It's like a dream. Travelling through tree tunnels, where the branches have joined together to arch over the road. This is what I enjoyed the most about this 26 mile section of National Cycle Route One. Miles of quiet, country roads with sections of woodland that turn the road into a vibrant green corridor.
Highlights of this route:
This route begins at the Spey viaduct. This is a magnificent structure and riding a bike across it is not to be missed.
It's 10 miles from the viaduct to Elgin. The path heads away from the coast, but not so far because some of these roads can get a dusting of sand.
The previous coastal sections of Route One, such as Cullen to Findochty, are spectacular. The inland sections don't have the harbours, rock formations and beaches, but there is still plenty to love.
One thing you must do is pull over and walk into the forests that border some of the roads. These woods reveal a world just as magical as the cliffs and coast.
Within minutes of walking into the forest I was struck by the stillness. I had this feeling that this place has been like this for hundreds of years and not much has changed. The forest floor was covered in moss that was decorated with tiny wildflowers.
It is tempting to put your head down and pedal fast on these roads, but that would mean missing out on experiencing the beauty of these forests.
It is also worth taking notice of the farmlands. I stopped at a pig farm and loved watching these creatures rooting about in the mud, sniffing and grunting.
The sudden appearance of a busy town with traffic and lots of visitors is a shock to the system after the forest roads.
The Cathedral is a good place to break the journey. It dates from 1224 and is one of the finest medieval buildings in Scotland. Although much of it is a ruin, plenty survives to make it easy to imagine the former grandeur of this place.
My favourite part of the building is getting to climb the spiral staircase of the towers. This gives a brilliant view over the ruins and the town.
There is some very fine architecture to discover. The octagonal chapter house is one of the best preserved parts of the site. Inside there is a stunning carved ceiling where you might just make out the remains of gold paint. There is a statue of a Bishop that tells of the quality of stone carving.
If you have time for a diversion you can follow my 24 mile cycle route to a nearby whisky distillery and Duffus Castle.
Elgin to Forres
This 16 mile section of the route has more of those quiet roads with vibrant green tree tunnels.
At Coltfield I found a group of friendly horses that were keen to investigate my bike.
Then I came across overgrown railway tracks from the closed Burghead branch line. Usually the tracks are lifted from disused railways, so it was unusual to find this. It is possible that the tracks have been lifted since my visit, but let me know in the comments.
Around 3 miles from Forres is the ruined Kinloss Abbey. It was founded in 1150 by King David 1 and run by a group of Cistercian monks from Melrose Abbey. The abbey declined in importance after 1560 when Protestantism became the religion of Scotland and Catholic abbeys were no longer needed. It explains the state of the buildings today and why there is very little to see.
However, the information boards provide a fascinating insight into the life of this abbey. What I did not appreciate was the large array of job titles and responsibilities that the monks had. For example, the Guest Master was responsible for travellers as abbeys provided accommodation to anyone who needed it.
The Guest Master must have been particularly busy in 1303 when Edward 1 and his army stayed for 2 weeks. They got through a year's worth of food and drink!
There was also a Master of Novices who was in charge of training and coaching.
There is a handy floor plan that shows you the layout of the rooms in the abbey. Most I was familiar with, but this was the first time I had come across a Warming Room. There was no heating in the abbey so in the winter months this room helped the monks to stay warm after hours spent in the cold church and cloister.
There is a whisky distillery to see on the way into Forres. Benromach produces Speyside single malt whisky. There are tours and tastings.
This is an enjoyable section of National Cycle Route One. The highlight is the miles of quiet roads that are bordered with beautiful forests. Try some of the other sections of Route One in the Moray region of Scotland: