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Issue 22 - Getting away from it all for charity

Scotland Magazine Issue 22
August 2005


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Getting away from it all for charity

Dominic Roskrow reports on two days of walking in Speyside

It has been a strange summer in both Scotland in particular and Britain in general. World politics and events came knocking at our door in a barbed triple whammy in July.

First we had the G8 summit at Gleneagles and the protests and concerts that accompanied them. Then it was announced that London had been granted the Olympic Games, with other parts of Britain including Edinburgh set to stage events.

And finally we were shaken by the arrival of suicide bombers in Western Europe and a summer of disruption and scares.

The G8 summit in particular put the focus of the world on Scotland, particularly after Sir Bob Geldof announced that concerts would be staged around the world to mark the occasion.

The importance of the meeting had long been at the forefront of my mind and at Christmas a group of whisky writers and industry staff had decided to do their bit to highlight world poverty by walking along the Speyside Way to raise money for famine relief and to publicise the Gleneagles event.

It was some undertaking. On the weekend of the Speyside whisky festival we walked a mammoth total of 48 miles in two days and were joined by distillery staff, Scottish parliamentary candidates and supporters. We raised £5,000 ($7,500).

Now I’m no walker and I don’t own trekking boots or hill walking equipment so I don’t mind admitting that from lunch time on day two there wasn’t very much ‘enjoying the scenery’ going on.

Indeed, I vividly recall launching in to a rant about how you couldn’t call a walk the Speyside Way when parts of it are 500 metres up a Ben and the river is a snaking line in the distance.

But that was the second part of day two. Before that I’d been able to breathe the rich Scottish air (without getting out of breath) and soaked up the stunning scenery in that particular part of Scotland.

My only regret? That we didn’t allow ourselves a few more days to do the entire walk at a more leisurely pace from the coast up at Spey Bay down to Aviemore.

We were fortunate because the weather we got was ideal – overcast and occasionally drizzly on day one, warm and sunny on day two.

It’s a stunning walk, which follows the Spey for much of the time along an abandoned rail track. Occasionally your route takes you up a hillside so that the Spey valley can be enjoyed in all its breath-taking glory.

At one memorable point we rounded a corner to be greeted by a table complete with cloth, and the smiling faces of French journalist Martine Nouet and Ronnie Cox of Glenrothes brandishing champagne and glasses. Truly wonderful.

In my time in this job I have had some very special moments but walking the Speyside Way took everything to a new level. How many of us in these days of computers and mobile phones get to really soak up nature? If you get the opportunity, try and do the walk. I’m testament to the fact that it’s not difficult, and it’s well worth the effort.