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Issue 20 - Stirling, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs – where all of Scotland meets

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 20
April 2005

 

This article is 12 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Stirling, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs – where all of Scotland meets

Dominic Roskrow argues that the area between Loch Lomond and Stiirling encapsulates all facets of Scotland

If you were given just 24 hours to get a taste of Scotland where would you go? Where best would you be able to experience everything that makes Scotland special to you? The history? The beauty? The intriguing mix of warmth and rebelliousness, the blend of Highland and Lowland, of city and countryside?

You could do a great deal worse than head off to Stirling as a starting point, and to wander across to Loch Lomond, taking in the Trossachs on the way. This area has it all – and then some.

We should state at the off that we’re cheating a bit – it’s a vast area sitting like a great stomach above Edinburgh and Glasgow. But if those two cities are most people’s ‘in’ points to Scotland, the area above is the true gateway to the country’s treasures.

And in this area you’ll find all the spirit and drama of historic Scotland, the very best in beauty and landscape, and a healthy dose of modern Scotland too, with some of Scotland’s best shopping. The whisky industry is well represented too. How could you resist?

For a sense of the dramatic, travel to Stirling Castle, stand upon the ramparts and gaze down to the river, the bridge and the Wallace Monument and swear that you aren’t taken back through the centuries to the years of conflict, defeat and triumph.

Few views better encapsulate the strategic importance of the region, and you need no imagination at all to picture the movement of armies as they sought to effectively control Scotland from here.

The geography has changed little over the centuries and the bridge stretches back to Medieval times. The rock on which you’re standing has been used as a garrison of some sort or other since Roman times.

And the castle itself, fortified with cliffs on three sides, has a history of some 900 years, during which time it has been a military stronghold and seat of royalty and government. No surprise that the region is strongly Nationalist – this is the rebel heart of proud and free Scotland.

The history is told in depth through audio visual equipment and displays in the castle itself, and the interior has been sympathetically furnished to recreate the atmosphere and harshness of castle life, not least in the impressive kitchen areas.

The castle was destroyed and rebuilt several times during the 13th and 14th century but is, of course, most famously associated with the great battles of Stirling Bridge in 1297 and Bannockburn in 1314. It doesn’t get any purer than that.

Stirling itself, divided between old and new towns, is well worth a visit in its own right, and there are a number of properties open to the public that belonged to famous Scots, including John Cowane, Robert Spittal and Lord Darnley.

To the west of Stirling you can travel to the Trossachs, which is the start of the Highlands proper and a region that has come to symbolise beauty through lochs, mountains and forests.

If you want a juxtaposition of romance, rebelliousness and hospitality, this is the place for you. Once a wild frontier area populated by lawless clans and the sort of outlaws that become heroes of folklore, by the 18th century it was becoming a holiday destination in its own right.

Some four years ago it was given the status of being Scotland’s first National Park, and its tourist facilities and amenities have been upgraded as a result.

The history of the Trossachs stretches back to the earliest times. Here Britons, Picts, Scots and Romans lived and fought.

But the romance of the region is more recent. This is Rob Roy McGregor territory, the region in which the ‘children of the mist’ lived, and a wilderness that has attracted generations of Scottish writers and poets, including William and Dorothy Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, James Hog and John Ruskin.

McGregor himself, equally hero and villain, stole and drove cattle through the region along tracks that now form the main roads through the area’s heart.

It is here that the Lowlands meet the Highlands and the stark contrast between the geography of the two is stark. There are snow capped mountains on the one hand, and summer woods on the other; explosions of flowers and heather, gentle sloping paths and rugged and challenging tracks.

The wildlife, too, is as varied as anything else in Scotland. Golden eagles, peregrine falcons, red deer stag, all typically Highland creatures, live side by side with the gentler Lowland animals such as the roe deer, the wildcat and the fox.

In recent years the Trossachs has become a centre for all manner of activities from cycling and nature walks to birdwatching and golf. For families it’s an ideal destination because there is something to suit the whole family.

That’s also true if you travel across to Loch Lomond, Scotland’s biggest loch and an important tourist attraction in its own right. If you want to shop for the very best in Scottish product, then this is the place for you.

Loch Lomond Shores features some of Scotland’s top names, including Jenners. The chloice of whisky is worth a visit in itself. For information on the region visit Drumkinnon Tower, a relatively recent addition. With viewing galleys, information points, shops and a café, is makes for a good central point to your visit, but best of all are the two film shows it offers.

The first takes you beneath the loch’s surface and gives you an otter’s view of the history, myths and legends of the loch. The other is a lengthier exploration of the loch’s history, including the story behind the much loved famous song The Bonnie, Bonnie Banks of Loch Lomond, which has its roots in the Jacobite upsrising and tells of the love between a Lowland girl and a Jacobite soldier.

There is plenty going on at Loch Lomond throughout the year, with events and shows, concerts, and farmers’ markets, so check on the website before you go.

And the Loch itself is the base for a wide range of watersports and activities. The most recent addition to the area is the Loch Lomond Seaplane, a luxury plane that will fly small groups over the entire region, giving a bird’s eye view of the spectacular scenery.

It’s hard to believe that so much diversity and beauty can exist so close to the urban centres of Edinburgh and Glasgow but then again, it’s a truly rermarkable region. And a perfect base to capture the true essence of Scotland.

TOURIST INFORMATION CENTRES

ABERFOYLE
Trossachs Discovery Centre, Main Street, Aberfoyle
Tel: +44 (0)8707 200 604
info@aberfoyle.visitscotland.com

CALLANDER
Rob Roy & Trossachs Visitor Centre
Ancaster Square, Callander, FK17 8ED
Tel: +44 (0)8707 200 628
info@callander.visitscotland.com

DRYMEN
Drymen Library, The Square, Drymen, G63 0BD
Tel: +44 (0)1360 660 068
info@drymen.visitscotland.com

LOCH LOMOND
DrumkinnonTower, Balloch
Tel: +44 (0)1389 721 500
info@lochlomondshores.com

STIRLING
Old Town Jail, St John Street, Stirling, FK8 1EA
Tel: +44 (0)1786 445 222
stirlingtic@aillst.ossian.net

TROSSACHS
National Park Headquarters, The Old Station, Balloch Road, Balloch, G83 8BF
Tel: +44 (0)1389 722 600
info@lochlomond-trossachs.org

HOW TO GET THERE

Air: Glasgow and Prestwick Airports are within a one hour drive of the area. http://www.baa.com/main/airports/glasgow

Road: The area is well connected by road and there are several hire car companies located at the Airport and in the towns

Bus: Leading coach operators offer frequent connections from most parts of Britain.

National Express
Tel: +44 (0)8705 808 080
http://www.nationalexpress.co.uk

Scottish City Link Coaches
Tel: +44(0)8705 505 050
http://www.citylink.co.uk

Rail: The area is also well connected by rail.
Scotrail
Tel: +44 (0)8457 550 033
http://www.scotrail.co.uk