The River Spey has been synonymous with two things for many years: Whisky and Salmon. This pocket sized day trip allows visitors to sample both, while keeping miles to a minimum, and still tasting the full flavour of this beautiful and unspoilt area. Don’t forget you can print out the ‘Speysider Showcase’ day trip to take with you on your adventure.
Although this adventure covers just a small area, I would heartily recommend an overnight stay, at least one! This route starts and ends at the very welcoming Delnashaugh Hotel which would make a perfect base for this mini-Highland holiday. Don’t be put off by the tricky name. It apparently means ‘daffodil’, which is a charming reflection of this bright and cheery perennial!
The Delnashaugh is just off the A95, between elegant Grantown on Spey and Aberlour. It’s in easy reach of Inverness, Elgin, and Aberdeen, and only just north east of the Cairngorm National Park too, so it has mountainous vistas, wooded river valleys, and all of the wildlife you’d associate with upland Scotland.
From the Delnashaugh head almost due north to the tiny hamlet of Knockando, by crossing the mighty River Spey at Blacksboat, where the road also crosses the Speyside Way. This long distance footpath celebrates it’s 40th anniversary this year, and plays host to thousands of walkers who enjoy its 65 mile length from the coast near Buckie in the north, right down to Aviemore at it’s south-western extent.
Whisky, Walking & Weaving.
Knockando for many years was the pint-sized base for the top two of Scotland’s best selling whisky brands; J&B Rare came largely from the eponymous Knockando Distillery. Whilst just a little further above the river, Cardhu Distillery produces the spirit base of each of the Johnnie Walker range. Quite an accolade for a place with fewer than 700 residents! For us though, our first encounter with Knockando (from the Gaelic Cnoc Cheannach, meaning Hill of Commerce) is at The Knockando Wool Mill.
A lovely collection of historic buildings with modern additions, has roots back to 1734, where it was listed as a waulk mill. Water from the burn behind it powered a wheel, and in turn would have powered the belts which drove the machinery. Still in use today to produce fine estate tweeds, soft cashmeres, and all nature of aspirational goodies. The poor state of the building was brought to public attention in 2004 as Scottish finalist, in the TV programme ‘Restoration’. It didn’t win, but fundraising allowed the work to start. The Mill eventually opened to the public in 2012.
So what’s the food and drink connection here? Well, you’re right of course, but when the cafe’s open they make great scones! The ghillies on the river wear the tweed made at this mill while they help their clients fish for salmon. And this is Knockando after all – home to two of the world’s great whiskies. That must be a Speysider Showcase right there?
Drams & Scran
Talking of whisky, Cardhu has recently been re-invented, in terms of their visitor experience. As one of the Four Corners of Scotland Distilleries, all contributing to Johnnie Walker. Book onto a tour and learn about the first distillery ran by a woman. Learn of all the family exploits as they progressed this global brand from the most humble beginnings? It’s possible to choose from a selection of tour styles, dependent on your timings, your budget, and your level of interest. There are also food offers to match the whiskies. So a dram and some scran it is!
Fairytale Castles Too!
Once you’ve followed the iconic striding man around Cardhu, why not take a gentler pace down to Ballindalloch Castle. It’s a lovely fairytale Castle, built on a more modest scale than most, but beautifully situated close to the River Avon. Legend has it that the 1540’s plan was to build much higher up, but the emerging structure was repeatedly brought down by mysterious high winds until a ‘demonic’ voice said ‘build it on the coo haugh’. Clearly a man to listen, John Grant built it beside the river, and his descendants have lived there ever since. The Castle itself can be toured, or if time is short, the walled garden and rockery are both lovely. Afterwards visit the coffee and gift shop, where the homemade cakes will surely become a highlight of your visit.
I would suggest that this concludes your day. Take the mammoth drive of oh, 5 minutes or less, back to The Delnashaugh Hotel. A brief snooze, a dram or two to re-visit your daytime adventure, and look forward to the local delights featuring on tonight’s menu.
So for this trip, Speyside in the spotlight, showingoff some of it’s finest attributes. We hope you enjoy it.