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A riverside walk from Boat of Garten along the Spey

By Peter Evans

As its name suggests, a ferry service once ran across the Spey at Boat of Garten before a wooden bridge was built in 1899, in turn replaced by the concrete Garten Bridge that now spans the river.

Our walk starts from the west side of the bridge where there's space for a few cars. A gate leads to a narrow fisherman's path following the river south, upstream, through trees, in the direction of Aviemore.

On this bitterly cold day a weak sun did little to warm the air as we marvelled at the hardiness of a little white-bibbed dipper flying across the river and diving into the freezing water after prey.

In just over a kilometre of walking the path widens as it approaches the attractive white cottage of Wester Dalvoult and diverts around it through gates, rejoining the river on the other side.

The wider path here makes for easier walking as far as an open area of water, where it passes through a gate onto a track where you make a left turn.

The track is sandwiched between the river on one side and fields on the other, with views of the Cairngorms ahead. At the point where Kinchurdy fishing bothy comes into view in front, a track bears right uphill to the buildings of Kinchurdy Farm.

Geese flew overhead, mallards floated nonchalantly along the river, letting the current take them, while a buzzard took off from a nearby post as we approached.

By now the sun had some warmth in it as Rosemary and I followed this track through the farm and on past Kinchurdy Cottages and Loch Dallas on the left. We continued to where the Speyside Way joins on the left.

That route – one of four official long-distance trails in Scotland – runs for around 65 miles from Buckie in Moray to Aviemore and goes through Boat of Garten. An extension is on the cards to Newtonmore and this has been completed as far as Ardgeal, near Loch Insh. There's also a 15-mile spur to Tomintoul.

Shortly after the junction with the Speyside Way, our walk passes under a granite arch carrying the volunteer-run Speyside steam railway, plying its route from Aviemore to Boat of Garten.

Once under the bridge, instead of taking the Speyside Way straight back to Boat of Garten we took a track bearing left, signposted "Community Centre", passing by a prominent house into a pinewood.

Continue to a barrier across the track, go round it and turn right, carrying on along the signposted Community Centre trail.

At the next junction take the path right signed Kinchurdy Road, which joins the Speyside Way at a surfaced road on the edge of houses.

For a more pleasant return to the Garten Bridge at the start of the walk, cross the road and follow a path signed Salmon Trail, which leads to the railway. Cross over and carry on to a track junction, turning left.

Then go through a field gate to access the riverside path once more to complete the walk, passing round Wester Dalvoult cottage again.

A huge flock of chaffinches caught our interest as we walked this stretch. They divided their time between feeding on the adjacent fields and flying up to the riverside birch trees.

Geese flew overhead, mallards floated nonchalantly along the river, letting the current take them, while a buzzard took off from a nearby post as we approached.

These days Boat of Garten brands itself as the Osprey Village due to its proximity to the RSPB centre alongside Loch Garten. A visit could be combined with this walk to make a full day of it, and there's also the option to enjoy one of several short trails around the village.

Route details

Boat of Garten and the Spey

Distance 5.5 miles / 9km

Terrain Good paths and tracks throughout

Start/finish West side of Garten Bridge

Map OS Landranger 36, Grantown, Aviemore and Cairngorm area

A gentle riverside walk incorporating trails around a lovely Speyside village

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