It was still pretty dark when I parked my car near the former Ballindalloch Train Station, a few minutes later a friend of mine picked me up and transported me to Tomintoul. It was much brighter when we arrived there some 30 minutes later. I was dropped off in the Square and left to my own devices in order to return to my car, covering the Tomintoul Spur of the Speyside Way.
I walked along Main Street towards a forest car park just beyond the end of the village. This bit was a bit tricky as the pavements were covered with streaks and sheets of ice here and there. Thankfully I managed to pass that without falling down. From the car park the route went along quite a muddy farm track along the edge of some woodlands climbing slightly up, and then a corner of the field where I found a metal gate. Behind it the path steeply descended towards a burn called Conglass Water, I crossed over it on a wooden bridge and then climbed steeply up a short slope. In the process the path disappeared in the meadow, but I spotted a gate for walkers on the other side and went towards it. From there the route ran along the tarmac road going from Tomintoul to Croughly, but for about one-third of a mile only; there was a sharp turn right onto a narrow path running between two sets of fences slightly up towards a patch of woodland. After about a 10 minute long walk along the western edges of this and another bit of forest the path turned right a bit and downwards. From the distance the path in front of me looked pretty wide and solid; when I moved down more it turned out it was a timber board walk. I guess it usually helps to keep walkers’ feet dry; in my case it was like a trap: the timber was covered with an invisible film-thin layer of extremely slippery ice, but not everywhere. It was impossible to differentiate the safe bits from the unsafe. To make it worse, the walk ran down the slope, then over the burn, and then up the slope – gravity was against me… At one point my stupid dog jumped carelessly over the fence (instead of using the special steps in a dignified manner), slipped and then was limping. A heavy injured beast was at the very bottom on my wish list in the middle of nowhere. Fortunately it turned out the limp was short-lived, and very soon the brainless creature returned to its usual self; chasing shadows and smells.
From the burn the path climbed relatively gently for about one mile; the board walk in its higher parts was less slippery – just wet, but no ice. Then it was replaced by a narrow and miserably boggy path. I wished I had my gaiters; but they were lying lazily at home… At the top of the path I crossed a metal gate and entered a forest. The path was wider but still boggy. A couple of minutes later I reached a crossroads I had known from my previous walks in that area. I turned left into a much drier forest track leading up the hill through the forest. It levelled a few minutes later, turned slightly right and led me to the moorlands of Carn Daimh. A well-maintained farm track gently climbed to the summit, initially along the edge of the forest on my left hand side, then in the completely open space. On the top there was a cairn topped with a metal dish, pointing towards different hills, with their names and the distance to them. On the other side of the path a weathered wooden pole was standing, displaying the name of the hill, its altitude, and the sign of the Speyside Way. I remembered it looking much better…
I went down from the top down a short steep descend. From my previous walks I had expected increasingly boggy ground along the route, but to my surprise it wasn’t bad. On the other side of the moorland I crossed the fence and therefore the path I had known, and carried along a farm track gently going across the western slope of Carn Liath. The track was imperceptibly morphing into a much narrower path, soon going gently down the slope towards the Glenlivet Distillery; I was looking forward to it. I knew it was closed for this time of year, but I had planned to have my packed lunch there. Eventually I made it, and I really enjoyed my reduced-price sandwiches, Snickers chocolate bars and hot tea from my flask I had brought with me.
After the break I headed down the wide tarmac public road, and a few minutes later I sharply turned right into a much narrower one going east- and downwards. I was really worried how I would cross the river Livet; I was going away from the only bridge in the area I’d known about. Nonetheless I followed religiously the Speyside Way marks, and a couple of minutes later I found a narrow suspension bridge next to a ford. Relieved I crossed the river to find out that the path along the bank had been closed due to erosion. A created diversion led to a public road – B9008; I wasn’t happy about that as the road can be pretty busy at times. Thankfully it was just for about half a mile, and the grassy shoulder was wide and flat enough to walk quite comfortably. At the end of that stretch I crossed the Burn of Tervie via the stone bridge and turned right into a narrow and pretty steep tarmac road going up. Soon the route left the road and followed up, and up, and up the hill. There was no breeze, the sun was shining onto my back, and sometimes the path got really narrow, hiding among the heather, and sometimes was pretty boggy. It was January, but I felt as I was climbing in the middle of the summer…Eventually I reached the top of the ridge, walked a bit on the level ground, but soon the path started going gently down towards the distant village of Ballindalloch. It was a pretty relaxing although long walk down. The path changed into a wider track, then much further down into a tarmac road, and eventually joined the B9008. It was the least pleasant part of the whole walk, along quite a busy road, leading to the even busier A95, with no pavements and sometimes pretty narrow grassy shoulders. Eventually I walked through a tiny village of Bridge of Avon, at the other end I wearily crossed the A95 and followed a much quieter road to leading to the Ballindalloch Station. A mile or so later I got back to my car, waiting patiently for me all day long.