Boat of Garten and its vicinity encompasses an area on all sides of the village itself and both sides of the River Spey. On the northern side of the river there is Drumuillie, Chapelton, Docharn and Kinchurdy, on the eastern side Kincardine and parts of Tulloch Moor as well Gartenmore down to Cullachie.
Whilst our website speaks of Boat of Garten, it should really include all the names that have been mentioned above, particularly as their history is infinitely older than that of the “Boat” itself. Please therefore do not be surprised if there is relatively little about the Boat of Garten – it is after all only about 150 years old whereas there has been habitation outwith the village for several thousand years! And perhaps more importantly the surrounding townships of yesteryear were more diverse and heavily populated than today.
First of all a word about Boat of Garten itself – historically speaking a relative newcomer on the block. Its name is linked to the ferry over the Spey at Gartenmore – just upstream from today’s Ferryman’s Cottage. History does not relate when the ferry started but certainly there is mention of a ferry in 1662 when the lands of Kinchurdy were disponed by one Bishop Patrick Hepburn to a Grant of Carron. In the documentation relating to this sale there is mention of the ferry and the salmon fishings.
Nearly 200 years later in 1868, the railway was brought down Badenoch and Strathspey. This was the original connection between the south and Inverness. Initially it ran from Aviemore past Boat and split – one side going onto Grantown on Spey past Broomhill and thence to Forres and the other staying on the Nethy Bridge side of the river and continuing down to Elgin and thence up to Inverness. At its junction with the Ferry at Gartenmore houses were built – the village of Boat of Garten. Subsequently the ferry disappeared and the predecessor to the existing bridge was also built. Hence Boat of Garten.
Let us now turn our attention to the surrounding areas. They are literally littered with remnants of the Picts – at the time of writing in March 2000, for example, the Sustrans route through the village and along Deshar Road has had to divert just by the school because it would have gone over a Bronze Age Hut circle. Generations of children of the Primary School have probably generations probably played” King of the Castle” on it without realising its significance! In the field opposite there are signs of another hut circle. Across the river, on the hill above Loch Pityoulish on the outer boundary of Kincardine there is the Craig Chaisteal – a prehistoric ruined fort. Cairns also abound -many are in fairly ruinous condition but their names remain as in Docharn – the Davoch ( a Highland measure of land) of the Cairn. They have been used in the past as witnessed- by the burial cairn opened at Auchgourish in 1846 and found to contain 3 skulls and various other bones.
There is little to show for the period from the Bronze Age into the middle Ages other than the two local fortlets of Tom P(B)itlach and Petriny (the latter being perhaps also a much earlier Broch). Bitlach lies only a stone’s throw from the sawmill and is named after one Bigla ore Bitlac or Matilda -daughter of one of Comyn Lairds of Kinchurdy in the 15th century and chatelaine of the castle of the same name. Petriny lies on the Nethybridge Road and was clearly a fairly substantial dwelling place of greater age – perhaps from the time of Malcolm Canmore and Queen Margaret. Its precise ownership is uncertain but perhaps it belonged to one of the royal tax collectors of the time.
The Middle ages were a time of great unrest in the whole of Scotland – in the Highlands characterised particularly by endless clan battles, large and small and this area was no different – the local clans of the Shaws, the Comyns and the Grants were constantly at each others throats. The Hollow of the Comyns on the Pityoulish/Rothiemurchus march was the scene of one such massacre when a raiding party of Comyns were cornered by the Shaws and slaughtered. Kincardine Church was involved in another unsavoury event. Grants of Rothiemurchus and their allies the Stewarts of Kincardine surrounded some Comyns near the Church. The Comyns took refuge in the Church but were burnt alive when the thatched roof was set on fire by a Grant arrow.
The 18th Century – although in the south of Scotland the Age of Enlightenment – was as hard as its predecessors for those in the Highlands. This was in part because of the harshness of life here but also because of the political upheavals of the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite rebellions. One of the most notable figures to come out of the disaster that was Culloden was John Roy Stewart. Born at the Knock of Kincardine , son of the last Stewart Baron of Kincardine, he rose to be a well known officer before leaving the King’s service to join the Jacobites. .He raised the Edinburgh Castle Regiment and fought at Culloden under the Green Flag of Kincardine. Escaping from Culloden Field on April 16th 1745 he returned to Strathspey, remaining a fugitive in the area before joining the Bonnie Prince at Ben Alder and from thence to Loch Nan Uamh on the West Coast and flight to France. During his time , spent largely in John Roy’s cave on Craigowrie overlooking Kincardine, he found time to write one of the best Gaelic poems dedicated to the battle.
The years after the ’45 were more times of change. The Clearances of the late 18th and early 19th centuries affected the vicinity as much as anywhere. Auchgourish on the B970, for example, was a populous area in the 18th century but in the 1840s it was cleared to create the existing farm.
The River Spey has always been the central artery of the area around Boat of Garten but none more so than in that period when it was used for the floating of logs down to its mouth. Strathspey was part of the Great Forest of Caledon whose destruction started in the 9th century and continued unabated until the 20th. The 18th century was however the peak of the timber trade when huge quantities of timber were felled for the smelting and shipbuilding trades.One of the major fellers of trees was the Hull Company whose owners Osborne and Dudsworth bought part of Glenmore in 1738. Having felled the logs they were floated into the local Lochs (their water level being raised for the purpose) and then onto the Spey where they were bundled into huge rafts for the river journey down to Garmouth.Not all were treated this way as many were cut in a series of sawmills around the district for building purposes but also for charcoal for smelting. Nethybridge had a flourishing smelting works and wood from Glenmore went through the Sluggan Pass along the face of Craigowrie along the Rathad an Ass (Donkeys Road ) to it. An indication of the importance of this trade lies in the fact that some 90 persons were employed in the Glenmore and Kincardine areas at the end of the 18th century.
And then the railway came and the growth of Boat of Garten started as the centre of the vicinity at the cost, it must be said, of some of the surrounding hamlets.
Local Place Names
Most of the names mentioned in this short history of the area are of gaelic origin as Strathspey, like so much of the rest of the Highlands, still used the mother tongue of the Highlanders well into the 2nd half of the 19th century. For those who are interested therefore a few of the name derivations of the area.
|Aviemore||An Aghaidh Mhor, or||the great face (of Craigellachie), or|
|A’Ghaoth Mhor||the great wind.|
|Balvattan||Clump of trees farm|
|Boat of Garten||Coit a Ghartain|
|Cairngorms||Monadh Ruadh||Red hills|
|Docharn||Davoch of the Cairns|
|Dochlaggie||Davoch of the Hollow|
|Drumuillie||Treasure ridge ?|
|Kincardine||Ceann Chairdin||Head of the wood|
|Kinveachy||Ceann||Head of the birch wood|
|Monadh Liath||Grey Hills|
|Pityoulish||Peit-gheollais||Portion of the bright stance ?|
|River Spey||Abhuinn Spé||Hawthorn Stream|
|Tomachrochar||Tom a’Chrochair||Hill of the hangman|