Active Outdoors
Published: 15/07/2017 17:48 - Updated: 11/07/2017 17:55

Distilling the sights and the smells of Speyside

Written byJenny Gillies

Head down one of the side streets away from Rothes’ industrious main street and you are soon either walking along the grass banks of the Spey or, as in this route, enjoying the dells and hillside above the village.

The route for my weekend’s run was based on the running route for the Speyside Duathalon, a short, sharp challenge that takes place this Sunday and is a great community-organised event.

From the car park at Seafield Square I jogged across the A941, past the police station and turned left up Manse Brae. The second turning on the right is a grassy track that soon leaves the houses behind and I could just glimpse the first distillery of the run, Glen Grant, between the trees to my right. The path meets a tarmacked road coming up from the Glenrothes distillery and I carried straight on past the mounds of whisky barrels, their height mirroring the hill in the distance I knew would be the high point of the run.

The track rises to reach the abandoned farm of Ardcanny and here I met Eric, who had been on a cycle up to the Mannoch Road before running. We passed through the farm and turned right at a pair of gates onto a track running along the hillside. Excitable cattle in the adjacent field raced us along the flat and managed to get an advantage as we battled overgrown broom bushes to get to the forest edge ahead.

A short section alongside the trees precedes the route’s own “heart attack hill”. The rocky track steepens and it was time to put in the effort and try not to resent the athletic roe deer that leapt effortlessly out of the forest ahead of me. Startled, it took off up the hill and disappeared over the brow in seconds – it was definitely a few minutes rather than seconds before I reached the top.

Following the track left we soon began our descent towards the Burn of Rothes, staying left at a junction. The expansive views here are dominated by industrial forestry but there was still a great feeling of space.

As we went quickly down the broad track, bright purple heather lined the verges of the forest road and we were soon down at the burn. Another climb here, the drive to keep running helped by knowing that we were turning off left before the top to start our return to the village via the Dounie.

The path down takes a few sharp corners, where my trail shoe grip came into good use to help keep up speed on the turns and we reached a viewpoint that looks down over the Linn, a waterfall on the burn. The foliage obscuring the view down into the glen did nothing to distract from the pleasant vantage point and it was only once the flies found us that we moved on, charging downhill into the dark, dense pine trees.

The path wove its way through the bottom of a steep-sided valley where some of the surrounding trees had fallen across the path. These required some careful footwork to make sure I didn’t get entangled in the springy branches. It was strangely humid in the depths of the forest, the ferns and bright foliage adding to a jungle feel.

The path meets the Rothes Burn at the Fairies Well (a feature perhaps oversold as it is now covered by a manhole cover), and the sunlight reappeared as the forest changed to native woodland.

On the other side of the glen, large landslips revealed the area’s fascinating geology, being easily erodible earth and rocky glacial conglomerate. The good grassy path and generally downward gradient meant the next couple of kilometres passed quickly. Crossing a footbridge we arrived back at Glenrothes distillery, slowing down alongside the buildings to enjoy the sweet smell of fermenting barley.

I normally carry straight on down the road to finish but decided to enjoy a few extra sights of Rothes so crossed back across the burn at the next bridge. Following the steps up through the trees we soon reached a gate leading into a large field. The path around the top edge was almost obscured by the tall grasses that were interspersed with wild flowers, with the odd buttercup-strewn clearing.

The path joins the road from Rothes Golf Course and provides an easy descent to Rothes castle, signposted to the left. A wall of impressive proportions is all that remains of the 13th century castle and the commanding view south towards Aberlour is a clear reason to the choice of site.

Dropping down towards the village we passed the gates of Glen Spey, the third distillery on the route, and a good place to finish running before the short distance left along the A941 back to Seafield Square.

* Sunday’s Speyside Duathalon covers 4.7 miles on foot and 16 miles on road bike. Online entries on SIEntries close today, with limited entries on the day (contact the organisers through the Speyside Duathalon Facebook page or email

Route details

A run round Rothes

Distance 6.2 miles / 10km

Terrain Paths and tracks

Start/finish Seafield Square, Rothes

Maps OS Landranger 28; OS Explorer 424

Great views of Speyside and good running make for an enjoyable outing just south of Elgin

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