Start location: woodedge, unclassified road by Knockanrioch (NJ 190 440)
End location: End of public road at Shougle (NJ 211 541)
Geographical area: Moray
Path Type: Smugglers' Path, Trade Route, Civil Road
Path distance: 10.75km
Accessibility info: Suitable for pedestrians, Suitable for Bikes
If the route is done south to north there are no real route finding issues* beyond crossing the boggy section and heading into the trees from the south side of Mannoch Hill. If the route is done north to south then there is an unclear cutoff of the track on Mannoch Hill which requires care as noted below. Because of this the following description follows the north to south direction. Apart from the boggy section the track is firm if wet in places, with a stone surface.
North to south (2009): From the car park just south of Bardonside a good track rises (coinciding for a short distance with a wind farm access track) onto the heather moor and into forestry. The track goes through the forestry on Red Taingy, crosses the Stripe of Loan on a good bridge, and enters the Mannoch Hill area of forest. At NJ206496 the right hand track is taken (not the one to the left which heads for a small pool). Then at NJ204492 the left hand track is taken which is a much less used looking track. After about 250m on the left of the track on a bank there is a small cairn of stones. At this point there is a small zigzag track to the left which enters the trees whose branches appear to close off access. However, pushing through gains access to the old road in a partly overgrown ride leading to a gate. Once through the gate a burn has to be crossed and a very boggy section crossed. Although the road still appears to exist under the sphagnum, the best way to proceed is to use a single pine tree as a guide to picking up the track again heading south. (Heading north the tree also provides a guide to heading for the gate and onwards the track can be followed into the ride in the forestry.) From there south the track is clear but a bit damp eventually leading downhill past ruined Mannoch Cottage to the minor public road. Crossing the road a further 1km or so of good track leads to Upper Knockando which has a bus service.
*It was reported to us in 2016 that bog (c.NJ202484) and the overgrown ride made the route apparently insurmountable. However, in summer 2018 it was found to be easy-going after the very dry weather. It was suggested that the top of the peat hags to the west of the path should make awkward but passable going in most conditions.
OS Landranger 28 (Elgin, Dufftown & surrounding area)
It was stated in 1792 in 'The Records of Elgin' (Crammond) p501: "July 2nd - The Council give three guineas towards defraying the expense of the new road through the Mannoch hill". It thus seems that this road could be dated to shortly before 1792. However, the Heritage Paths project has recently been told the following story: "In 1684 a young couple about to be married went from Knockando to Elgin to collect the wedding dress, but on returning they got caught in a snow storm from which they tried to shelter but eventually perished". If this is the route that the unfortunate couple took, then the new road mentioned in 1792 would appear to be the improvement of an older route.
There was a lot of illicit distilling in this area. In 1811, Cardow near the south end of the Mannoch Road was leased by John and Helen Cumming. It is said Helen Cumming, whose husband was three times convicted for illiegal distilling, each week walked barefoot along the road over Mannoch Hill carrying the brew to sell in Elgin. The 1823 Excise Act brings change - John Cumming buys a licence in 1824 and founds the family's Cardow Distillery, later branded Cardhu. By the time of the New Statistical Account (1835) it was reported that although smuggling had formerly been very common, it was now almost entirely surpressed. This same account for Knockando also mentions the road through the Mannoch Hill as a nearer road to Elgin at 13 miles rather than 20, but reports that "in winter this road is often impassable, being in some places in very bad repair".