A quick detour inland.
20 May 2013
I woke up feeling hungry, I always do post a migraine, and with a cycling appetite on top of that I proceeded to devour the remains of my cheese, pitta bread, some fruit, and some ginger nuts I found lurking at the bottom of one of my panniers. I’d need to do a provisions restock soon but not today, seeing as I only had a short leg to do down to Aberlour to visit my Godfather and his wife.
I packed up slowly enjoying the lack of rain, and loaded everything onto my bike for a late start, meandering out through Fochabers, and past the Baxters jam factory. The factory was established here years ago, I think because of the abundance of wild raspberries in the area that seem to grow well here.
I crossed over the Spey before turning south on country roads which run parallel to the river, and through it’s flood plain so they are mostly flat, undulating at worst; ‘undulating’ is a good word, I’ll attempt to use it more often along with ‘verdant’ and ‘dwelling’, also good words.
The next town of any significance was Rothes, although I did ride through lots of gently undulating and verdant countryside, past many stone dwellings both humble and grandiose. The weather remained non committal.
From Rothes I started to pass more whisky distilleries, including Grants. You can smell the whisky in the air around here, quite literally. I got a bit enthusiastic, maybe egged on by the whisky aromas, and decided to go on a bit of a hill climb up to Rothes Castle and to the golf course beyond to get a good view the valley.
I stopped at the castle on the way back down, but there’s not a lot left if it. I bet the stone has been robbed over the centuries by farmers etc, for other building projects, however it must have looked imposing at one point, with a commanding view over the valley.
I think it was originally built in the 12th century when the then Scottish king ordered the local lord to build a castle here, overlooking a village of wattle and daub huts housing tenants who farmed the land and paid part of their harvest to the Lord, or would it be Laird? Edward I, who was named the Hammer of the Scots, stayed in the castle during his triumphant victory tour of Scotland; bet he was popular.
From Rothes I pedalled down to Craigellackie, seeing a few people fly fishing in the Spey, dressed in all the get up and standing in the middle of the river. Didn’t see anyone catch anything. I stopped at the old Craigellackie Bridge, now closed to traffic, but originally built by Thomas Telford from 1812 to 1814. It’s an impressive feat of engineering, spanning the Spey at quite a height to avoid flood waters; a prefabricated Lozenge-Lattice cast iron arch bridge apparently.
The bridge is also the spot where the Queen’s Own Highlanders merged with the Gordon Highlanders in 1994, meeting symbolically in the middle of the bridge.
I continued on post a brief decaf coffee break in Craigellackie at the Highlander Inn, down to Aberlour on more undulating roads that took me past the Walkers shortbread factory, which smelt wonderful. I stopped for lunch and an ice-cream actually in Aberlour, at the Old Pantry, where I consumed two lots of sandwiches and a large bowl of soup, still being hungry post migraine.
I then had to tackle a pretty significant and non-undulating hill up to my Godfather’s house, meeting Jim halfway there with his dog Chip, a Jack Russell of considerable character. I pushed my bike the rest of the way up the hill, obviously not wanting to be impolite and ride whilst they were walking! They have a lovely dwelling at the top of the hill set in verdant surroundings, although some of the hills opposite still had snow on which was a little concerning.
Jim and Sue had Jim’s sister Joan visiting too, and I was made to feel very welcome, plus it was a change to sleep in a proper bed, not something I’d done since Edinburgh. We jury rigged a fix for my front pannier rack strut involving a stiff wire splint, bound on with more wire and gaffer tape. It will probably last for the rest of the trip however I might replace it in Inverness if I find a good bike shop. That just leaves a broken Garmin, and a new lead required for my Power Monkey to connect it to the solar panel, as it’s fractured near the USB plug and needs replacing – not connecting to charge at present. Oh, and the wind just knocked my iPad off my pannier and onto the floor, which won’t do it any good but apart from the volume seems to be functioning still. The Scottish weather is really p*ssing me off today (22 May), strong headwind, squalls, then bright sunshine, then more rain! Grrr.
Anyway I spent a lovely evening in Aberlour, catching up and relaying progress so far, and was well fed and watered! The panacotta bread pudding was especially good, and the wee dram very welcome. Chip the dog was very interested in everything and did his best to help out. He likes chasing deer and sometimes disappears for long periods on the hunt, however not sure what he’d do if he actually caught up with one. I think the local deer are wise to him now.
Also picked up a relief package of flapjack from a friend in Norwich (thanks :)), so all in all a very enjoyable stop-over before tackling the Highlands. Mustn’t leave it so long before seeing Jim and Sue again (and Chip), and thanks for your help with the bike Jim. Off to Elgin, Lossiemouth, and down the Moray Firth forthwith, with clean washing too!