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Issue 9 - LochLomond,Stirling,Trossachs)–landofadventure

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 9
July 2003

 

This article is 14 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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LochLomond,Stirling,Trossachs)–landofadventure

GavinSmithintroducesastunningareaofScotlandlong-favouredbytouristsandcelebratedinliteratureandsong

LochLomond,StirlingandtheTrossachsembracesomeofthemostbeautifulsceneryinScotland,aswellassitesassociatedwithgreathistoricaleventsthathaveshapedthemodernnation.MuchoftheareaiswithintheLochLomondandtheTrossachsNationalPark,Scotland’sfirstNationalPark,whichwasofficiallyopenedbyHRHThePrincessRoyalon24thJuly2002.

Theparkencompassessome720squaremilesofprimeScottishlandscapes,andextendsfromBallochatthesouthernendofLochLomondtoTyndrum,CrianlarichandKillin,byLochTay,inthenorth.InthewestitrunstotheArgyllForestPark,whileintheeastitembracesLochEarnandthepopulartouristtownofCallander.

Attheheartofthepark,ofcourse,isthelochitself,longafavouredplaceofrecreationforpeoplefromtheindustrialtownsofthewestofScotland,andthecityofGlasgow.ApproachingthelochalongthemainA82fromtheGlasgowarea,thevisitorarrivesatBallochandLochLomondShores,describedbytheNationalParkauthoritiesas“aprincipalgatewaytoScotland’sfirstNationalPark.”

CentraltoLochLomondShoresistheimposingDrumkinnonTower,amoderninterpretationofatraditionalScottishcastle,whichincludesshops,cafés,barsandviewinggalleries.Thereisalsoa350-seatgiantscreentheatrewherevisitorscanenjoytheLegendofLochLomondandBeneaththeLoch,ashortanimatedfamilyshowwhichfollowsthestoryofayoungotterasheexploresthedepthsofthelochandsomeofitsmythsandlegends.

Thoseinneedofretailtherapyarenotneglected,either,asLochLomondShoresincludestheNationalParkGatewayCentre,whichboasts70,000squarefeetofshoppingandrestaurantfacilities,featuringabranchofEdinburgh’sfamousstoreJenner’s.

LochLomondisthelargeststretchofinlandfreshwaterinBritain,at24mileslongandfivemilesacrossatitswidestpoint.ThelochwithitsbeautifulwoodedshoresisoverlookedbyBenLomond,andhasfeaturedinnumeroussongsandpoems,mostromanticallyTheBonnieBankso’LochLomond,writteninaCarlisleprisoncellbyaJacobitesupporterawaitingexecution.

Thelochisdottedwithanumberofislands,includingInchmurrin,withitsruinsofLennoxCastle,andInchcailleoch,ancestralburialplacefortheclanMacGregor.TheoutlawRobRoyMacGregor(seepage82)isoneofScotland’smostcharismaticandenduringhistoricalfigures,eveniftherealityofthemanwasprobablylessromanticthanhisportrayalbyLiamNeesonintheeponymous1995movie.Intruth,theMacGregorswereprincipallycattlethieveswithafruitfulsidelineinextortion.

TheNationalParkisbisectedbytheHighlandBoundaryFault,whichdividestheLowlandsfromtheHighlands,andishometosome200speciesofbirds,29speciesofmammals,andmorethanaquarterofBritain’swildplants.Onagoodday,thesharp-eyedvisitorwillseereddeerandbuzzards,andmaybeevenagoldeneagleifreallylucky.

RemnantsoftheancientCaledonianForestaretobefoundontheeastsideoftheA82,inGlenFalloch,southofCrianlarich,whileatGlenFinglasintheTrossachs,theWoodlandTrustisrestoringsome10,000acresofmixedwoodlandthroughreplantinginitiatives.

Forthewalker,the95-mile-longWestHighlandWay,whichrunsfromthenorthernoutskirtsofGlasgowtoFortWilliam,passesthroughtheNationalParkformuchofitslength.OtherwalksofnoteincludetheCowalWay,alongtheCowalpeninsula,andthecomparativelynewRobRoyWayintheTrossachs.TherearealsomanycyclerouteswithintheNationalPark,includingRoute7oftheNationalCycleNetwork,whichpassesthroughDrymen,Aberfoyle,Callander,LochearnheadandKillin.

WalkersandclimbersconvergeonArrochar,onthewesternshoresofLochLomond,inordertoexploretherangeofhillsoftenreferredtoastheArrocharAlps.ArrocharisdominatedbyBenArthur,betterknownas‘TheCobbler’.ItsoutlinehasbeensaidtoresembleacraggyfacewithaRomannoseandpointedbeard.Well,perhapsincertainlights…

Therearefourotherpeaksinthevicinitywhichextendtomorethan3,000feet,makingtheareaattractivetoseriousclimbers.ThehighestpeakisBenMore,nearCrianlarich,whichrisesto3,853feet.CrianlarichwasaRomanoutpostaround2,000yearsago,andisnowapopularbaseforvisitorswhoseideaofaholidayinvolvessomevigourousexercise.

Thatexercisemaytaketheformofwatersports,asthearea’smanylochsaffordampleopportunitiesforsailing,canoeing,water-skiing,wind-surfinganddiving.Ifyouprefertokeepyourfeetondryland,however,thengolf,pony-trekkingandevengo-kartingareotheractiveoptions.

