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An Adventure through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
Guest Blog by Derek McCreadie, Experience Scotland's Wild: An Adventure through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
When it comes to talking about Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park, there is so much I could go on about, for days upon end! It was Scotland’s first national park, established in 2002 when I was turning 10 years old…
Loch Lomond means so much to me. I grew up on its southern shores, in the little village of Balloch, which is one of our starting locations for the Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park Day Tour, Glencoe Day Tour and our Standing Stones and Castle Day Tour. Let’s go on an adventure of awe-inspiring Highland landscapes and memories which you’ll never forget. Our first stop, Balmaha on the East of Loch Lomond
The Eastern Side of Loch Lomond - Balmaha
We travel to our first location of Balmaha from Balloch, the place I grew up, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s the birthplace of my curiosity of nature and my fascination of Highland mountains.
We travel over one of the fastest flowing rivers in Scotland, the River Leven, where you’ll receive your first sighting of Loch Lomond (Loch is a Gaelic term meaning Lake) and travel towards the Highlands of Scotland.
I love the small village of Balmaha, I’ve spent many a day exploring Balmaha with family and friends. It also happens to be the perfect place to enjoy a walk in nature, there’s lovely woodlands to explore, Conic Hill, where you’ll receive some stunning views and even the chance to take a short boat ride over to the Nature Reserve Island of Inchcailloch.
On our 1 day guided Loch Lomond Tour, we get out for short hikes and the first is along a short section of the West Highlands Way at Craigy Fort. I think of all the times I’ve taken clients and friends on this walk, the views always inspire me, no matter how many times, the scenery of Loch Lomond and all her beautiful islands remind me constantly, that Scotland and this area must be up there with the most beautiful in the world.
It will never grow old on me. Knowing that I grew up in a very special place is very humbling and one I remind myself of daily.
It’s a relatively short walk uphill but the rewards are incredible and well worth the effort. Being part of the ancient Highland boundary fault line that separates the Highlands & Lowlands of Scotland, the views and the geological history are truly fascinating.
This is literally the place where you look south and see flat lowlands and if you turn 180 degrees and look north, you’ll be rewarded with views of the dramatic Highlands of Scotland.
After a lovely walk, we leave Balmaha behind to travel further towards the eastern side of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park to the fairy capital of the UK, Aberfoyle. This is where, when I was a younger, I learned about Reverend Robert Kirk and the Fairy Tree of Doon Hill. A man of faith, who also spent most of his time in the fairy world, wrote books about fairies and then met his end with fairies.
After Aberfoyle, our tour continues past some beautiful countryside, the Lake of Menteith, Scotland’s only non-Loch! We travel through the charming little town of Callander, a place enjoyed by Queen Victoria on her visits to Scotland before stopping to for some lunch and the chance to feed Highland Cows.
The land of the Trossachs
Refuelled and ready for more mountain scenes, we travel north into the Trossachs area of the National Park. The landscape around us has changed dramatically, and it’s not a gradual change either. A 2-minute drive from our lunch stop we’re quickly surrounded by steep mountain slopes and turbulent rivers.
The drive is very different now compared to the gentle rolling hills of the Lowlands where we first set out. Once we left Callander behind, we crossed that ancient boundary fault line, and we’re now in Highland of Scotland for the remainder of the day.
Loch Lubnaig isn’t the largest body of water in the National Park but still demands respect with the steep sloping mountains on either of its shorelines. It’s very hard knowing where to look because, in every direction, the landscape takes your breath away.
Rob Roy MacGregor and Balquhidder Glen
Our next stop is my favourite to visit anywhere in the Trossachs. Balquhidder Glen represents a spot of sheer romantic beauty, that I believe is unrivalled anywhere in Scotland.
We leave the vehicle behind and go for a short woodland walk through a conifer plantation, and as we continue walking up hill, we eventually discover huge native Scots Pine trees and mixed deciduous woodland of Oak, Ash, Rowan and Birch before arriving at spectacular viewpoint with sprawling views looking down the beauty of Balquhidder Glen.
Standing atop this ancient viewpoint, you look across the lands of the Clan MacLaren and the mountainous Trossachs region. I’m completely mesmerised by this piece of land and from the first time I visited here, it’s left a lasting impression on me and it’s easy to understand how Scotland’s artist and poets were so easily inspired by the Highland landscape.
Another bonus of this area is the historical connection to Rob Roy MacGregor, if you’re a Liam Neeson fan, you’ll know who he is.
Rob Roy and his family are apparently resting in the charming church graveyard. Though we’ll likely never know for sure.
The North – Falls of Dochart and Killin
Now we depart this stunning glen and continue our exploration north, driving through elegant little villages along the way. Strathyre and Glen Ogle being two standouts, with the old Glen Ogle Viaduct stretching across the landscape.
Settled on the very north edge of the National Park boundary is the gorgeous village of Killin, where the Falls of Dochart steal the show when in full flow.
The river Dochart flows down through the top of the National Park into Loch Tay. These mesmerising cascades paint a fairy-tale picture with the Old Mill settled on their banks and sometimes the odd salmon leaping up the river.
Off in the distance (on a clear day) the imposing figure of Ben Lawers commands the area with its lofty summit stretching into the blue sky (or grey cloud).
Once these fascinating falls have been explored, we now travel east through Glen Dochart. A phenomenal example of a U-shaped valley, the scenic drive is like no other.
I always enjoy this section as I’m a big wildlife fan, and Red Deer roam this, Glen. Very often we’ll get a glimpse of Scotland’s largest land animal grazing by the side of the road.
West Loch Lomond and an Old Drovers Road
We now travel south, though still in the Highlands, the scenery and landscape are still as dramatic as ever. Glen Falloch is a seriously impressive valley, with the surrounding mountain peaks around and rushing river Falloch flowing south into Loch Lomond.
The landscape will again begin to change in front of our eyes, winding our way down the A82 road, originally an old drovers road where the cattle were walked from the Highlands of Scotland down into the cattle markets of the cities.
The shape of Loch Lomond will change as we continue our journey south, gradually getting wider as we go. It won’t be long until we reach our final stop of the day, the stunning little village of Luss.
Sitting on the Highland side of the fault line, Luss offers gorgeous views of Loch Lomond, and it’s hard not to notice the huge mountain staring at you from across the other side. Ben Lomond is the most southerly Munro in the country (a mountain sitting at 914.4 metres/3000 feet or above is classed as a Munro).
Stretching 974 metres/3,196 feet above the sea, the prominent shoulders are said to have had huge signal fires perched upon them for when danger arrived in the area, for instance a rival clan or when the Vikings arrived. Those signals would have been a big pile of wood set ablaze.
Luss itself is still part of the lands of the Colquhoun Clan, an ancient clan who’ve controlled this area for over 600 years and has become a popular place to visit due the beauty of the village and the scenery all around.
After a full day exploring on the only fully dedicated Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park tour, you’ll arrive back in the beautiful village of Balloch where you’ll have deserved a dram of some delicious Scotch Whisky at one of the many bars or restaurants.
I hope you feel inspired to visit this gorgeous piece of land and have the most amazing time possible in the Loch Lomond area, it really is a special place
If you’d like to explore Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park on a day tour from Balloch or Glasgow, visit www.scotlandswild.com and put in the discount code LOVELOCHLOMOND for a 10% discount available for all our tours departing Balloch, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
If you enjoyed hearing about our adventure through Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, you should check out our blog on the, The top 5 places to Visit in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs.
Our thanks to Derek for this fantastic blog!
Images copyright: Experience Scotland's Wild.