Spring in Speyside
Again rejoicing Nature sees
Her robe assume its vernal hues
Her leafy locks wave in the breeze,
All freshly steep’d in the morning dews.
Robert Burns – 1786
The North East 250 is beautiful all year round. Even in the depths of winter, where days are short and the weather makes you long for a warm fire and a smooth dram, there is breathtaking beauty to be found for those who seek it.
To see snow and ice cover the slopes of the majestic Cairngorms mountains set against a cobalt sky is to see the icing on the world, and to witness a hoar frost clinging to the trees beside the Dee or Spey on a still morning is to witness a miracle of nature. Those hardy enough to stand by the harbour in Fraserburgh in a winter storm and watch the fishing boats head out for their catch will really appreciate their Fish Supper. But my favourite season by far is spring and nowhere is it more beautiful than here on Speyside.
Robert Burns rejoiced in the vernal hues that robed the naked trees as the last winter snows made way to the darling buds of May. From where I write, I can see pink blossoms in the trees against the receding snows in the upper corries of the Cairngorms; they will soon make way, but if the weather is mild, they may last another week. Soon the rhododendrons will blossom. Introduced as an ornamental plant in the 1700s, they quickly made a break for the wild. Although some species are considered a threat to native biodiversity, most are benign, and they pop up in the most surprising places announcing their presence with an explosion of colour. For those who wish to see the rhododendron’s beautiful blossom in a more formal setting, there is an excellent collection at the beautiful gardens at Ballindalloch Castle, which opens to visitors in April.
The woodland comes alive too. Small groups of people weighed down with spotter scopes, and the latest camera gear gather at the edge of woodland in places like Grantown on Spey, a famous haunt of Twitchers and Birders hoping to spot the Scottish Crossbill or the elusive European Serin. Anagach Woods, a beautiful natural Scots pinewood that fringes Grantown on Spey, is teaming with wildlife. Red Squirrels, Roe Dear, Pine Martins and Capercaillie all make their home there. The woods are crisscrossed with well maintained, well-marked trails of various distances that are popular with walkers and cyclists alike and the charming highland town of Grantown on Spey is full of small independent shops and excellent places to eat and drink.
In neat fields, the call of Curlew, Oystercatchers and Lapwings punctuate the silence, and newborn lambs crowd their mothers or settle themselves against a fence post or a rock to get a better view of their world. It won’t be long before summer is here. The days are already getting long and the weather warmer. The sights and sounds will be different again, no less wonderful of course; just different.