Pluscarden To Dufftown By Birnie, Inveravon, And Tomintoul

Dee, Don, And Spey

ROUTE LENGTH: 71 MILES

By Road

From Pluscarden, follow the valley road east, then turn right onto the unnamed road, and right onto the B9010. Immediately turn left onto the unnamed road and bridge across the Lossie, then turn right. Here you will find the path to the church, St Brendan’s Church of Birnie, on the left of the road, marked out by a fence-gate. After Birnie, follow the road east, eventually turning right onto the A941. Follow before turning right onto the B9102. Eventually, after Knockando, you will turn left onto the B9138, crossing the Spey. Turn right at the A95 junction, before turning right at the sign for Inveravon Church.

Follow south the A95, but turn left onto the B9008. Take a right turn, marked Chapeltown. The passage south to Scalan is the road south. Return north, to B9008, then take right to B9009 to Dufftown.

By Cycle

Very similar to driving – from Pluscarden, follow the valley road east, then turn right onto the unnamed road, and right onto the B9010. Immediately turn left onto the unnamed road and bridge across the Lossie, then turn right. Here you will find the path to the church on the left of the road, marked out by a fence-gate. After Birnie, follow the road east, eventually turning right onto the A941. Follow before turning right onto the B9102. Eventually, after Knockando, you will turn left onto the B9138, crossing the Spey. Turn right at the A95 junction, before turning right at the sign for Inveravon Church.

Follow south the A95, but turn left onto the B9008. Take a right turn, marked Chapeltown. The passage south to Scalan is the road south. Return north, to B9008, then take right to B9009 to Dufftown.

By Public Transport

This leg of the journey is not feasible by public transport. If you are at Pluscarden, you could arrange a taxi to Birnie. There is no public transport link. Alternatively, go to Elgin and take the 36 south to Longmorn Distillery, then walk from there to Birnie. Return to Elgin, and take the 36 to Dufftown. You can get off Aberlour and take the 362 to Keith to visit Inveravon, otherwise continue to Dufftown.

To check times go to Traveline Scotland and click on Plan your Journey on left side of page.

This epic pilgrim journey now takes a major turn into the Spey Valley. Before leaving Moray, however, we must find our way by the backroads east through Auchtertyre to Paddockhaugh where the exceptional St Brendan’s Church of Birnie is sited on a small hill. This may be the oldest church in Scotland, and its treasures include early carvings and a Celtic handbell- the Ronnel Bell- preserved at the manse nearby. St Brendan the Navigator himself may have established this church, and travelled over the hill to Knockando where there is a baptismal pool in the Spey named Pulvrennan – Brendan’s pool. The hill route back by Dallas and then south is steep and lonely, so continuing east into Glen Rothes makes for easier travelling, by Rothes, Archiestown and Knockando, crossing the river at Marypark, to reach Inveravon.

The church at Inveravon, set above the river’s junction with the Spey, is a strategic early location reputedly founded by St Drostan. There are some fine Pictish carvings on display in the church porch. From here it is possible to follow the Spey on the old missionary route by Nethybridge to Kincraig, where the church a mile south of the village was dedicated to Drostan, and Insch which has a Celtic handbell associated with Adomnan. That is a clue that this route can reach on westwards through Kingussie, with its original dedication to Columba, by Laggan, dedicated to Cainnech or Kenneth, to join St Columba’s Pilgrim Journey on the Great Glen. But our journey is following the Avon south into the Grampians.

Glen Avon is a narrow Highland defile, scenic and populated with archaeological sites and remains. Hardy walkers might tackle the route west of the river that climbs to the ancient church and well at Chapeltown of Kilnmachlie eventually rejoining the main road at little Bridge of Avon in the glen. West or east, the destination is the Victorianised but attractive tourist centre of Tomintoul. Distilleries abound in all directions, but on a different spiritual tack, this area is one of the few in Scotland to have a Roman Catholic tradition unbroken since medieval times, because of the protection of the Gordon Catholic nobility. This is an essential part of its distinctive character, tucked away in a network of hospitable, little glens within the high mountain ranges.

This becomes even more apparent going northwest into the Braes of Glenlivet. A right turn at Auchnarrow takes us up to the road end at Chapeltown and beyond that on a track to Scalan. This was a remote, hidden seminary before nineteenth century Catholic Emancipation allowed a gradual normalisation of the Catholic faith once more in presbyterian Scotland. This equally scenic and remote route continues back on the main road by Glen Livet and Glen Rinnes to Dufftown.

In hidden places we find
Old loyalties, enduring faith.
This is the Highgland way,
Of all traditions through
Trouble and persecution
Faithful witmess, waiting,
Steadfast for a better day.

Pilgrim Journeys

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