AberfoyleisabustlingandbeautifullysituatedvillageintheheartoftheTrossachs–oftenreferredtoastheHighlandsinminiature.TheTrossachswereimmortalisedbySirWalterScottinseveralofhisWaverleynovels,publishedduringtheearly19thcentury,anditspopularitywithvisitorsdevelopedfromthattime.SovividwereScott’sdescriptionsofthelandscape,thatreadersfelttheurgetoseeitforthemselves,andsooncoachesweredescendingontheareafromfarandwide.Thesituationremainsmuchthesame,onlytoday’scoachesarepoweredbydieselenginesratherthanpulledbyhorses.

ClosetoAberfoyleisLochKatrine,whichinspiredScott’spoemTheLadyoftheLakeandhisnovelRobRoy.Holidaymakerscantakeapicturesqueandnostalgictripacrossthelochonthecentury-oldSSSirWalterScott.

Afewmilesnorth-eastofAberfoyleisanotherscenicandpopularvillage,Callander,hometotheRobRoyandTrossachsvisitorcentre.CallanderenjoysasettingjustasspectacularandbeautifulasAberfoyle,lyingintheshadowofBenLediandarangeofotherhills.

LikeCrianlarich,someofthefirstvisitorsitattractedweretheRomans,whobuiltafortclosetothemodernsettlement.Muchlater,theareadrewSirWalterScottandtheBorderswriterJamesHogg,‘theEttrickShepherd’,whileotherauthorswhowereinspiredtocommemorateandcelebratetheareaonthepageincludeWilliamWordsworth,JohnKeatsandGerardManleyHopkins.QueenVictoriaalsoadmiredthebeautyoftheTrossachs.

WilliamWordsworthfirstvisitedtheareaincompanywithhissister,Dorothy,andSamuelTaylorColeridge,and,byallaccounts,thelocalsweresomewhatbemusedbythepoet.Theirattitudetotouristsisonestilltobefoundtheworldovertoday.DorothyWordsworthrecordedinATourinScotlandin1803thatalaughwasoneveryfacewhenWilliamsaidwewerecometoseetheTrossachs;nodoubttheythoughtwehadbetterhavestayedatourownhomes.Williamendeavouredtomakeitappearnotsoveryfoolish,byinformingthemthatitwasaplacemuchcelebratedinEngland,thoughperhapslittlethoughtofbythem…

Forthehistorybuff,StirlingisoneofthemostfascinatingplacesinScotland,thoughitsstatusasthecountry’snewestcitydemonstratesthatitdoesnotliveinthepast.Stirlinghasavibrantuniversityculture,withtheMacRobertArtsCentreofferingavarietyoftheatricalexperiences,whilethecitycentreishometoadiverserangeofbars,eateriesandretailoutlets,rangingfromdepartmentstorestoboutiques.

StirlingwasoncethecapitalofScotland,andanimportantsettlementbyAD1000.ItisdominatedbyanimposingcastlewhichcangiveEdinburgharunforitsmoneyintermsofdramaticlocation.Thecastleisbuiltonavolcanicplug,andhasapanoramicviewofthesurroundingarea,includingthebattlefieldsofStirlingBridgeandBannockburn.

ThenearbyWallaceMonumentwasconstructedin1869tocommemorateSirWilliamWallace,heroofthe13thCenturyWarsofIndependence,andnowrenownedtheworldoverthankstoMelGibsonandthefilmBraveheart.Themoviemaynotbefaithfultothehistoricalfacts,itmayhavebeenlargelyfilmedinIrelandusingAmericanmoney,anditindisputablystarsanAustralian,butBraveheartanditsherohascometoserveasasymbolofpost-devolutionScotlandandnationalpride.

TheBattleofStirlingBridgetookplacein1297,whenWallacewonaspectacularvictoryoverEnglishforces,whileBannockburnwasfoughtinJune1314,andRoberttheBruce’svictorythereultimatelysecuredScotland’sindependence.

Thearea’sheritagedoesnotjustconsistofbattlefieldsandmartialmonuments,however.AmilefromStirlingisCambuskennethAbbey,foundedin1140,andonceusedasaccommodationfortheoldScotsParliament.TheAugustineprioryofInchmahomewasbuiltonanislandintheLakeofMenteith,nearAberfoyle,justunderacenturylater.

MenteithisoneoftheveryfewlochsinScotlandtobeartheAnglicisedterm‘lake’.InchmahomePriorywasoftenvisitedbyScottishroyalty,andtodaycanbeexploredbyboatfromPortofMenteith.

TheLakeofMenteithalsohasaplaceinthehistoryofScotland’sancientwintersportofcurling.In1979itswatersfrozesosolidlythat3,000curlersparticipatedinoneofthelargesttournaments–orbonspiels,incurlingparlance–everstaged.

WhetheryourinterestisinScotland’sscenery,itsopportunitiesforoutdooractivitiesoritsfascinatingheritage,LochLomond,StirlingandtheTrossachsoffersaricharrayofnaturaltreasuresandman-madefacilitiesguaranteedtomaketimespentintheareabothenjoyableandmemorable.