Saturday, 7 June 2014

SCOTLAND 7 - Loch Lomond & The Trossachs


The Trossachs are a lovely area of the central highlands stretching east from Loch Lomond.

" O, ye'll tak' the highroad and Ah'll tak' the low road
And Ah'll be in Scotland afore ye;
 Fir me an' my true love will ne'er meet again
On the bonnie, bonnie banks o'  Loch Lomond."

This well known traditional song was first published in 1841. There are various theories about the meaning but it is surely connected with the Jacobite Uprising of 1745. It is said to have been sung by a Jacobite prisoner who, together with his brother, was taken to Carlisle where the Hanoverian victors played a cruel game. The brothers were allegedly told that one of them could live whilst the other would be executed and it was up to them to decide which. Therefore the one brother is telling the other that he would 'tak the low road' being the traditional underground route which transported the soul of a dead Scot who died in a foreign land back home to rest in peace.


Loch Lomond is a fresh water loch lying on the Highland Boundary Fault which is considered to be the boundary between the Lowlands and the Highlands and is the largest inland stretch of water in Great Britain by surface area.
It is 24 miles long and some 5 miles at its widest point. It is part of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park. It is on the main A82 road from Glasgow to the north, parts of which are still a notorious bottleneck.

At the extreme northern end of the loch there is a huge stone on the eastern side near Ardlui. Known as the Pulpit Rock it has  a portion carved out which is big enough for three people to stand in.
Known as Clach nan Tarbh, The stone of the Bulls, the rock is said to have been dislodged from the mountainside by two bulls who had a great battle here.

Early in the 19th century people in this area complained about ther eight mile walk to the nearest church. The minister said that if they built a vestry and pulpit he would come and preach to them. Local men quarried out a 10 ft high hole in the face of the rock, large enough hold the  minister and two others. A wooden platform was erected with pulpit and a door was fitted to the front. Services were held here for 75 years until a church was built in Ardlui in 1895.
Because of the length of the services a stall was also erected behind the rock selling food and whisky which led to some people spending more time behind the rock than at the front. Somebody is said to have remarked,
' the Lord's side is at the front, but the Devil lies behind.'

There is very little road access to the Loch on the eastern side although cruise boats cross to and fro.

There are several small islands in the south of the lake but they are very sparse towards the north. Just off the ferry terminal at Inveruglass there is a tiny island which was a Clan MacFarlane stronghold. There are scant remains of their castle which was sacked by Cromwell.

Across the loch from Inveruglas is Inversnaid where there is a hotel on the shore alongside a fine waterfall. This hamlet on The West Highland Way was formerly a fort to repress the MacGregor Clan and is connected by a steep twisting road going east alongside Loch Arklet to Aberfoyle.


The famous Arklet Falls on Arklet Water tumble down the rocky hillside.

Just to the north of Inversnaid is Rob Roy's Cave. This notorious outlaw and folk hero was born at Glengyle at the head of Loch Katrine and is said to have
used this cave as a hiding place. 
Rob Roy MacGregor (1671-1734) was a Jacobite sympathiser who was wounded at the Battle of Glen Shiel in 1719. He became a cattle trader who fell foul of the law becoming a latter day Robin Hood folk hero type of character. He was immortalised by Sir Walter Scott in his novel Rob Roy and also in film.

Ben Lomond rises to 3194 ft.

Although the road eastwards extends to Stronachlacher at the eastern end of Loch Katrine, no roads encircle the shores.

The steam ship Sir Walter Scott has plied the loch since 1900 and of course, Scott's novel, Lady of the Lake is associated with Loch Katrine.

The Sir Walter Scott steamship leaves Stronachlacher Pier
on its tour of the loch.

Crossing the Dukes Pass from Aberfoyle, the A821 passes Loch Drunkie before continuing alongside Loch Achray in the heart of the Trossachs.


Loch Drunkie

" The Minstrel came once more to view
The eastern ridge of Benvenue,
For ere he parted he would say
Farewell to lovely Loch Achray
Where he shall find, in foreign land,
So lone a lake, so sweet a strand."

So said Scott in his novel Lady of the Lake.


Loch Achray Hotel, a former shooting lodge, nestles beneath Benvenue in splendid isolation at the head of Loch Achray.

Achray Water tumbles its was into the loch through wooded crags.

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