Inchmahome, Lake of Menteith.
Slightly murky with the odd bit of sunshine.
Anti-clockwise around the Island, then sort of zig-zagged about a bit.
As long or short as you want (opening times allowing!), we were there for a few hours.
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.
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.