Scotland

Along the Shore to Rob Roy’s Cave

Loch Lomond and Rob Roy's Cave

Where:

Loch Lomond.

Season:

Spring.

Weather:

Ghastly (but brilliant).

Route:

Walk #3 in this book.

Length

Roughly 2 miles, but with a climb that makes it feel much longer!

Walking Buddy:

My lovely James.

Musings:

This was without question the worst day weather-wise of our entire holiday in Scotland. It was wet, windy, cold, overcast, misty – in short, a concoction of the most miserable conditions you could ask for. But through all that I could feel the wild, rugged strength of the landscape in a way that I wouldn’t have done if it had been mild and sunny. I was viewing the mountains in their natural habitat. And this walk was my personal highlight of the entire trip.

We parked up at Inversnaid – the carpark is pretty easy to find, drive until you run out of road and it’s there – and set off on a nice, wide path. The shore of Loch Lomond is very rocky, however, and it wasn’t long before our path started to reflect this. We met rather a lot of walkers using sticks – I have my suspicions that said sticks probably just got in the way.
Loch Lomond RSBP Reserve
As we continued on, the path got rockier and less easy to follow. Eventually, we came across a sign pointing towards a heap of boulders at the water’s edge, saying “Rob Roy’s Cave”. The journey up to Rob Roy’s cave is a bit of a scramble over some large rocks and you do go up there at your own risk. I personally like a good scramble so took a deep breath and channelled my inner mountain goat. The good news is that you can tell when you’ve found it because they’ve painted “CAVE” in large letters on the rock face next to the entrance, presumably so it can be easily pointed out on boat tours.

On the way back, we detoured through the RSPB woodland and this is the point at which it all got so beautiful I barely knew how to deal with it. The path leading away from the shore is incredibly steep and steps have been provided to help you as have strategically placed benches on which you can catch your breath, look at the view, and remember why you’re doing it. The view over the Loch to the mountains on the other side is pretty awe inspiring – and, naturally, the higher you climb, the better it gets.

All of a sudden we reached a plateau and the landscape changed completely – I feel like I’d stepped into some classic fairy tale woodland: moss covered stones, the occasional twisted tree, wild flowers, bracken, winding streams, and a narrow twisty path to follow. I half expected a pixie to pop out and start causing mischief. It was a really magical place and, as we were the only people mad enough to venture up there in the driving drizzle, we had it all to ourselves.

This isn’t a long walk by any means, but the twists and turns and ups and downs of the woodland track makes it feel like you’ve been lost in the wilderness for hours. It’s quite a shock to the system to find yourself back at Inversnaid with it’s large carpark and even larger hotel. On our return, we went round to the far side of the hotel to see the waterfall which is said to have been the inspiration for Wordsworth’s To a Highland Girl. It’s well worth the extra time to see, there are steps up to the top of the fall which take you into Craigrostan Woods (a firm fixture on my to-do list for my next visit) which is a whole other world again. As we turned to head back, we were lucky enough to see one last treat: a Pine Martin sitting on a rock by the water.

Waterfall at Inversnaid

{ 0 comments }

Priory Island

Inchmahome Priory

Inchmahome Island

Where:

Inchmahome, Lake of Menteith.

Season:

Spring.

Weather:

Slightly murky with the odd bit of sunshine.

Route:

Anti-clockwise around the Island, then sort of zig-zagged about a bit.

Length

As long or short as you want (opening times allowing!), we were there for a few hours.

Walking Buddy:

James.

Musings:

So, first things first, this is a pretty short walk. Like, really diddy. Although it’s the largest of the lake’s islands, Inchmahome isn’t very big and you can walk around the whole thing in no time at all. But I had such a lovely time walking around both the Island and the ruins of the Priory that I simply couldn’t leave it out of my Scotland walks.

We were actually staying right on the shores of Lake of Menteith so knew about the Priory from our pre-holiday research and it was firmly on our to-do list. You do have to pay to visit Inchmahome, but at a whopping £5.50 per adult, it’s well worth it. Just a note to anybody going there, you pay once you get on the Island. We missed one ferry trying to find where to pay before walking to the end of the pier and reading the notice that explained this. I very much liked the high tech method of calling the ferry: you turn a small board so that the white side is facing the Island. The white stands out against the trees of the shore and the staff will see it and bring the boat over.
Inchmahome Priory
Once we reached the island, we started walking. Within a few moments we were into woodland scattered with bluebells, according to the ferryman the island would usually be carpeted in them, however spring reached Scotland very late this year so they were a little sparse. As the water table is naturally pretty high on Inchmahome so all the foliage was really fresh despite the age of most of the trees.

As we neared the end of our walk around the island, we saw a swan sitting on her nest. We made sure we didn’t get too close, but sat on a bench on top of a hillock nearby. What we didn’t realise at the time is that said hillock is actually known as “Nun’s Hill” and so called due to a legend that a nun had been caught doing un-nunly things with the Earl’s son for which she was buried upright there. We may not have stayed so long had we realised we were sitting on this poor woman’s head…

Aside from the Sinning Nun, as she’s known, the Island is also where the first MP ever suspended from the House of Commons for swearing is buried and it once played host to a 4-year-old Mary Queen of Scots. We ate our lunch in Queen Mary’s Garden, a lovely little area with picnic tables and a huge tree that was reportedly planted during the battle of Waterloo. As 2015 is the 200th anniversary of Waterloo, we wished it a happy birthday.

