Cycling,  Walking

The Isla Way

The Isla Way is a relatively new cycle trail that uses an interesting mixture of woodland trails, minor roads and field paths. The full 13 mile cycle route links Isla Bank House and Keith to the world’s malt whisky capital, Dufftown by running for part of its way through the beautiful Isla Valley.

One of the exciting things about this cycleway is that it roughly follows the route of the Keith to Dufftown Historic Railway Line (KDR), meaning you can combine your one-way bike ride with a return train ride making for a great family day out. Complete the whole route and return by train, or alternatively use either of the KDR’s two en-route stations for a shorter adventure.

The Route

The cycleway follows a mixture of woodland tracks, country paths and minor roads and offers a great variety of scenery along its 13-mile length. Along the way you pass a couple of castles, 11 distilleries, an ancient Kirk, an adventure centre and a water-powered mill, not to mention crossing a suspension bridge – not bad!

The Isla Way cycle trail is well signed between Dufftown and Drummuir using the Isla Way logo. However, from Drummuir to Keith it mostly follows quiet public roads and the mile-long section along the B9014 is unsigned. Thereafter the cycle route is again signed.

The official start/finish points are Reidhaven Square in Keith and the Old Clock Tower in Dufftown, site of the tourist information centre. However, by using the Keith & Dufftown Railway (KDR) you can have a mid-entry point at either Drummuir Station or Towiemore Halt allowing you to cycle or walk the trail back to your starting point. Visit the KDR website for train times, costs and booking information.

In Keith, cycle out of Reidhaven Square towards the distinctive St Thomas Chapel and continue along Chapel Street, cross Land St, and cycle to the tee junction. Take a left onto Cameron Dr, and then fork right onto Braeside and head for the trees. You are now off road on the Isla Way.

In Dufftown leave the clock tower behind and head for Mortlach. As you drop down the hill look for the Isla Way logo signs on your left. You are now on the Isla Way – easy!

You can download a cycle trail map, in 2 parts, of the Isla Way here: Keith to Drummuir and Drummuir to Dufftown. These maps don’t give a lot of detail, but do give a good idea of the route and are worth printing off and taking with you.

If you want to follow the Isla Way on an OS map then you’ll need Landranger Map 28, or for more detail Explorer Map 424

Suggested Day Cycle Rides

Keith to Dufftown – 13 miles
The full length of the Isla Way allows for a relatively easy 26-mile round trip. Starting at Dufftown is equally as good as starting at Keith. And if 26 miles sounds too much then remember to check out the weekend services offered by the Keith to Dufftown Railway. If considering the train we recommend you take the train out and cycle back – a much more relaxing option allowing time for stopping en-route without having to continually check your watch.

Dufftown to Drummuir – 6.5 miles
A 13-mile round trip. As you leave Dufftown, before you get out of the village you’ll pass the huge Balvenie Castle. Abandoned in 1720, this 13th-century castle is now a ruin though you can gain entry for a small fee. Within quarter of a mile of the castle you’ll cycle past the world-famous Glenfiddich Distillery and visitor centre – free tours and a decent cafe, worth noting for the return journey. From there its past the KDR station, over the suspension bridge and onto the track that will take you all the way to Drummuir. About a mile short of Drummuir you’ll reach Loch Park – an adventure park where you can hire kayaks (pre-booking essential, call 01542-810334). For those feeling fit there is an interesting mile long cycle loop around Lochend Braes that you can add to your adventure.
From Loch Park you continue towards Drummuir Castle. Just beyond the castle is Botriphnie Kirk, where St Fumac set up a mission in 570. From there it is only a few hundred yards to the KDR station.

Keith to Drummuir – 6 miles
A 12-mile round trip. Although many visitors opt for the “other half” as their cycling day out, the Keith to Drummuir section has a lot to offer. As you leave Keith on the farm track that drops down Brandy Brae the Isla valley opens up in front of you. In the distance, Ben Rinnes, Ben Aigen, and Muldearie can be seen. At the tarmac road follow the signs for Auchindachy, to cross the Lowrie Burn and eventually join the B9014 for a mile. Although a relatively quiet road do exercise care, especially if you have children or inexperienced cyclists with you. The road passes the 19th-century water powered Mill of Towie. Keep going to pass Towiemore and then turn right (take care) to leave the B9014 and get back on to traffic-free cycleways. Continue past Mains of Towiebeg towards Drummuir Station. It is worth passing the station and exploring Drummuir and perhaps even Lochpark – see route above for details.

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