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The route from Cullen to Garmouth is 14 miles in length and has climbing of 525 feet. There is virtually no flat on this stage so it has been given a difficulty rating of 5. It will feel harder if the west wind is blowing.
Cullen is an ancient village, first mentioned in Scots history in 952 and receiving royal burgh status in 1153. The organs of the wife of Robert the Bruce are said to be buried in the Auld Kirk. It is a fishing community which overlooks a natural harbour and a wonderful, clean beach, with brightly coloured residences. It also sits on the Moray Coast Trail, and used to be a stop on the Great North Scotland Railway – now, the spectacular 8-arch viaduct is a cycle path and walkway, and a favourite photograph for the numerous tourists who visit the town. It is the home of Cullen Skink, a haddock based soup. There are a number of café options in town, so try the authentic experience!
Starting in the centre of Cullen you head west on a route that hugs the Moray First coast. You start with a steep descent of 0.4 miles and then a vicious ascent with gradients in excess of 10% for the next 1.1 miles. The roads roll for the next 2.2 miles, reaching the high point of 190 feet at mile 3.7. There is then a steep descent (with some annoying uphill spikes) before you settle into rolling roads to mile 6.4 – the constant ups and downs will sap the legs. There is another nasty climb at mile 10.1 before a sharp descent, and then yet another climb at mile 13.4 that luckily only lasts a few hundred yards. You enter Garmouth from the south and finish in the village centre.
You will enjoy some stunning coastal scenery on this ride, with beaches, cliffs and sea-stacks. You pass through Portknockie at mile 2.2 where you will see the famous Bow Fiddle Rock, a quartzite structure with a large sea-arch. You then cycle through Findlochty at mile 4 with its characteristic painted cottages. Buckie is up next at mile 7, and then Portgordon at mile 9 – if you’re lucky, you will happen upon the seal colonies that frequent Moray. And then at mile 13 you cross the estuary of the River Spey via the magnificent Spey Viaduct – it is real experience.
Garmouth is a small village and is famed as the landing place of King Charles II on his return from exile in 1650. The River Spey is the dominant feature and the estuary is a constantly changing environment, creating a succession of habitats from bare shingle to coastal grasslands, and brackish saltmarsh to wet woodland. If you have time you could cross to the east side of the river and visit Spey Bay, which has a museum and offers dolphin watching trips. You should carry some extra provisions with you.
By clicking on the ‘play’ symbol on the graphic below you can see route map. The elevation profile of the ride can be seen via the Hills tab with files for use with a GPS device also available for download. If you take any photos of the route that you’d like to share, please submit to firstname.lastname@example.org