So without sediment
Run the clear burns of my country,
Fiercely pure,
Transparent as light
Gathered into its own unity,
Lucent and without colour;
Or green,
Like clear deeps of air,
Light massed upon itself.

– from “The Hill Burns”

These are the words by author, poet and Cairngorms wanderer, Nan Shepherd, who wrote these lines in her book “In the Cairngorms”.

And we can surely appreciate the emotions the sight of such a “fiercely pure” river has bestowed on Shepherd since our National Park has some of the most magnificent burns and rivers in the country.

River Spey

River Spey by James Shooter Photography

We have looking at the two longest and most famous:

The River Spey

The Spey is the third longest river in Scotland and stretches 107 miles from Loch Spey in the Corrieyairick Forest to the Moray Firth at Spey Bay. The tributaries of the Spey are just as well known as the Spey itself: Avon, Feshie, Druie, Nethy, Dulnain; all are stunning in their own right and contribute their clear mountain waters to the Spey.

The river traditionally supported many local industries, from salmon fishing to shipbuilding. At one stage, Garmouth functioned as the shipbuilding capital of the UK, with timber from the forests around Aviemore and Aberlour being rafted down to create wooden-hulled ships.

450 Spirit of the Spey

Canoeing with Spirit of the Spey

You can explore the river by boat or indulge in some of the best fishing the country has to offer. The long-distance path, The Speyside Way, follows the river for 3-4 days through some of Moray’s most picturesque countryside. Don’t forget to taste the many Speyside Malts en route!

The River Dee

Royal Deeside

River Dee © Simon Price/Alamy


The River Dee starts its 87 mile journey on the top of Braeriach, the third highest mountain in the UK. The Dee has been carrying its name since the second century AD where the waters were referred to as ‘Devan’ meaning ‘goddess’, indicating a divine status for the river in the beliefs of the ancient inhabitants of the area. Its journey is a beautiful one. From the top of Braeriach through the Lairig Ghru, joined by the tributary from the Pools of Dee, then south between Ben MacDui and Cairntoul. At Linn of Dee the river passes east through a 300-metre natural rock gorge. Between there and Braemar, Lui Water (formed by Luibeg and Derry burns) and Quoich Water join the growing River Dee. The River Clunie enters the Dee at Braemar.

The river also gives the name to the area around Braemar, (Royal) Deeside which is famous for its lush forests, high mountains and royal connections. For the whole of its course the Dee has practically every advantage that could be desired in a salmon river. Like the Spey, it has a snow reservoir in the Cairngorms to feed its source, and to keep a good water running until well into April or May. It maintains a fair streamy flow throughout its ninety miles length, until close to Aberdeen at its mouth.

River Dee

River Dee by James Shooter Photography

River Spey from Boat bridge

River Spey at Boat of Garten