The River Avon is the major tributary of the Spey. Rising on the upper slopes of Ben Macdui, it tumbles past the cliffs of Hells Lum into Loch Avon from where its long and beautiful valley traverses the lonely Caiplich moors before turning north and entering the Glenlivet Estate just south of Tomintoul. It continues north along a deep valley between the Cromdale hills, Carn Diamh and Cairnacay before joining the Spey at Ballindalloch.
Otter family groups may be seen along the river banks during warmer months although they often lie up in holts during the day. You might find the remains of a fish dinner, usually eaten head first and often leaving the tail. Mink feeding areas with left over fish scales and fins can also be found near water.
Dipper are often seen on large boulders by deeper water and Osprey fish here during the summer. Woodland dwelling birds such as Redstart, Spotted Flycatcher and Treecreeper are resident as well as the endangered Northern Brown Argus and Scotch Argus butterflies. Game birds including Partridge and Pheasant frequent the grassy haughs by the river. Long Eared Bat hunt in the twilight for insects.
Avonside boasts three Sites of Special Scientific interest, one of which is a European Special Area of Conservation. Creag nan Gamhainn is a good example of mixed broad-leaved woodland supporting an outstanding variety of local and some nationally rare plant species. These include Dark Red Helleborine and Hoary Whitlow Grass. Fodderletter Mire has a variety of grassland and mire communities which were formerly widespread in the straths and glens of upland Moray but have largely been lost as a result of agricultural improvement. Butterwort, Jointed Rush, Dioecious Sedge, Bog Myrtle, Globe Flower, Alpine Bistort, Quaking Grass and Fragrant Orchid are all found here. Lower Avonside includes a wide variety of woodland types, the most extensive of which is Birch and Juniper. Ground vegetation is particularly diverse and includes Dogs Mercury, Enchanters Nightshade, Yellow Pimpernel, Wood and Pendulous Sedge and a variety of ferns.