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Lochs and Glens - March 2011
By Jeanette Lemmon

Day Two

Having had late dinner last night, we got late breakfast this morning – more time to sleep! We were up at 8:15 a.m. on this Saturday. Jim immediately put Sounds of the 60s with Brian Matthews on the radio as we prepared for the day. There was a mist covering Ben Lomond and the other Bens across the loch. We also could see the Loch Sloy power station, the UK’s largest conventional hydroelectric power station, with four large pipes running up the hill behind the building. It takes water from Loch Sloy at the top of the mountain and uses the water to power the large turbines inside the building to create power for Clydeside and Central Scotland during peak times, and a full capacity can be achieved in less than 5 minutes. Loch Sloy is dammed to hold the water and is fed by a series of tunnels and aqueducts from a larger area. The station was opened in 1950 by the Queen Mother and refurbished in the late 1990s at a cost of £113 million. It can produce 160 megawatts of power.

The mountains appeared then disappeared in the mist which we could visibly see moving past our window. The sun came out briefly and reflected the mountains on the water. We saw a lot of fabulous reflections on the water of the lochs as we travelled around Scotland on this tour. Loch Lomond is 30 metres above sea level and is approximately 25 miles long and 5 miles wide at the widest point on the southern end of the loch. It is 600 feet deep in places.

We had our breakfast at 9:10 a.m. and were at the coach at 10:10 a.m. for departure. There is a waterfall at the side of the Inversnaid Hotel. From here Wordsworth got the idea for his poem “To A Scottish Maid.” As we drove out along The Motorway, Kevin told us the area is all part of the Inversnaid Reserve. We saw many wild goats as well as the highland cattle or Heiland Coos as they are known. Wild rhododendrons grow along the road and up into the forested areas. Snade Burn rushes over rocks and boulders and makes a picturesque scene at the side of the road. Kevin shared many local stories along with the history as we road past Arklet Dam and Loch and on to Loch Katrine, where we stopped to take photos. Many of the conifers around the lochs looked dead, but Jim assured me they were European larch trees, the only conifers that turn brown in the winter.

We stopped by the Stronachlacher Lodge for photos near the McGregor cemetery. There is a tearoom at the edge of the loch. The sun came out for a short time. As we drove along, I noted the large tufts of brown grass that will later in the year be a rich green. The highlands look so different this time of year with their varying shades of tan and brown and the almost black of the heather that will be lovely shades of lavender in August and September. The ferns and bracken were wilted in the winter weather and lay folded over upon themselves, later to perk up and unfurl new shoots and turn a lush green. We passed Loch Chon and I continued to notice the countryside with lichen on the trees and rocks, moss around tree trunks and stones, burns (streams) running over rocks and tree roots, and many waterfalls in many different sizes and force coming down the mountains. It feels like a magical area even in March. We passed Loch Ard and the Forest Hills Hotel. The daffodils have buds but they haven’t opened yet this far north. Everything is just so beautiful – nature is wonderful!

Low stone walls surround stone houses in picturesque settings. We passed the source of the River Forth, much smaller in this part of the country than it is near Edinburgh. When we stopped at the Scottish Wool Centre in Aberfoyle, Jim didn’t want to shop, so we walked the main street of the small village before having a drink in The Forth Inn. I visited this centre on the tour of Scotland when I met my husband in June 2000 (article of the tour on this site). I photographed a strange fluffy chicken outside the building. We crossed the Duke’s Pass, referring to the Duke of Montrose, when we got on the road again, and entered the area of the Trossachs National Park. Ospreys can be seen here April to September, but we were too early for them. In May the bluebells carpet the woods with their brilliant color.

There used to be slate mines in this area and the broken pieces of slate can still be seen at the roadside. We were on Three Loch Drive where three small lochs dot the landscape. One of the lochs is Loch Drunky. Whisky (comes from ‘uisge beatha’ meaning the water of life – spelled without an ‘e’ in Scotland) was secretly made near the loch in times past. To warn those making the illicit brew that the government officials were near, a piper on a hill would play during the day but play faster and faster if the officials came near so the men at the still would have time to hide the evidence of their activities. One night the piper fell asleep and didn’t play until it was almost too late. When he did play, it was too late to hide everything, so the whisky had to be dumped in the loch – hence, the name Loch Drunky.

