May 30, 2012
Breakfast today was at 7:30 am. We started off with a lovely fruit platter of blueberries, cantaloupe, and cherries followed by porridge. The main part was a fried duck egg, bacon, sausage, and fried tomato with toast, gluten-free for Rosemary. Gordon makes homemade marmalade, so we put that on our toast. This was the only B&B on our route which provided us with a packed lunch as part of the basic price.
Once we had finished breakfast we said our goodbyes and headed off. Back down the hill, we soon rejoined the Speyside Way and initially made good time. The path followed the railway grade for the first few miles, then climbed up a hill to a forest track. We still made good time until we came out of the forest and bumped into a large sheep farm. Here we started to encounter squeeze stiles. Every time we crossed over one of the farm’s access roads, we had a pair of these stiles to go through. We went across one part of the farm, then up the hill on one side, then across the top of the farm, then down the hill on the other side, then turned to cross the rest of the farm. There was stile after stile after stile, and although we didn’t count them, we estimated that we had to go through about 40 of them!
After all that, we started to go up and down through the woods again. At this point we started to meet walkers coming in the other direction. When we asked the first pair how long it had taken them to get from Ballindalloch Station to where we were, they told us it had taken about two and a half hours. This gave us a shock, since it was now getting on for 11:30, which meant we only had an hour and half to make our 1 pm rendezvous. Each subsequent group we met had similar times when we asked, so by now we knew it would be touch-and-go as to whether we could get there in time.
So we decided that Paul would speed on ahead, hoping that the taxi lady would still be there. There were still several more miles of trail, but luckily only a few more squeeze stiles. Although the final stretch along the old railway grade seemed endless, he finally arrived at 1:07 pm. Luckily she was still there and Paul managed to stall her until Rosemary arrived, a few minutes later. Both of us agreed that we had never walked so fast with packs on in our lives. We dumped our bags in the back of the taxi and she quickly drove us around the circuitous route to the old Blacksboat station, which was on the other side of the river.
We were elated that we had managed to make the meeting point despite the odds. So we sat at the picnic table at the station and enjoyed our delicious packed lunches, hardly noticing the drizzle that was falling.
We still had about 10 miles to walk to our destination, Aberlour, but all of it was now along the old railway line so there was no elevation gain. Now we were in whisky country, so we passed three distilleries in quick succession. However none of them were open to the public, and they didn’t even have signs to identify themselves. We also passed two men who were fixing up one of the old railway stations, which they said had been called Tamdhu.
However after a while it did get tedious, and we were tired after the exertions of the morning. But finally we made it to Aberlour and, after asking in the Co-op where the local high school was, we walked the short distance to our B&B, which was across the street from the high school. We were greeted by our hostess, Mary, and shown to our room. This was a standard-model B&B, unlike last night’s, so we were not invited to have tea with her. Instead we made tea in our room and had much-needed showers before heading out to dinner.
We checked out a few places in the village before settling on the Mash Tun. It was very busy, but managed to squeeze us in. Both of our meals were excellent, so it was definitely the best place in Aberlour to have dinner. Afterwards we looked around the town a bit before heading back to the B&B, where we spent some time researching bus and train schedules for our upcoming trip from Buckie (at the end of the Speyside Way) to Anstruther. With any luck, tomorrow will not be as hectic as today!