Day out: River Avon, Tomintoul, Moray

Silver birch and mountain ash combine on the banks of this effervescent river, which carves and curves its way through some of the least-visited mountains in the Cairngorms

River in countryside

The purple fuzz of the Highland heather is at its most vibrant in autumn, and the air has an invigorating bite.

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The valley through which the Avon flows has grandeur and a wonderful sense of space – fit for a queen. Queen Victoria, wrapped in her tartan shawl, used to gaze across the uplifting landscape over her royal estate from a spot now known as the Queen’s View. 

catkins in autumn
Wander beneath birch trees in all their autumn splendour
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Walking and cycling around Tomintoul

A splendid, gentle, 16-mile (return) cycle or walk can be followed from Tomintoul village, via the regal viewpoint, along a landrover track to reach the picturesque Linn of Avon. Red squirrels and hares may be seen along the way.

Further on, the way joins a private, tarmac, single-track road, which undulates up the glen for some four miles. All the time, the young, often-animated River Avon runs close by. Pronounced ‘Aan’, its clear waters flow from the very heart of the Cairngorms, where lies the dramatic crag-encircled Loch Avon.

Tomintoul and the River Avon

As you leave Tomintoul and advance into the glen, heather-covered hills begin to dominate the landscape. The slopes above the river steepen, adding to the forbidding atmosphere. Beyond an abandoned farm building at Dalestie, the tarmac comes to an end. Here, 19th-century accounts describe an arrangement of two stones, named Uaimh Abhainn (Glen Avon), which stood on a small floodplain on the other side of the river. The stones are no more, but it is said they marked the resting place of Abhainn, wife of the Celtic hero Fingal.

After the lodge at Inchrory, the odd mounds on the summit of the mountain to your right draw the eye. These huge blocks of rock are evidence of the area’s glacial past. 

At a junction, Glen Avon turns 90° to the right. The Linn of Avon, where the river plunges through a wooded gorge, lies a few hundred metres up the track to the right. A short distance uphill leads to a view of the foaming waters where silver birch, with their autumn colours, stand by hardy mountain ash.

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Back in the village there’s the informative Tomintoul and Glenlivet Discovery Centre and several pubs serving food.