History

Boat of Garten is the most recent of the various clachan or farming communities which include Drumuillie, Chapelton, Docharn, Kinchurdy, Street of Kincardine, parts of Tulloch Moor, Gartenmore and Cullachie. These all formed agricultural settlements of 6-8 houses in the dabhach od Duthil. A dabhach is an ancient way of providing the resources needed for agriculture to a family-related group of people.

Built around the station from 1865 onwards, people have lived in this area from Mesolithic times (8,000 BC onwards). These first hunter-gatherers left the remains of flint tools they were making and repairing, as they visited Strathspey in late Summer and Autumn.

Farming (the Neolithic culture) developed and standing stones and grave sites can be found nearby. Bronze and then Iron began to be used for ornamentation, weapons and agricultural tools. The nearby woodland and moorland have a number of hut circles, cairns and burial sites which have yet to be professionally excavated.

The Iron Age people developed a unique culture we have come to know as Pictish. Strathspey and particularly around Boat of Garten abounded with symbol stones and a rich, as yet unexplored, cemetery at Mains of Garten. Here are more than twenty barrows, more than at the significant Rhynie site further south. Tom Pitlac (‘the hill and cultivated place’) stands on the village edge and was once the home of a prominent Pictish chief. Later it became a fortified site commanding a ford and was inhabited by the Lords of Glencarnie until the early 14th century.

Boat of Garten, or Coit na Gartain, takes its name from a ferry which existed at least as far back as 1662 when it was recorded by Bishop Hepburn as a gift to a Grant of Carron. By this time the Clan Grant chiefs had acquired a large estate, which they assiduously defended from cattle raiders and invading armies throughout the various political and religious conflicts that lasted until 1746.

In 1863 the Perth and Inverness Railway Company, later to become The Highland Railway, planned and then built their line. Steam engines needed soft water and a place where trains could safely pass each other on single track railway lines. A navvies’ camp had been set up some 8 miles from what would become Aviemore, about as far as a mid-19th Century engine could travel before needing a refill. Merchants had followed the navvies, providing life’s necessities and luxuries as the men shifted their cubic yard of spoil every day.

Pointsmen, porters and signallers needed housing and thus the village gradually began to emerge. The original wooden platform was replaced by a station – the present building being the result of rebuilds after at least two fires. The Boat Hotel was moved from Drumuillie to the station to cater for tourists, who included the former Empress of France! The Grant estate factor set aside ‘lotted lands’ as grazing for animals these folks might want to keep in their cottage backyards, but these ‘feus’ were quickly built on and so the village took shape. The process was boosted when the Great North of Scotland Railway built their line from the coast to its terminus at Boat of Garten Junction Station. More housing was needed and Boat became a desirable holiday destination for professional classes from the south who came for the fishing, deer stalking, and bracing air.

As well as tourism, the major employers have always been the farms and forests. The River Spey would have seen logs being sent down the river to Spey Bay, accompanied by ‘floaters’, men who guided the timber, in coracles at first, then on the log rafts.

Much expanded during the 1900s at first, then post war, our village continues to adapt and thrive despite losing many of its local shops. We currently have a post office and shop, cycle hire and sales, along with an art and craft gallery.

Local Place Names
Local place names are mostly Inverness-shire Gaelic in origin with their own spelling and pronunciation. 

For those who are interested therefore a few of the name derivations of the area:
Modern NameGaelicMeaning
AviemoreAn Aghaidh Mhor, orThe Great Face (of Craigellachie), or
 A’Ghaoth MhorThe Great Wind
Balvattan Clump of trees farm
Boat of GartenCoit a GhartainFerry at the cultivated place
CairngormsMonadh RuadhRed mountains
CroftmoreCroit MhorThe Large Croft
Dalvoult Wether’s dell (wether a Borders term for sheep)
Docharn Davoch of the Cairns
Dochlaggie Davoch of the Hollow
Drumuillie Treasure ridge ?
KincardineCeann ChairdinHead of the wood
KinveachyCeannHead of the birch wood
KnockCnocRounded hillock
Monadh Liath The Grey Mountains
PityoulishPeit-gheollaisPortion of the bright stance ?
River SpeyAbhuinn SpéHawthorn Stream
TomachrocharTom a’ChrochairHill of the hangman
This information is taken from the series ‘History of Boat of Garten’ which contain a much more detailed account of the people and events here.
Along with associated folklore and Clan Grant publications, the booklets are available to order in digital or printed formats, from:
boghistory@yahoo.com

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