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River Spey

Tour Scotland, River Spey

The Spey. Britain’s fastest flowing river, rises in the uplands between Lochs Lochy and Laggan, a few miles above the tiny Loch Spey, and flows north-eastward to
the sea which it enters at Spey Bay some 100 miles away, between Cullen and Lossiernouth. It is one of Scotland’s best known salmon rivers and also holds trout
of both varieties in abundance. The lovely Strath Spey is now widely famed as a tourist centre, with ski slopes on the neighbouring Cairngorm mountains, A part of the Grampian range, the great granite mountains tower up to the east as the Spey carries its clear waters down
towards the plain of the Garden of Scotland.

Part of its upper reaches are paced by the now abandoned line of General Wade’s military road to Fort Augustus which becomes firm again below Garva Bridge. Joined by the river Markie below the Black Craig, the Spey then runs through Laggan and on below the heights of Creag Dhubh (2,350 feet), the Black Rock. Halfway up its rocky face is to be found Cluny’s Cave, Uaimh
Cluanaidh, and here the chief of the MacPherson clan lay hidden during the aftermath of the ‘45. The Spey here
moves sluggishly through deep pools.

Below Spey Bridge the river passes Newtonmore, a skiing and pony-trekking centre with a good golf course, and runs on to Kingussie three miles on. Known as the capital of Badenoch, Kingussie is a larger centre in the shadow of the Monadhilath mountains, with the Grampians rearing their ramparts across the river to the south and the Cairngorms in view to the east. Once known as Cinn
Ghiuthsaich, (Head of the Pine Forest), Kingussie contains the little museum of Am Fasgadh, full of antiquities of Highland life. On the opposite side of the
river are the remains of the Ruthven Barracks, built in 1718 and burned down by the Jacobites in 1746.

From Kingussie the Spey flows down to Loch Insh in an area once notable for constant flooding and known as the ‘Drowned Lands’. Loch Insh, the ‘Loch of the Island’, holds pike and trout in quantities and in the spring the salmon fishing is good. At its head is the small village of Kincraig, whence the Spey flows towards the Cairngorms at Aviemore. At Avieniore the Spey Valley Tourist
Organisation has its headquarters and the well-known Aviemore Centre is the hub of a vast and well-organised tourist area. The Centre contains a large ice rink, indoor swimming pool, cinema, ballroom and other attractions and was built at a cost of some three million pounds. Hotels abound throughout the valley and chairlifts and restaurants are there to cater for the needs of the
thousands of skiing enthusiasts who flock to the area in the season.

Strathspey is the land of the Grants, who for six centuries have dominated the area. Castle Grant, which is just north of Grantown-on-Spey, dates back to the 12th century. To the north-east of Aviemore is the church of Kincardine where the Grants exterminated the last of the Cummings by setting it ablaze.

Lower down is the Boat of Garten bridge whose name commemorates the old ferry that preceded it. A little further down, at Netheybridge, the Spey passes close by the ruins of Castle Roy and shortly afterwards it is joined by the river Dulnain. Just north of Speybridge is Grantown-on-Spey. an early example of a New Town’. Founded by Sir Ludovic Grant in 1765, it turned an attractive nioorland setting into a thriving township and is now an important sports and holiday centre, with Highland gatherings, sheepdog trials and a ski school.

The Spey broadens out beyond Craigellachie having been joined a little earlier by the Avon at Ballindalloch and, in a series of wide loops, skirts its way past Ben Aigan (1,544 feet), the last obstacle before the coastal plain, passing
through Rothes-on-Spey and under Boat o’ Bridge before reaching Foehabers. Here stands Gordon Castle. the former seat of the Dukes of Richmond and Gordon. Just beyond, at Spey Mouth, the river reaches the sea.

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