My last blog featured 24 hours in Pitlochry, which included an overnight stay at McKays Hotel, Bar & Restaurant. After leaving Pitlochry, we travelled to Boat of Garten in the Cairngorms National Park to stay at The Boat Country Inn. The inn is McKays sister hotel. This blog features the highlights of our visit to Boat of Garten and Loch Garten.
Our journey from Pitlochry took around 80 minutes, so we arrived in Boat of Garten with plenty of time for a walk and spot of exploring before lunch.
24 Hours in Boat of Garten
We were spoiled for choice when it came to walking trails in and around Boat of Garten. We love wildlife and walking in Scotland’s native woodland, so decided to visit the RSPB Scotland Loch Garten Nature Centre near the village.
There are a couple of short trails there, as well as feeding stations that attract beasties such as the bank vole, red squirrel, Scottish crossbill (which scientists believe has a Scottish accent) and crested tit. In the UK, the crested tit can only be found in this part of Scotland.
Apparently, there are magical winged creatures living in the woods too. We didn’t spot anything, but we did see twitchers dressed like Rambo rushing around excitedly with humongous cameras when some crested tits were seen nearby.
Walk -The Two Lochs Trail
Leaving the twitchers behind, we set off along a wooded path (The Big Pine Trail) to start our walk proper – Two Lochs Trail. The trail links Loch Garten and Loch Mallachie.
The woodland trail was blissfully people free. After a short distance it passed close to the shore of Loch Garten, which is regularly chosen by ospreys as a nesting site.
The loch was as still as a millpond and the tall pines surrounding it were reflecting beautifully on the surface of the water.
Leaving the lochside, we followed the trail deeper into the woods. They were filled with the sound of birdsong. If the birds were singing in a Scottish accent, we couldn’t make it out. What we could make out though, was the unmistakable sound of a woodpecker tapping furiously on a tree trunk.
When we reached Loch Mallachie we stopped to take in the view. The path followed the shore of the loch for a short distance, before doubling back on itself to return to the starting point of the Two Lochs Trail.
Lunch – Speyside Centre
After our walk, we drove a short distance to visit the Speyside Centre for lunch. The Speyside Centre has a garden centre, kids play area, gift shop, cafe and more on site. Dogs are welcome in the shop and there are dog friendly cafe tables too, so you can pop in for a coffee or lunch with your four-legged friend.
When we arrived the boy and I browsed in the shop, while Mr G (who was verging on hangry) went to order our lunch from the cafe. I bought wild bird food for my feathered friends back home. While I was paying, the boy made friends with the ladies on the tills. He put on a fine display of begging for them and was rewarded with biscuits for his effort.
Mr G and I then tucked into tasty homemade soup (tattie and leek) and sandwiches (tuna) for lunch. With his hanger tantrum staved off, we were ready to explore more of the local area.
Walk – Boat of Garten Community Paths
Back in Boat of Garten we decided to check out the walking trails in the village. We found one behind the community hall, which led us into mature woodland. Unlike our earlier woodland ramble, this trail had a bit of an incline. At the highest point of it (fairy hill) we discovered a bench and stone cairn. We rested there for a while, enjoying the quiet calm of the forest. We didn’t linger long though, because in Scotland, fairy hills aren’t places you should hang around. Our fairies aren’t the sweet variety you find in story books. They’re spiteful little devils and best avoided.
Back at ground level we spotted a feeder amongst the trees. I crept up close to it and stood as still and silently as I could. Mr G and the boy watched from a distance. Within seconds I was surrounded by tiny birds. They were so close I could hear their little wings whirring as they hovered beside the feeder pecking at the peanuts inside it. They were mostly coat tits, but amongst them I spotted a bird with a wee feathery Mohawk. It was a crested tit – and there wasn’t a twitcher with a humongous camera anywhere to be seen. It was such a privilege to get so close to those beautiful little birds.
The Boat Country Inn
Now, it was time to check out our Highland home for the night. The Boat Country Inn, is a grand old building that started life as a railway inn. The inn is located beside the village’s heritage railway station, which looks like an old movie set. Between March and October Strathspey Railway volunteers operate steam and vintage diesel engine tours along a ten mile stretch of track. It’s a lovely way to experience a bygone age of travel – especially if you book an afternoon tea or whisky tour.
On arrival at the inn, we were greeted by a roaring fire and warm Highland welcome. The Boat Country Inn immediately felt homely and inviting. It was definitely somewhere you could coorie with coffee, cake and a good book on a rainy day.
Our dog-friendly garden room
Our room was in a single story extension, located at the side of the main hotel building. The rooms in this part of the hotel are dog friendly, and better still they’re all garden rooms, with private patios and a mountain view.
I love hotel rooms with patios. They’re great for watching the sun rise in the morning and stargazing at night. We did both during our short stay at The Boat Country Inn.
The boy also loves a garden room, because gardens mean sniffing opportunities.
Inside, our room was spacious and comfortable with a neutral colour scheme. There was lots of storage space – even for an over packer like me.
Best of all, the en suite had a bath and luxurious Scottish toiletries.
After spending the day exploring, we were looking forward to relaxing before dinner. Mr G settled in front of the TV to catch up on the day’s sport, while I grabbed my book, ran myself a bubble bath and slipped in for a soak. Ahhhhh – bliss.
Dinner: The Boat country Inn
Guests at The Boat Country Inn have a choice of two grand rooms to dine in. There’s a traditional Highland bar, for those who prefer dining without dogs. And for those happy to dine with furry friends, there’s the hotel restaurant. The restaurant is a lovely, intimate room with country house parlour vibes.
Needless to say, we arrived for dinner with his nibs in tow.
Day 28 into Dry January and we found our willpower pushed to the limit again. We were surrounded by diners enjoying an alcoholic beverage or two with dinner. Like heroes, we resisted the lure of red wine and beer and ordered Irn-Bru to go with our meal.
We decided to skip starters and go straight to the main course.
I had a Thai red chicken curry, served with sticky rice and warm naan bread. It was delicious. Mr G had fish and chips with tartar sauce, which he found equally enjoyable.
Having skipped starters, we had plenty of room for pudding. We both chose a warm salted caramel chocolate fudge cake with custard. Oh my goodness, my mouth is watering even as I type. Every fabulously sinful calorie was a delight.
After dinner, we took the boy out for his final jaunt of the day, then headed back to our room for a spot of stargazing on the patio.
Back indoors, we settled down for the night and it wasn’t long before all three of us were asleep. Walking, fresh Highland air, good food and a comfy bed will do that for you.
Breakfast: The Boat Country Inn
We woke the next morning feeling refreshed. Sadly, our stay at The Boat Country Inn was drawing to a close, but we still had breakfast to enjoy before saying goodbye.
This time we left his nibs, so we could dine sans doggies. He barely noticed us sloping off, as he was tucking into his own breakfast.
Like McKays, The Boat Country Inn offers a great choice of breakfast options. After two days of eating fabulously rich food, we decided to keep it simple and have porridge and toast for breakfast. The porridge was served with a little jug of honey on the side. It was salted, so true Scottish porridge. I know purists would argue pouring honey on porridge is like putting pineapple on pizza, but they’re wrong. The sweet, salty contrast is divine. And on that mouthwatering note, our stay at The Boat Country Inn came to an end.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time at the lovely, village inn and the wonderful Highland hospitality we received there.
Our stay at The Boat Inn was part of a paid partnership with the hotel, however all opinions are entirely my own.
Until next time …