When deciding how to divide up the different walking sections of The Speyside Way, the trail between Grantown-on-Spey and the Boat of Garten left us perplexed. Unlike the previous days’ sections, this portion was flat and straightforward, and as a result many people had combined it with the last section to Aviemore, the end of the trail and only an additional six miles. Given that we had walked 25 miles in the past two days though, we decided our legs had probably earned a rest day and decided to only do the 11 miles to Boat of Garten.
The trail started as expected, through a mixture of small woodland and busy roads, but the traffic gradually died out and we found ourselves back on the old railway line once more.
The narrow path steadily emerged onto open farmland at Balliefurth Farm. However, this wasn’t just any old farm. Many of the plots were overgrown, and large trees towered over the path. An information board explained that Balliefurth Farm is an important centre for meadow wildlife and as a result, they aim to leave some of their farmland free for them to live when they aren’t using it.
When you walk through Balliefurth Farm though, stop for a moment and listen for the Scottish Aspen trees. In evolution terms, their leaves are super-lightweight, which even the smallest puff of wind causes them to go in a frenzy and knock caterpillars off. The side effect of this though is it makes a ‘singing’ noise when the wind blows; this ‘singing’ has been a focal point in some Scottish folklore. Today deforestation and grazing has caused a large portion of Scottish Aspen to die out, which makes Balliefurth Farm all the more special.
The village of Nethy Bridge lies immediately outside of Balliefurth Farm. It is close to multiple heritage sites like stone circles, castles, cairns, etc., as well as a historic fountain that was a stopping point for travellers to rest and refuel back in the day.
As the saying goes,’When in Rome’, so like travellers before us we took a quick lunch break at the fountain and then sped off on the golden road through more pine forests.
The River Spey appeared just as we rounded the bend into Boat of Garten. The town is located in the Cairngorms National Park and as soon as we entered, we could see the snow-capped mountains far in the distance.
We arrived at Boat of Garten by two in the afternoon and immediately pulled up to the local pub to have some drinks and enjoy the scenery.
Which we did, for a couple of hours.
But then the hours started to drag, and with the only restaurant in town not accepting orders till 8 in the evening, drinks in the pub charging London prices and little else to do in the town, we regretted not making the final push to Aviemore.
If you do decide to stay in Boat of Garten, then make sure you book a table at Anderson’s restaurant, easily the best place in town and makers of the most delicious burgers. However, I won’t blame you if you decide to make a beeline to Aviemore.