All you need to know about the Dava Way
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Why choose Morayshire for your walking or cycling holiday in Scotland?
Many centuries ago the area now known as Moray was part of the ancient Pictish kingdom of Alba, which under the rule of Kenneth MacAlpin in the ninth century became in turn part of the kingdom of Scotia, later to become Scotland. The area has always been important to Scotland and the Scottish economy: it has fertile plains, access to the sea and good routes to the east, south and west.
To the west is Nairnshire and Inverness, to the South is Strathspey and the Cairngorm Mountains, to the East lies Banffshire. For years Morayshire has been overshadowed by its larger neighbours, yet this small area contains miles of glorious beaches, surfing, cliffs, fertile farmland, wild moorland, birdwatching, fishing villages, Scotland’s greatest concentration of fine distilleries, historic Castles, etc. It also has its own microclimate and is one of the sunniest and driest places in Scotland. For high mountains – explore the Highlands. For a gentler family holiday with lots of outdoor variety and Scottish history visit Morayshire.
Until 1975 the Dava Way lay entirely within the administrative county of Morayshire but under local government reorganisation, Grantown-on-Spey and its immediate surroundings became part of Highland Region, while the rest of Morayshire became part of Grampian Region. The southern few miles of the Dava Way provide off road access to the Cairngorm National Park.
Walking the Dava Way
That depends on the challenge and variety you are looking for, but it is fairly easy to build the Dava Way into a great Scottish walking experience. I have walked in most regions of the UK and in many countries across Europe. There is a gentleness and variety of experience in Morayshire that still surprises me. Combine the crossing of Dava Moor with an exploration of the Moray Coast and a return along Speyside for a wonderfully varied holiday with more than enough attractions for a rainy day.
There is very limited accommodation along the route so it is difficult to find anywhere to spend the night other than in Forres or Grantown. However there are a number of places along the route where you can get on to the path from the road. It is quite feasible to walk the Dava Way in several sections by parking and walking a section and then returning to your car. This way you can enjoy the path in both directions! If you look at our map you will see that we have marked all the places where you can access the Dava Way from the road. Most such sections are around 3 or 4 miles in length (so a 6-8 mile round trip).
Cycling the Dava Way
Probably not, but I think it is one of the best off road rides. Unlike other routes I could mention it doesn’t send you on endless detours up and down hillsides. Ok, there are two short sections, one at Dava and the other near Grantown where you use the road, but these are no more than ¾ mile in total.
Some of the route is too rough for a normal road bike especially with heavy panniers. However a hybrid bike with front suspension has handled it fine and also a Mirider small wheel e-bike has been ridden along most of the route. The worst part for a bike is the section south of the Rafford embankment to the Squirrelneuk Bridge where it is on a detour away from the railway route to avoid a flooded cutting. This part has several steep sections with lots of tree roots. It is passable on a bike but you may need to get off and push in places! All the actual trackbed is pretty much ok for any bike that you would ride on a loose, uneven surface.
Horse riding along the Dava Way
The route was planned as a walking route which could be used by off road cyclists. Horses do cause considerable damage to path surfaces and can undo hours of volunteer effort to improve the path. Horse riders are asked to ride at the side of the path wherever possible. Any horses should follow the cyclist diversion at Dava. Further information can be found on the Moray Equestrian Access Group website. They describe it as a lovely ride with some fatastic views, allow about 6 hours. Camping and grazing at Grantown-on-Spey can be arranged when riding out from Forres.