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Hike an old railroad through a forgotten part of Scotland — Dava Way

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Hike an old railroad through a forgotten part of Scotland — Dava Way

Hiking Collection by Dan Hobson

2-3

days

3-5 h

/ day

28.0 mi

875 ft

1,425 ft

The Dava Way is a mid-distance hiking route that follows the old Highland Railway line through wild heather moorland, pine forests and peaceful farmland.

The trail explores a wonderful part of North East Scotland which is surprisingly undiscovered. You can expect rare wildlife, rugged scenery, varied hiking and a sumptuous sense of solitude on this walk.

Starting from Grantown-on-Spey, the 24 mile (38 km) route heads north along the former railway line to Forres. The Dava Way links the Speyside Way in the south and the Moray Firth Trail to the north, making it a great addition to longer explorations in this part of Scotland. (To see my Collection on the Speyside Way, click here: komoot.com/collection/896972).

In this Collection, I have extended the first stage by 3.7 miles (5.8 km) along the Speyside Way to take in Anagach Woods, an old pine woodland that is home to red squirrel, pine marten, roe deer and the near-extinct capercaillie. This brings the total distance to 28 miles (45 km) and makes both stages similar in distance.

When the Highland Railway closed in 1965, the trackbed was quickly reclaimed by nature and parts were sold off to landowners. But thanks to the efforts of the Dava Way Association — whose volunteers negotiated access, cleared vegetation and built bridges over rivers — the trail opened to walkers, cyclists and horse riders in 2005.

HIghlights along the way include: Anagach Woods; Dava Summit, the highest point of the old railway line; Divie Viaduct, a stunning landmark that was built in 1863 and is the symbol of the Dava Way; Dallas Dhu Distillery, a place that shows how Scotch whisky was made in the Victorian era; Sanquhar Loch, a tranquil stretch of water surrounded by wildlife-rich woodland; and Nelson’s Tower, which stands proudly on Cluny Hill, overlooking the town of Forres.

In this Collection, I have divided the route into two stages; 11.6 miles (18.7 km) and 16.3 miles (26.2 km), respectively. For anyone who prefers shorter hikes, I have suggested how the second stage can be divided. Furthermore, if you skip the Speyside Way extension on Stage 1, all three stages are all approximately 8 miles (12.9km).

The Dava Way follows well-maintained footpaths for the most part and there are no particularly challenging ascents or descents, making it a good choice for intermediate hikers and seasoned walkers alike.

Whilst not plentiful, you are relatively well-served by accommodation and facilities along the route and never stray too far from civilisation. Dividing the trail much beyond three stages is tricky, though, due to the lack of accommodation. Although, as it is Scotland, you can wild camp. For more information on wild camping, visit: visitscotland.com/accommodation/caravan-camping/wild-camping.

The choice of which direction to hike the Dava Way is entirely yours. Both work well. However, the easiest option is to start at Cromdale and finish in Forres (as shown here), which equates to an overall descent of 550 feet (168 m).

To get to the start of the trail via public transport, you would need to catch a train to Aviemore. From there, you can catch the 34X bus to Grantown-on-Spey (bustimes.org/services/34x-aviemore-bus-station-carrbridge). If you would like to include the Cromdale extension, you would then need to catch the 33 bus from Grantown (bustimes.org/services/33-grantown-square-tormore-distillery).

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Dava Way

23.6 mi

600 ft

1,250 ft

Last updated: November 9, 2021

Plan your own version of this adventure in the multi-day planner based on the stages suggested in this Collection.

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Tours & Highlights

  • Intermediate
    04:53
    11.6 mi
    2.4 mph
    575 ft
    175 ft
    Intermediate Hiking Tour. Good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    Stage 1 follows an old railway line through atmospheric woodland and wild heather moorland.

    

    As the first stage is traditionally a short 8 mile (12.9 km) hike starting from Grantown-on-Spey, I have extended the route to begin in Cromdale village, a few miles to the east. This way, you can explore the wonderfully

    by Dan Hobson

    View
  • Difficult
    06:52
    16.3 mi
    2.4 mph
    275 ft
    1,225 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    The final stage crosses a magnificent viaduct, visits a historic whisky distillery and winds around a pretty loch to a hilltop tower.

    

    With 16.3 miles (26.2 km) of distance, this is a challenging hike. However, with 275 feet (84 m) of uphill and 1,225 feet (373 m) of gentle descent, it might not feel

    by Dan Hobson

    View
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Collection Stats

  • Tours
    2
  • Distance
    28.0 mi
  • Duration
    11:45 h
  • Elevation
    875 ft1,425 ft

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Hike an old railroad through a forgotten part of Scotland — Dava Way

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