Railway Walks – The Whisky Train

This BBC 4 TV series gets better and better. In the fourth of Julia Bradbury’s walks along disused railway tracks, she visits another area that I have yet to experience for myself, the fabulous countryside of the Scotland’s Spey Valley.

The programme saw Julia travelling along the route of the former Speyside Railway through the heart of Whisky country and through some amazing countryside along the River Spey. From the opening shots of Salmon and Trout fishermen wading in the river, to the spectacular aerial views of the route, the whole programme made me want to jump on my motorbike and ride for the twelve or so hours that it would take to get to this northerly outpost of the railway network. Unfortunately, I am not impetuous or spontaneous enough to abandon all my responsibilities in the real world and head off on such an unplanned adventure.

My knwledge of this area was perhaps a little more complete than of the area covered by the previous programme in Cornwall, but I was blown away with the scenery of the area and the amazing state of preservation of much of the route. Although some of the river bridges appea to have gone, the stations appeared to be in a good state and the trackbed was clear and made for easy walking.

Further on from the section of line that Julia walked in the programme is the preserved Strathspey Railway running between Aviemore through Boat of Garten to Broomhill. It is a real shame that Julia did not visit that railway as she did in the first programme of the series when she visited Peak Rail’s preserved station at Darley Dale.

I enjoyed seeing how little environmental impact the vast, globalised Whisky industry has on the Spey valley and the people that Julia spoke to along the way, as in the previous programmes, brought the history to life.

Once again, this was a line closed in 1968 follwing the Beeching rationalistion of the network and, predictably enough, there was a former station master prepared to go on the telly to regret the passing of the line and to say that there was enough freight traffic to have kept it open. I can well believe that the enormous scale of whisky production that was evident throughout the programme could have provided work for this route, although whether that traffic would still be available today is a moot point.

The old stationmaster on the programme, like many former railwaymen had a momento of the closure and produced a totem from his old station, Ballindalloch.

Rather like Julia’s Snowdonia walk, this route went through a lot of places with unpronounceable names. However, with the Internet to the rescue, there is a map showing the former Speyside line here, with all the stations named.

With just two more Railway Walks to come, I am going to miss this series, but I am hopeful, with several thousand more miles of former railways left to explore, there is lots of scope for a second series.

Ride Safe


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