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Boat of Garten lies at a height of 220m on the west bank of the River Spey between Grantown on Spey and Aviemore. The village benefits from being off the route of the main A95, and this has helped lend it a quiet and relaxed air.
There has been a village of sorts here since at least 1600, when a settlement called Gart existed. 1863 saw the arrival of the Forres to Dunkeld railway. By then a road network had developed feeding a nearby ferry across the River Spey, and the railway station placed here was named Boat of Garten after the ferry. In 1866 Boat of Garten acquired a large railway shed and a junction from which another line crossed the Spey en route to Nethy Bridge, Keith and Aberdeen.
But while Boat of Garten literally owes its existence, or at least its name, to the railway, the railway line itself was closed to passengers as part of the massive Beeching cuts that swept much of rural Britain in 1965, and to freight in 1968.
Only temporarily, however, because a group of enthusiasts came together in 1971 to form the Strathspey Railway dedicated to reopening the line. They succeeded in reconnecting Boat of Garten with Aviemore in 1978, and have gone from strength to strength since.
The railway station lies close to the centre of the village, just behind the Boat Hotel. This is one of many hotels, guest houses and B&Bs available in Boat of Garten, which in recent years has been seen as a more genteel alternative to Aviemore for those in the area for the skiing.
In 1898 a golf course was established on the river side of the railway, close to the road from the village to what, by then, was a chain ferry across the Spey. Shortly afterwards the ferry was replaced by a wooden bridge. In 1975 this was in turn replaced by the modern road bridge. Meanwhile, the Boat of Garten Golf and Tennis Club continues to thrive in its original location.
Signs on the approach to Boat of Garden proclaim it to be "The Osprey Village". This comes from the presence of the Abernethy Forest RSPB Reserve on the shores of Loch Garten, just to the east of the Spey. After being driven to near extinction, a pair of Ospreys reappeared at Loch Garten in 1954 and the area has since become the focus of a population across the Highlands of up to 300 birds. The RSPB run an observation centre equipped with telescopes and CCTV cameras.
Since the opening of the Speyside Way extension to Aviemore in 2000, Boat of Garten has become a service centre for a steady stream of footweary walkers making their way to or from the coast at Buckie. For the first or last stretch of the walk between Boat of Garten and Aviemore, the route closely follows the line of the Strathspey Railway.