Welcome to Boat of Garten

Boat of Garten lies in the Spey Valley, about four miles north east of Aviemore, with Loch Garten to the south and the River Spey passing by to the east. Until the river was bridged in 1898 the only way to cross the Spey was by ferry, hence the name of the village. This is an area of extraordinary natural beauty. Boat of Garten is situated in the north east of the Cairngorms National Park with the Caledonian forest, which once covered large swathes of Scotland, stretching off to the east and the Cairngorms Plateau to the south east. The Spey Valley is a haven for wildlife: home to many rare species of plants, insects, birds, and mammals. At Loch Garten the RSPB runs the Osprey Centre, which brings visitors face to face with around three hundred birds cared for and studied at the site.

The earliest evidence of settlement on the Boat of Garten area comes from around the Bronze Age. On Deshar Road, just beside the Primary School, lies a Bronze Age stone circle. This would originally have been a round-house, home to a bronze age extended family. And from a slightly later time Craig Chaisteal, the ruins of an early fort, lies on the hill above Loch Pityoulish. There are also a number of burial cairns, such as that at Docharn and Auchgourish.

The Middle Ages brought clan feuds to the Boat of Garten area. The Comyns were one noteworthy clan in the area. One of their principle forts was at Bitlach, close to the sawmill. The small fort is believed to be named after Bigla/Bitlac or Matilda, daughter of a Comyn Laird of Kinchurdy in the 15 th century. Another site associated with the clan is ‘The Hollow of the Comyns' on the Pityoulish Marsh. Here a party of Comyns was cornered and massacred as part of one local feud. Kincardine was the site of another massacre; where and alliance of Grants and Stewarts cornered a group of Comyns by the church. The Comyns took refuge inside only for a member of the Grant party to set fire to the thatched roof, burning the men inside alive.

The village of Boat of Garten was in existence by at least 1600, although the settlement was then called Gart. If the ferry that would name the village existed then or not is anyone's guess. The earliest mention of the ferry was in 1662 on a document relating to the sale of land. The ferry crossed the Spey at Gartenmore, just upstream from the Ferryman's Cottage. When in 1863 the Forres to Dunkeld railway arrived in the village the station was called Boat of Garten after the nearby ferry. The name stuck, the village has been called Boat of Garten ever since.

Just after the arrival of the railway there was a strange incident in Boat of Garten. One summer in 1865 a funeral party for a woman missed the ferry and were looking for a way to cross the Spey. According to the accounts the water parted (like that of ‘Red Sea' for Moses) to allow them to cross. A stone slab was put in a pool on the river to mark the site of the miracle. However, a little later the residents of the nearby Knock Farm took the slab to use it as a doorstep. Shortly afterwards a poltergeist appeared in the farm which is credited with the deaths of a number of the farmers. In fright the slab was returned to the river, where it still lies, and the poltergeist disappeared from the farm.

Despite these unsettling incidents the village grew, largely as a result of its railway connections and to some extent at the expense of the older villages in the area. Apart from the railway, the growth of a road network prompted the building of a bridge in 1898, and the ferry went out of business. The shift towards the car was made complete with the railway line was abandoned in the 1960s as part of the government's Beeching cuts.

The absence of the railway in Boat of Garten was only short-lived. In the early 1970s a number of local train enthusiasts got together to try to reopen the line. The result was the Strathspey Railway, a Steam Railway connecting the town to Aviemore and its Ski Areas. Since then the village has become a satellite of the Aviemore Ski Areas, which can be used as a quieter base from which to explore the Cairngorms. Boat of Garten also attracts visitors to its famously beautiful golf course and for the splendid fishing available in the Spey.