Mostly, this is random stories from my various trips as I collect them, but I've a wee backlog to get through too and those will pop up occasionally.

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Thursday, 15 September 2011

C2C - Part 4



It's another very wet morning as I sit and ponder over breakfast and no matter how much I delay, it seems like it’s getting no drier. So, I gear up and set off back into the woodlands. This is a very pretty section with some good tracks, though some of the route round the golf course seems like it’s been squeezed in.

The remainder of the Grantown-Cromdale section is a bumpy, muddy, gate-strewn nightmare and I rapidly lose patience. Opening a normal swing-gate is one thing, but these hinged hill-walker gates can't be negotiated with panniers, so each one means stopping, unclipping a pannier, feeding the bike through and re-setting everything. I’m spending more time doing this than actually cycling.
GATES!!!



The next section goes through woods at Tom an Uird and to Knockfrink - another part which it is officially recommended to avoid while cycling. I opt to heed the advice this time and head along on the A95 for a few miles. The Way then cuts across this and I'm off-road along a farm track again. Guess what? More gates! I count 10 in the space of 1.5km and what cycling there is is confined to a narrow, boggy, fenced-off corridor between two fields. Eventually, I hit a lively little wooded downhill section  which takes me into the old railway line just before Ballindalloch. This picks me up a bit as I know it's more bike-friendly from here. I look up from the track, smile, and suddenly the world seems a friendlier place despite the track itself being very muddy.



Even better is when, a few km later, my friend David shows up for our planned lunch rendezvous. Finding the cafe at Aberlour closed for lunch(!) we try the pub, but that is full so we head along to Craigellachie and up to Davids house.



This leisurely lunch is just what I need and I’m content to let time pass in the dry and warmth. David also convinces me that the section up Ben Aigan is better than any detour so we're off again, climbing to the highest point since the Corrieyairack. It's mostly in the trees, but when we reach a clearing I look north and there is the coast.
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Having climbed on forestry road,  the descent turns out to be alternately muddy and loose and rocky. David speeds off ahead on his 6", full suspension Nomad, while I'm content to pick my way down more carefully, reckoning it's better to get there slowly than not at all. This fun all ends as we approach another railway bridge and I'm astonished when a train actually crosses this one. I've become so used to seeing abandoned railways that I've forgotten this is the Inverness-Aberdeen line.



A short section of quiet road follows - there is no alternative for the Way here - and then we reach Fochabers where David takes his leave for some "real" mountain biking and his return home. By now, the day has warmed up a little and I’ve managed to divest myself of the waterproof trousers and jacket for the first time today.



Cycling through the roadworks at Fochabers, I'm struggling to find all the Way markers but eventually find the Spey again and I know that will keep me right. Another nice wooded section veers occasionally to and from the river bank and at one point the track is almost completely washed away, undercut by the strength of the rushing water. As I hurry across one section of undercut embankment I can actually hear stones falling from underneath into the river.



As I head downstream, the shingle banks are getting bigger and more complex and then I see the line of houses which is the tiny village of Spey Bay. Here I am then, at sea level again. By way of celebration I scoff a Snickers bar and watch as the clouds part for the first time today and some early evening sunlight breaks through.  Spey Bay and the coast once more.


A couple of photos, a chat with some local runners and I set off on the very last leg - along the coast to Buckie. After a promising start, the Way again finds itself trapped along field margins and the like and for a while it's very slow going. Just before Portgordon it dives back onto another old railway line, there are more gates (!) and then it runs right along the coast to Buckie, past the seals basking on the rocks. There's an opportunity to divert into the NCN1 cycle track to Buckie but I opt to keep to the Way to the end.



Not much further and without any major fanfare, the Way ends. I lay the bike up against a harbour wall and stroll down to the sea to dip my feet, mirroring the ceremony of 4 days earlier and making it a true Coast to Coast.


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