The Dufftown tour

May 2001
125 km

I took a short 3 months assignments job in Aberdeen with the promise that the job would last as long as I wanted it.
I did not like my new job and the staff there did not like me. Neither did I like Aberdeen. We mutually agreed that 3 months was more than enough and that I should move on. But I still did a satisfactory amount of cycling during these three months in Aberdeen. No less than 1000 kilometres. Most of them on longer tours during the weekends. This tour through the foothills of the Crampians and Aberdeenshire was one of the tours.

I was well prepared for this tour when I started in the morning with a descent down to the railway station in Aberdeen. I took the first train in the morning towards Inverness. After over an hour on the train, I jumped off at Elgin. The weather was almost perfect when I started on the road up to Rothes. The climbs up the valley was not too bad and I soon reached Rothes. I continued through the village on my way up to the bridge atCraigellacchie. This is a major crossroad where River Spey and a major road between the coast and the Highland continues up the valley to Aviemore.
I crossed the river and then took a vertical climb out of the valley and up to a moor. The climb continued through Craigellacchie and past the Speyside Cooperage distillery. This photo is taken just after this climb.

From the climb looking back just after and the Speyside Cooperage on the road to Dufftown.

The weather was nice and the landscape quite good. When rounding the corner to the descent towards Glenfiddich and Dufftown, I got a nice surprise. The photo tries to capture that moment.

Looking towards Glenfiddich and Dufftown.

The descent was a bit hairy past another distillery, but I eventually reached the valley floor and the Glenfiddich Distillery. I am a fan of this whisky (in particular after they cleaned it up and relaunched the superb 12 years old standard bottling) and I off course visited the impressive Glenfiddich visitor centre.

The Glenfiddich distillery.

I then continued up the hill for 2 km to Dufftown.
Dufftown is a very nice village and it is surrounded by moors. This village is one of the hidden gems in Scotland and well worth a tour. I visited the world famous whisky shop in the village and talked whisky with the owner of the shop. Both she and many others warned me against taking the almost four hundred meters above sea level high Clachs Of Balloch and Cabrach mountain road over to Alford. They claimed it was steep and very remote. They advised me to take the valley down to Huntly instead. The warnings had the opposite effect on me, off course. I stocked up with some food and water before I continued my journey.

I took the road from Dufftown down to a valley for two kilometres before I turned off the mainroad and went straight up a steep climb through a narrow valley to the Clachs Of Balloch pass. The sun was pretty sticky and the climb was hard. The scenery was very pretty though. A small descent followed before a steep climb took me up to the top of the mountain pass. To my surprise, the road then went into a vertical descent down to a river which I crossed. The road then followed a narrow gully along the river to the head of the gully where the road again crossed the river and a long, but pretty moderate climb took me up to the top of Cabrach. Both photos below are from this climb.

Halfway up the climb to Cabrach.

The Cabrach mountain pass. A very remote part of Scotland !

I cannot claim that the Cabrach mountain pass is pretty. It is too remote and featureless to be pretty. But it was most certainly an interesting experience !
The descent on the other side of the mountain pass was vertical on a pretty bad road and the brakes took some beating. I finally reached the valley floor at St Mary's Kirk. I followed this valley towards Alford.
The first part of this road was undulating, but it soon started to follow the river and the valley floor before it crossed River Don at Bridge Of Alford. A short, sharp climb from the river took me up to Alford. This is a nice village and I stocked up with some water before I continued over the plains to Aberdeen.
Just after Alford, the road climbed up through a small forest. With tired legs, this climb was no fun. The descent was good though. The road was pretty flat until I reached the climb over Westhill. The road then dropped down to a valley after this climb before it climbed again over to a hill overlooking Aberdeen.
I was really tired now and I got some cramps on this climb. The descent down to Aberdeen was good, but a bit spoiled by the heavy traffic.

This tour is a strange tour, but still very interesting. The road is undulating throughout this tour. It is therefore a serious tour with some serious technical cycling. The seriousness of the Cabrach mountain pass cannot be underestimated too because it's remoteness. I did not meet a single car on that road and it seems like this is not a much used road.
I still recommend this tour to anyone in medium to good shape. I certainly have a lot of good memories from this tour and I would love to do it again.