The Priory itself is gorgeous, you can get a sense of the beautiful complex it must once have been. It was founded in 1238, however there had been a church on the island previously which the canons probably used while the present structure was being built and, although it’s not known for sure, it may well have been incorporated into the priory. There was only one room where the canons were permitted to converse, speaking in sign language the rest of the time – to be honest, Inchmahome is such a peaceful place that I didn’t feel compelled to talk much either. On the journey back to shore, I considered how lucky those canons were to get to live on such a beautiful island.

One final note: We couldn’t quite see all of the lake from our chalet and had thought that the Island was around the corner from us, it wasn’t until we got back and took a closer look at the treeline on the opposite bank that we realised we’d been staring straight at it the whole time.

Lake of Menteith

{ 0 comments }

Kin & Crannog

Loch Ard

Loch Ard

Where:

Around Loch Ard.

Season:

Spring.

Weather:

The sort that has you swapping between waterproofs and shirt sleaves every ten minutes!

Route:

Walk #5 (Aberfyle chapter) in this book which I picked up at the Aberfoyle Tourist Info Centre.

Length

Just over 6 miles.

Walking Buddy:

The man who never complains about being dragged off walking: James
 

Musings:

This walk was so good, Hikers, SO GOOD! The route was easy to follow, the scenary was beautiful, and the changeable weather kept us on our toes. This walk really cleared my head too, to the extent that I actually had a couple of eureka moments – fresh air really does work wonders for the little grey cells.
Loch Ard
We started this walk in Kinlochard, a little village on the banks of Loch Ard, and climbed gently upwards along a wide path which seemed to be popular with cyclists as well as walkers. As we climbed, the views over the Loch became increasingly gorgeous. After a while we turned off down a track, the sides of which were scattered with rhododendrons (although sadly they weren’t flowering at the time), and headed back down towards the shore.

Loch Ard features the remains of an iron age crannog, a small artificial island which would once have been home to a roundhouse, which comes into view around a third of the way into this walk. According to a very well placed bench, there was once at least one more crannog on Loch Ard which has now sunk. We had our lunch on said bench, looking out onto Loch Ard’s island, Eilean Gorm, through the trees – it was a very lovely spot.

As we continued on, we moved away from the Lochside and started to climb again. We moved through various sections of the forest, each with a different variety of tree or trees of differing ages, catching the odd glimpse of the Loch and view beyond until the path narrowed and became noticably steeper. The view from the top was just spectacular, with Loch Ard glistening below and Ben Lomond framing the vista to our right. One of the wonderful things about walking when the weather is changeable is that the light is changeable too. As we sat on another very well placed bench, the character of the view changed by the second with different areas either being highlighted or plunged into darkness.

At this point we rejoined the wide cyclepath and walked towards the distant Ben Lomond with the view over the Loch to our right. The remainder of this walk was pleasant and untaxing, and we soon rejoined the path we’d originally climbed to head back down to Kinlochard.

Loch Ard

{ 1 comment }

The Forest of Falls and Views

wh-achray-forest-1

Where:

Achray Forest

Season:

Spring

Weather:

Changeable – warm sunshine, chilly drizzle, cold wind.

Route:

Lime Craig Trail (on p3, “1 The Lodge” – print outs of this can be found at the lodge and in local Tourist Info centres.)

Length

Just under 4 miles.

Walking Buddy:

James.

Musings:

This was the first walk we went on after arriving in Scotland. We were staying not far from Aberfoyle, the town just below Achray Forest, and I had a thirst to stretch my legs with a full week of no emails, phone calls, or things-I-really-ought-to-be-doing ahead of me. wh-achray-forest-2

This walk takes you along a section of the Highland Boundary Fault; the point at which, 390 million years ago, the highlands were pushed up and the lowlands pushed down. As such, it affords spectacular vistas every time there’s a gap in the trees. We started at The Lodge – a visitor centre with a cafe, a shop, and gorgeous views in all directions – and set off down a slope in search of the first waterfall. From there, we zigzagged up-hill through the trees on wide slate paths, found another waterfall, and felt a little less stressed with every breath of clean highland air.

Eventually our nice wide path came to a large, circular end and we were faced with a very steep, very shingly track. I’ll be honest with you, I was a little apprehensive climbing it but I needn’t have been as it was actually quite easy. Even if it hadn’t been, the views from the top (actually, even the views from half-way up!) would have made it well worth it. We stayed at the top for a while and ate our sandwiches (trying to ignore our fellow walker who had arrived a few minutes after us and was having a lengthy and very loud phone call).

The descent was through lush green forest with the occasional glimpse of distant hills through the trees. This walk ended fittingly with the sound of rushing water; our visit to Achray Forest really was fresh, green, and thirst quenching.
wh-footer-achray-forest

{ 2 comments }