It was Sean who devised this route. I’m not shifting blame you understand, I’m giving him the credit, because we ended up with one of the best four-day Autumn rides I’ve done in Scotland.
We’re fortunate enough to have some epic bikepacking routes in this country - An Turas Mor, the Highland Trail 550 and Badger Divide to name but three. They take cyclists deep into Scotland’s wild heart, far from villages, roads or… help. If the weather isn’t right, or you or your bike are not quite up to the challenge, then you can have serious problems. The Moray Gravel Triangle is different. While the cycling is excellent it’s not so committing. The route passes through towns and villages where you can find hot food and a bed each night.
Our initial plan was to ride only the intersecting sections of three long-distance walking trails - The Speyside Way, the Moray Coastal Trail and the Dava Way. From the beginning we called it The Moray Gravel Triangle, because we had a feeling this would be a top gravel ride. It’s close to what walkers and runners call The Moray Way but with a few tweaks to accommodate cyclists’ needs.
At around 100 miles this seemed a little short for a multi-day ride, so we planned to ride the full length of the three trails rather than just their intersecting central triangle. That’s when things started to get a little complicated.
Traditionally, The Speyside Way started in Aviemore. In recent years it has been extended to Newtonmore, but somehow that didn’t feel right for us and anyway, we had a place to leave our vehicles at Badaguish Outdoor Centre just outside Aviemore, so we stuck to the traditional option.
When we started investigating the Moray Coastal Trail, two quite distinct routes emerged. A walkers’ route clings to the coast but not all of it is rideable. The cyclists’ route follows Sustrans NCR 1, and while easier to follow, we felt it might skip some of the best coastal scenery before it veered off inland. Our solution was to cycle both. We tackled the walkers’ route in one direction, then after an overnight in the town of Cullen, rode back along the cyclists’ route. When we reached Lossiemouth, we enlisted the services of two local cyclists to keep us on track. Mark and Martin are the founders of a cycling ‘club’ that’s not really a club, called The Moray Gravel Collective. We had a bitter, brutal headwind that day and I’m not ashamed to admit I spent a mile or two drafting the pair as they led us on the best, rideable sections of the spectacular coastal trail.
The Dava Way, the third side of our triangle, came as the biggest surprise. I secretly suspected this would be a boring, 25 mile flog down an old railway line, nothing more than the least worst off-road return route. I was delighted to find a varied trail that took us into higher, more open moors than we’d seen since leaving Aviemore.
So while the central section of our Moray Gravel Triangle remains a cracking 100 mile route, the whole tour is a fantastic way to spend a few days on a bike. If it’s too early in the season (or too late) to tackle one of Scotland’s excellent long wilderness trails, or you just don’t fancy the exposure and risk which comes with being in such wild places, our longer tour is a great option.
Our accommodation and meals were paid for by Visit Moray and Speyside for which we’re grateful. While there are obviously other accommodation providers, I’ve listed the ones for which we have first-hand experience.
We cycled the three trails in September / October 2021 and we are aware things change, so what was open and/or closed when we cycled might be different for you.
Certainly the diversion for cyclists on the Speyside Way might have changed. The section between Cromdale and Ballindalloch should be improved and open to cyclists by Spring 2022.
Guidebook: Walking the Speyside Way, the Cicerone guidebook, is useful background reading on the places through which you’ll pass and has the additional advantage of also covering the Moray Coastal Trail and the Dava Way. Here’s a link to buy it on Amazon UK.
Bike: A gravel bike is ideal for this route. Technical off-road tyres are not needed - Panracer Gravel Kings proved ideal.
Kit: Obviously be prepared for bad weather. You can camp, but we used the following good hotels and consequently travelled much lighter.
We plan and share our routes on Komoot, and you’ll find all the options here.
Direct download of Zip files with all .GPX files
The Visit Moray and Speyside website is the best place to find accommodation and places to eat and drink. They helped us with both when we cycled the route and we weren’t disappointed.
Craigellachie - The Highlander Inn. Phenomenal whisky bar, good rooms and wholesome food although limited vegetarian options. Website.
Forres - The Carrisbrooke. A motel-like feel to the rooms which were comfortable and warm. Food was good although the kitchen closes at 8pm so don’t hang about or, like us, you’ll miss pudding. Facebook.
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