Much of the Speyside region covered in this section is in the Moray district, on the southern shore of the Moray Firth, a great inlet cutting into the northeastern coast of Scotland. The district stretches in a triangular shape south from the coast to the wild heart of the Cairngorm Mountains near Aviemore. It's a land steeped in history, as its many castles, battle sites, and ancient monuments testify. It's also a good place to fish and, of course, play golf. Golfers can purchase a 5-day ticket from tourist information centers that gives them access to more than 11 courses in the area.
One of the best of these courses is Boat of Garten, Speyside (tel. 01479/831-282; www.boatgolf.com). Relatively difficult, the almost 6,000-yard course is dotted with many bunkers and wooded areas. April to October, greens fees are £34 Monday to Friday, and hours are from 7:30am to 11pm. Saturday greens fees are £39, and hours are from 10am to 4pm. In winter, call ahead to see if the course is open. Greens fees are then reduced to £18. Pull carts rent for £2.50, electric carts for £12. Dress reasonably; blue jeans are not acceptable.
The valley of the second-largest river in Scotland, the Spey, is north and south of Aviemore and a land of great natural beauty. The Spey is born in the Highlands above Loch Laggan, which lies 65km (40 miles) south of Inverness. Little more than a creek at its inception, it gains in force, fed by the many "burns" that drain water from the surrounding hills. It's one of Scotland's great rivers for salmon fishing, and it runs between the towering Cairngorms on the east and the Monadhliath Mountains on the west. Its major center is Grantown-on-Spey.
The primary tourist attraction in the area is the Malt Whisky Trail, 113km (70 miles) long, running through the glens of Speyside. Here distilleries, many of which can be visited, are known for their production of uisge beatha, or "water of life." "Whisky" is its more familiar name.
Half the malt distilleries in the country lie along the River Spey and its tributaries. Here peat smoke and Highland water are used to turn out single-malt (unblended) whisky. There are five malt distilleries in the area: Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Glenfarclas, Strathisla, and Tamdhu. Allow about an hour each to visit them.
The best way to reach Speyside from Aberdeen is to take A96 northwest, signposted ELGIN. If you're traveling north on the A9 road from Perth and Pitlochry, your first stop might be at Dalwhinnie, which, at 575m (1,886 ft.), has the highest whisky distillery in the world. It's not in the Spey Valley but is at the northeastern end of Loch Ericht, with views of lochs and forests.