By this time, it was time for a comfort break and lunch at another Lochs and Glens hotel, The Loch Achray Hotel. We were told by a reliable source that this hotel has the largest midges in the highlands as the weather warms up. Fresh salmon sandwiches and salad were available for £4.95. It also was possible to order a hot meal in the restaurant or choose from several other sandwich types. Jim is allergic to salmon and I don’t care for fish, so we chose ham and tomato sandwiches. We sat outside overlooking the loch but Jim was up and down, playing with his radio with headset, trying to get his Tottenham Hotspur football (soccer) game on the radio. Another Lochs and Glens coach was running half an hour ahead of us, so he hitched a ride on it to reach Callender ahead of us. He just knew there must be a pub showing the game on the big screen! I stayed with our coach.

On the way to Callender, we passed numerous small lochs then crossed the fault line back into the lowlands. On the way, we saw 15-year-old Hamish and his wife, 3-year-old Heather, with their young baby – Heiland coos all! The main street of Callender is long and wide with shops on both sides. The name Waverley had been mentioned as a possible place for the football game to be on. I walked to the far end of the street and found the Waverley Hotel but no Jim. I asked if anyone had been in asking for the English football game. No one had. They were all watching rugby. I walked back up the street going in Pringle’s Woolen Shop then into Tourist Information to see what they had. As I reached the end of town where I had begun, this end overlooked by a snow-capped mountain, I looked into the Crown Hotel and saw Jim sitting on a high stool watching sports. The football game was over, and the Tottenham game had finished in a draw, which frustrated him greatly. After I had rounded him up, we walked across the street for afternoon tea before walking back toward the coach. Jim thought of something he had to get from Tourist Information and was quickly off down the street. He always managed to be the last on board the coach, although he claimed he was on time to the minute each time.

It had turned cloudy and cold by now. We drove through another area of water running over rocks in burns and waterfalls, long and short, and drove along Loch Lubraig. There were camping areas along this stretch of road with tents and caravans in different places. I saw snowdrops blooming here and there. We passed Strathyre. Kevin told us a strath is a wide u-shaped valley and a glen is a narrow v-shaped valley. We came to Balquidder, where Rob Roy spent his last years and where he is buried. The road to the grave is not suitable for coaches as there is nowhere to turn around, so we didn’t make a stop here. This is Argyll and Clan Campbell territory. Next came Lochearnhead at the head of Loch Earn. We saw a Scout camp near here and just past that some sheep wandered onto the road. This is called a highland traffic jam! In the region of Glen Ogle, a Roman legion was stationed many centuries ago and spent 40 years here. When we reached Crianlarich, the discussion turned to the railway and all of the lines that were closed in the 1960s by the infamous Dr. Beeching, making it difficult to reach many parts of Britain easily. Some lines have been and are being restored, but many can never be restored as other things have been built in their place. There is a railway station in Crianlarich with one line going to Glasgow and another going to Inverness. The next village was Ardlui with its Green Welly Shop where Jim once bought his favourite pair of hiking boots. They have now lost their soles and he still refuses to throw them away! I live in fear that they will end up on the mantelpiece some day with flowers in them.

We pulled into the viewpoint at Inveruglas, where the coaches park overnight, then boarded the Inversnaid Hotel ferry which took us across the loch to the hotel. We had late dinner again so had some time in our room, nearly falling asleep as we watched the news on TV. We did make it to dinner on time then to the function room for the evening’s entertainment. Another singer/comedian played music and talked, and many people got up to dance. There had been a quiz sheet at the reception desk this morning. I hadn’t realized Jim had turned mine in, so when I was announced as the winner of the quiz, I was somewhat startled and embarrassed. I won a bottle of sparkling perry!

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