu Station on steps to the river; Ballindalloch Station

<p>From Carron a minor road leads back to the A95 and infrequent buses to Aberlour, Craigellachie and Elgin. Very infrequent buses Tomintoul – Aberlour (school bus service) pass the war memorial above Bridge of Avon.</p>

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