Given that The Speyside Way trail section was only five miles today, we decided to spend the morning doing our latest new-found activity.
Lazing on the beach.
Not just any beach though: this was the Spey Bay Dolphin Centre. Scotland has its own pod of Atlantic dolphins that hang around the mouth of the River Spey to feed on its plentiful salmon and other fish. The researchers at the centre explained that because water conditions are so cold, Scotland’s Atlantic dolphins tend to be much bigger and fatter than dolphins found in other parts of the world, such as Florida.
Unfortunately, the dolphins must have felt as lazy as us that day, because they were a no-show. This might have been a disappointment, had the Spey Bay Dolphin Centre not led us to their Ice House, where visitors could go on a ‘dry dive’.
What once housed hundreds of salmon before shipment now houses an immersive video experience. All the walls and ceiling light up with footage of dolphins, basking sharks and even whales swimming around the local waters.
After experiencing the dry dive and looking at all the antiquated fishing tools, we decided to cut our losses and see what Fochabers had in store for us.
The trail gradually transformed from low bushes and scrubs to towering pine forests.
Around the halfway point, the trail diverged, and since we were on an adventurous hiking trip and all (and definitely not because we had hiked half the day’s trail in an hour) we took the detour along the river.
Which was lucky really, because we would have completely missed the swallows nests. Hundreds of tiny holes were worn into the cliffside by the river, and inside these thousands of swallows had made their home.
Now I’ll admit I’m not much of a bird-watcher, but gazing at hundreds of them dip, dodge and dive around the river in the peaceful tranquillity of nature made me think it was something I could appreciate more.
The clouds began rolling in, so we high-tailed it back into the coverage of the forest for the last stretch of the trail for the day.
Luckily the storm passed quickly, just in time for our arrival into Fochabers. Imagine old stony cottages with an extra dose of vintage kitsch, and some independent shops, and that you’ve got it!
To top off Fochaber’s claim as most charming village in Speyside, hikers are greeted at the entrance to the historic village by Gordon Castle.
In keeping with the lazy adventurer spirit of the day, we headed into the grounds to explore.
Good thing we did too, as we found the BEST cakes and coffee for miles around at their restaurant and cafe, nestled between the Castle’s vegetable garden and old stables area.
Suitably stuffed with cakes and with the sun setting, we headed back to Fochabers in search of what every hiker wants at the end of a walk: cheese and carbs.