Mark and Hannah's Spey Descent July 2007

Mark and myself live in Worcester England and having recently taken up kayaking we were looking for a holiday with a difference. Mark being a keen gardener and lover of birds and myself being fond of all things cute and furry decided that a nature adventure holiday was what we were looking for. Having spent many days googling the Internet, canoeing on the River Spey kept popping up.
Mark and Hannah
The Beeches
Having never canoed before we were slightly concerned that we might be a bit out of our depth canoeing down a river but having chatted to Dave he reassured us that the trip would be great for us and certainly allow us to learn how to handle a canoe, and take in the stunning scenery of Scotland along with many opportunities to see a variety of wild life. Dave also provided us with some very detailed checklists of all the things we would need and what to expect, so we could be well prepared. Although it was a long journey to Scotland it was definitely worth it, the scenery was fantastic and we saw red squirrel, rabbits and Oyster Catchers on the way.
After travelling for nine hours the Beeches was a welcome sight with the smell of home cooking in the air. It is set in a stunning garden, very tranquil with beautiful flowers, plants and trees, dotted around the garden were hedgehog, red squirrel and bird houses. Dave came out to welcome us and show us around. Judith then took us up to our room, which was so homely and comfortable, complete with a teddy on the bed. We then had a leisurely stroll around the area and saw lots of rabbits, robins, black birds, a raven, a fieldfare and some pheasant. We then met Gus and Harry the rest of our group whilst tucking into a very tasty home cooked meal prepared by Judith whose culinary skills where definitely five star.
The Garden
After learning some basic paddle strokes we set off towards Aviemore. It was reassuring at this point to know that we could handle the canoes. I was convinced we would crash but we didn’t as Dave gave very good instruction through out. Along this stretch we also saw some Goldeneye. Before heading back to the Beeches for another fantastic evening meal prepared by Judith.

In the morning we had a beautiful breakfast before packing up the canoes and equipment and setting off for our first day on the water. We arrived at Loch Inch and unloaded the canoes and equipment. In less than two minutes of getting on the water Dave pointed out an

osprey nest complete with two ospreys,

fantastic we also saw buzzards.

The following day we got up and packed the canoes and equipment and set off back to Aviemore to commence the full river descent. All very excited and keen to practice some of the skills learnt the previous day. We encountered some rapids, which were fun, and the Salmon were leaping up all over the place next to the canoes very nice to watch.

The scenery was fantastic and along this stretch we saw some more Goldeneyes, Gooseanders

and a Dipper.

We arrived at a riverside camp sight in Bailliefurth and pitched our tents. Whilst Dave cooked up a lovely pasta and vegetable dinner accompanied by hot puddings and wine. We then sat around the campfire at the riverside and the lads all had a dram of whisky, it was lovely and relaxing with owls hooting and flying past in the background.
The next day we packed camp up and had a hearty breakfast complete with cereal, bacon or fruit conserve rolls and hot teas and coffee. Setting off down river past Grantown on Spey, we encountered more rapids and boulders (hippo’s), which needed to be manoeuvred around. Dave was able to tell us all about the local surroundings and history. And the Buzzards greeted us again with a lovely overhead display, and we saw more salmon jumping and Herons fishing
We stopped at Ballindalloch and had a short walk across a field, which required some teamwork to get the equipment over to the campsite. We set up camp at Ballindalloch Station, which also forms part of the Spey Side Walk. Beautiful scenery, and some good history around the station area, which is sadly disused but still very interesting. After the evening meal we took a stroll over the disused bridge and then turned in for the night.

Whilst eating breakfast we saw a

Great Tit and a Chaffinch

We then set off down river again onto Craigellachie. The water was picking up speed at this point and we stopped for afternoon tea and munchies in a lovely little village, before reaching Craigellachie were we set up camp. That evening we had a lovely bar meal at the Highlander Inn and then ambled over to Joe’s Bar were the lads sampled a lot of the local whiskeys and I had a vodka tonic, as I didn’t want to put any hairs on my chest.

The next day we set off past the village of Rothes. The surroundings
were starting to change vast red cliff faces were appearing. We saw along this stretch Grey Wagtail,

a Cormorant and and a bird that looked very much like a Lapwing.

As we neared the end, the banks became shingled and the sea air was wafting in on the breeze. Then as we turned a corner the mouth of the river opened and big sea waves were rolling in front of us. A very emotional moment we had canoed the river Spey all the way to the sea. We landed on a tiny island between the river and the big wide sea and then canoed back to shore on the last 100 yards we caught a wave and actually surfed in the canoe fantastic adrenaline rush.

We were then shuttled back to the Beeches for Haggis, Neaps, Tatties and Scurly. (probably not spelt like that) very very tasty followed by black forest pudding. We reminisced over the journey and spent our last evening together as a group. I have to say I could of cried at the dinner table we had such a fantastic time we didn’t want it to end. It was definitely the best holiday we have ever had and we have been around a fair bit.
Thank you to Dave and Judith for welcoming us into their home and sharing the Spey Descent with us. Dave had endless advice, knowledge, patience and a good sense of humour. After Judith’s cooking, Mark now wants to eat three courses for every meal and have smoked salmon for his breakfast. Thank you to Gus and Harry our other group members we wont forget you and we are so glad you were on the trip with us.