“Walking, I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands” Linda Hogan (native American writer, poet and storyteller)
As another cross-roads in life approaches, and my time as a volunteer at Newbold Trust comes to an end, I’m planning to walk the Camino de Santiago. For me there’s something primal and life-affirming about embarking on a journey. I also hope, or intend, for this to be a spiritual journey and one of self-discovery.
In preparation, several Newbold members have shared their stories with me, including Sylvia who walked the route of St Francis of Assisi through Italy several years ago.
Inspired by this talk of journeying, Sylvia and I decided to walk the Dava Way – a two-day hike from Forres to Grantown-on-Spey following the route of the old Highland Railway. We set out on a beautiful crisp winter morning, feeling energised by the adventure ahead and the chance to deepen our friendship as we went.
“Many aspects of life are condensed into the act of planning, transacting and completing a journey” (Sacred Journeys)
The Dava Way is full of variety, passing through farmland and woodland up onto the wide open land of Dava Moor, before descending back into Strathspey. As we crossed these landscapes I also caught glimpses of a historic landscape; one of steam trains, and ambitious Victorian engineering, and also signs of a harder way of life on remote crofts.
The time of year added a touch of magic, with deep snow in places and rock cuttings hanging with icicles. We also experienced great peace and solitude, with few other people around, at one point pausing in silence to watch three small deer run across the snowy path, leaping fences as they went.
After 16 miles or so we reached the Dava School House B&B, our resting place for the night. As dusk turned to darkness, Dava felt like a small and isolated place and we were grateful to be warmly welcomed by Andy and Sharon. We chatted over dinner by the fire before heading for bed.
The next day we continued south, with the snow-capped Cairngorms ahead of us. After a while we left the moor, and made our way down into Speyside and Grantown, passing the former private station for Castle Grant – another sign of a bygone time!
Even after a short journey, we felt a real sense of arrival and achievement having come by foot, slowly, really seeing and experiencing the world around us. I can only imagine what it will feel like arriving on Santiago de Compostela after several weeks of journeying.
by Charlotte Goodwin