Highfern Portfolio

Highfern Portfolio

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

A postcard from Speyside

Since setting up Angels’ Nectar three years ago, it’s been pretty hectic. A six day week has become the norm rather than the exception. But thanks to my Mother in Law offering to baby sit for twenty-four hours, we had an opportunity for a well-earned day off. What to do? Head to the hills and bag a Munro? Sailing on Loch Morlich, canoe trip, or mountain bike adventure in the nearby woods?
We decided to head back on to the River Spey in our canoe. Since the arrival of our oldest daughter five years ago, canoe trips have been restricted to the flat waters of local Lochs. A canoe trip with just the two of us would be an opportunity to venture back onto moving water, but to ease us back in gently we choose the relatively gentle section of the River Spey from Aviemore to Boat of Garten. 
We launched at the Old Bridge Inn, a lovely pub which also formed the clue for one of the locations of our Angels’ Nectar Whisky Caches in the whisky treasure hunt we hosted for the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival: ‘Its not at the Old Bridge Inn, its in the old bridge’.
We headed downstream with some gentle rapids to keep us on our toes. The river meandered, getting ever so slightly grander with each stream that joined. Whilst only a couple of miles from the bustling main street of Aviemore, with a bit of imagination we could have been in the Yukon. The river is incredibly peaceful here, but intriguingly has an industrial past. In the days before steel, timber used to be floated downstream in rafts from the forests to our right, to the shipyards on the coast. We saw oystercatchers, sand martins, an osprey, and a fancy duck, which was beyond our bird knowledge. We passed fishermen, asked if they had had any luck, to which the cheery response was ‘Yes, lots of luck, but no fish’.  To our right we could see the Cairngorms, complete with some remaining patches of snow in late May. My wife exclaimed ‘Scotland’s an amazing country’.
River canoe trips always lead to logistical challenges. The nature of the beast is you can’t canoe back to where you parked the car. So there is the need for what’s called ‘portage’. Hence on our way to Aviemore we’d left our bikes in Boat of Garten. So we now left the canoe by the bridge and set of on our bikes to retrieve the car. We cycled back to Aviemore along the Speyside Way, a section which winds across a heather moor and through ancient woodland, adjacent to the Strathspey Steam Railway. It struck me that the railway are missing a trick, they could offer a canoe portage service between Boat of Garten and Aviemore for the likes of us.  
For an après adventure treat we headed to Andersons Restaurant in Boat of Garten. In the pre-digital world I thought there was an opportunity for a restaurant guide based purely on the bread. In a similar vain, I think you could write a restaurant guide purely on how restaurants respond to (when booking), ‘Just to warn you my wife is currently dairy, egg and soya free’. Given the welcome we received, and the manner in which our current dietary requirements were handled, Andersons would get top marks.
After baffling the waiter with our order of ginger beer to go with the Angels’ Nectar (we were thirsty, do try it!), I indulged on their fantastic Cairngorm Venison pie, just what I needed after all that paddling. Their Black Treacle Ice Cream was not on, but their Kalamansi (that’s a fruit not a liqueur) sorbet made for a refreshing sub.
After a few more drams to celebrate staying in the canoe, it was time for a taxi ride back to reality.

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