This page is for anybody who wants to know more about being outdoors in Speyside, whether hiking, biking or horse-riding. Below are some sources that you should be aware of.
Scotland has one of the most enlightened access policies in the world: by law, everyone has the right to be on most land and inland water as long as they act responsibly. This applies to walkers, cyclists and horse riders.
If you wish to cycle on the Speyside Way, visit this page and/or download the leaflet Do the Ride Thing. Check the User notes for each route section to find out more about its suitability or otherwise for bikes.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code confirms that your access rights extend to cycling. Cycling on hard surfaces, such as wide paths and tracks, causes few problems. On narrow route sections, cycling may cause problems for other people, such as walkers and horse riders. If this occurs, dismount and walk until the path becomes suitable again.
Do not endanger walkers and horse riders: give other users advance warning of your presence and give way to them on a narrow path. Take care not to alarm farm animals, horses and wildlife.
If you wish to ride on the Speyside Way visit this page and check the User notes for each route section to find out more about its suitability or otherwise for horses. You may prefer to bypass some sections.
The Scottish Outdoor Access Code confirms that your access rights extend to horse-riding. Where the surface is constructed, limit your speed to walk or trot: cantering will damage the surface. In and around villages or well-used areas, dismount and kick any droppings off the path surface. On public roads, wear high-visibility clothing.
Do not endanger walkers: give other users advance warning of your presence and give way to them on a narrow path. Take care not to alarm farm animals and wildlife.
The Speyside Way is at high latitude – over 57° N – so expect wide variations in the hours of daylight from month to month. The range is between 18-19 hours of daylight in late June to as few as 6-7 hours in late December. For specific timings on dates up to 20 years ahead, visit this website: scroll down and choose Inverness – an adequate proxy for anywhere on Speyside.
Running short of daylight can create real risks if you are unprepared. Between October and March, aim to set out at first light and always check the time of sunset before you go. Plan realistically what distance you can expect to cover in a short day, but always carry a headtorch and whistle in case for any reason it takes longer.
The weather in north-east Scotland is unpredictable year-round. It can be cloudy and windy at any time; the sun may shine; rain, hail or sleet may fall – and all of these may happen within half an hour. Be prepared for anything, and often you will get a pleasant surprise. Visit the Met Office for a weather forecast before deciding what to carry with you each day.
It is vital not only to carry a waterproof top layer, but also to know that you can rely on it. Long before any multi-day expedition, test your waterproofs so you have time to reproof or replace. You are unlikely to find a suitable shop once you have set off. Be sure to take a waterproof cover for your rucksack.
The Mountain Weather Information Service (MWIS) provides specific forecasts (including wind strength, cloud level and rain/snow predictions) for the Cairngorms here. Note that wintry conditions can occur at almost any time of year. If you opt for the Tomintoul spur you may encounter hostile weather and perhaps snow drifts, especially between November and March.
In summer months midges (tiny biting insects) can be a problem. Some people won’t ever be bitten, others find them so maddening that they resort to headnets, especially if camping or wishing to sit still anywhere near water and vegetation. If you walk fast (4 mph/6.4 kph), midges can’t keep up! For more about the midge season, repellants and a five-day midge forecast based on midge traps and mini-weather stations, visit the Smidge website.
Ticks are tiny blood-sucking insects, harmless if removed promptly and effectively. However, if infected a tick bit can occasionally lead to Lyme disease – which if diagnosed early can be treated, but is potentially very serious if allowed to progress. The Check for Ticks website is the outcome of a university research project, and has excellent practical advice.