#take12trips challenge, The Speyside Way: Ballindalloch to Grantown-on-Spey

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After a heavy session of hiking the day before, our eyes and limbs were reluctant to recognise the morning light coming through our window. This unwillingness was further exacerbated when we remembered that today was the most difficult section of the Speyside Way: 13 miles of hillwalking in the searing heat. However the rumbling sounds of trucks from the Cragganmore distillery next door soon alerted us to rise and shine.

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The tour of the Cragganmore distillery is shorter than others, but the coolness of the warehouses was a welcome respite from the heat, as was the shots of whisky after the tour. Eventually even we had to admit it was time to shuffle, and soon found ourselves hopscotching across boggy trails through the glorious rolling hills and pine forest of the Scottish countryside.

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The trail led from boggy valley to steep pine hills that teemed with blooming gorse. We managed to spot a pine marten (too quick for the camera though!) before gaining shade in the pine forests.

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Whilst creeping through the woods we spied a little visitor:

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After this point the trail became a bit tricky, with lots of rocks and tree roots waiting in the long-grass to trip you up. The locals didn’t seem too keen on us either.

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The trail gradually merged from the rocky trail and back onto the railway line, just in time for the most kitsch train station we saw on the trail – Cromdale.

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The property has been lovingly restored by a couple and reflects how the station would have looked in days bygone. There is also an old train carriage where people can stay for the night, but we were making a beeline for Boat of Garten.

All of a sudden, storm clouds rolled in and drenched us, only a few miles from our destination.

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We made a dash for the woods, where the rain gradually let up onto this forest that seemed to model itself on the stock screensaver photos. As the rain gradually lessened, what was initially a still and silent forest teemed with birdsong, the rustle of hidden creatures in the bushes and soon enough, other hikers.

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