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Sunday 8thJune 2008
Balsporran Cottages to Nethy Bridge

I had planned a much longer ride for today as the route was in theory downhill all the way.  We were to follow the River Truim until it joined the River Spey at Newtonmore and from there on follow the Spey to our destination at Nethy Bridge.  In practice things are not that straightforward!

Leaving the B&B at Balsporran Cottages we were distracted by Siskins feeding on the bird feeder outside.  They were so tame that I could approach within a few feet to take a photograph.  The first part of the ride to Newtonmore met expectations.  We had soon completed the 10 miles to the village at an average speed of 16 mph – we had only been averaging between 9 and 10mph during the trip so far!  The weather was a bit overcast as we started but brightened as the day progressed.  In the village we bought provisions for lunch and found the obligatory tea house.  Not far down the road was the open air Highland Folk Museum.  It houses examples of buildings from past centuries from very old turf roofed brochs to more modern examples from the early 1900’s.  We visited the 1930’s school house first and were reminded of our own school upbringing from the 1950’s – old fashioned school desks, ink wells, multiplication tables on the wall etc.  After some handwriting practice the mistress took us outside to play hoop rolling or ‘gird and cleet’ as it is known in Scotland.

We then went to look at some of the older houses in a township based on a larger village in the Spey valley dating from the 1700’s.  Various methods of thatching had been used including heather, broom, bracken or reeds over a layer of turf.  On the way to this part of the site we were able to see red squirrels in the pine trees.  Time was running short so we caught the site bus back to the entrance and enquired about eating establishments Loch Insh appeared to be the best bet for Sunday lunch even though it was another 10 miles away.

When we arrived at the Loch we were disappointed to find that the lunch on offer was more of the fast food variety – no roast beef here – so we settled down to eat our bread and cheese bought earlier, firstly remembering to apply insect repellent.  There were warning notices by the benches about biting birch flies.  We had also been recommended an alpine garden centre only another few miles further down the road at Inshriach House – this was famous for its cakes and for the facility to sit and eat and watch the birds on the feeders at the same time.  Unfortunately Christine couldn’t finish her slice of cream cake so I had to come to the rescue.  Cakes such as these cannot be wasted!

It was still another 14 miles to go to the B&B at Nethy Bridge.  The first few miles had definitely been downhill but the country was now flatter and our rate of progress had slowed.  We had had it in mind to visit Loch Garten and the Osprey centre, but by the time we got to the turn off for the Loch we decided that the extra mileage was too much.  Instead we pulled into another garden centre at Auchgourish, only to be approached by two large Irish Wolfhounds as soon as we entered.  Fortunately the owner was also in sight and he greeted us with the words “Please take your cycle helmets off”.  It turns out that one of the hounds had been kicked by someone wearing a cycle helmet in the past and doesn’t take too kindly to cyclists these days.  We gladly obliged.

After a quiet saunter in the gardens we felt fit enough to continue to Nethy Bridge and to meet Jenny and David Carrott our hosts for the evening and also friends, as they had lived in Hinckley before starting their B&B business about five years ago.  They have a lovely house in Nethy Bridge and they are making a great success from this new venture.  They are situated close to the Speyside Way and also of course to Loch Garten.   No set hours for breakfast here – if you want to go bird watching early in the morning and return for breakfast later, this is the place.  Without being biased in any way we can thoroughly recommend them at Tigh na Fraoch.

Mileage 43.1 miles Total 260.9 miles

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