After numerous trips to the States to see friends and to marvel at the awesome scenery (and breweries), we decided it was high time they came over here to see what Engl… Scotland has to offer. Using Edinburgh as a base for a long weekend, we hired a car and spent 36 hours around Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, an area which boasts 720 sq miles of mountains, lochs, glens, burns, munros, corbetts and other Scottish words I pretend to understand.
The internet mostly points you towards tourist traps around Loch Lomond, but we were more interested in some smaller lochs and scenic drives to the east, taking advice from photographers and friends from that part of the world. Thanks especially to Shahbaz Majeed for his top tips! Check out his excellent Flickr page here. We weren’t able to capture too many magical misty sunrise shots ourselves so we went for moody greys and mossy greens instead.
N.B. All the photos were either taken by me or regular road trip teammate Maggie Gray, using Canon 5D Mark II bodies and a variety of lenses. Hover over the photos for more credit details.
Setting off from Edinburgh, we waved at Stirling Castle (well worth a stop if you have time) and pushed on to the Trossachs on the A873 and the A81 which took us past the Lake of Menteith. Why it’s not called a loch is somewhat of a mystery, potentially the fault of 16th Century Dutch cartographers apparently. We then passed through the relatively busy village of Aberfoyle before stopping at Loch Ard to stretch our legs and stomp around on Altskeith House Beach. It’s believed to be the source of the River Forth, and was described by Sir Walter Scott in his 1817 novel Rob Roy as “an enchanting sheet of water”. Check out David Mould Photography for a great guide to Loch Ard full of wonderful photos. N.B. I’ve since returned to Loch Ard and followed David’s advice to find some superior spots around Milton Basin and Kinlochard.
We pushed on in the car, driving past the forested Loch Chon and remote Loch Arklet that offers superior mountain views on a good day, until we reached the end of the road at Inversnaid on the east bank of Loch Lomond. A fun, windy drive takes you down to Inversnaid Hotel where you can grab some food (if it’s open) and stroll over to Inversnaid falls.
From there, we doubled back on ourselves, getting a different perspective on the scenery (mostly with added torrential rain) before turning north from Aberfoyle on the A821, better known as Duke’s Pass. It’s one of Britain’s most scenic drives, originally built by the Duke of Montrose in the 19th century to improve access to his estate. Have your cameras at the ready for when Loch Achray and Tigh Mor castle come into view, especially if a rainbow materialises as it did for us! This is soon followed by Loch Venachar which is home to Venachar Lochside, a charming restaurant, cafe and shop that champions local produce. And a little further on you will find real ale pub and shop The Lade Inn, plus Mhor Fish and Mhor Bread in the town of Callander on the fringes of The Trossachs. Bracklinn Falls are close to Callander and well worth a look if you have time.
As you can see from the photos above, we found ourselves a unique cabin through AirBnb to stay in called Mother’s Teat (!) located on the south shore of Loch Voil. After passing by Rob Roy’s grave in Balquhidder, we tested out our car’s suspension on the bumpy Loch Voil track system to reach the property. Amusingly, it was suggested that we could take the better maintained road on the north side to the Monachyle Mhor Hotel and then phone our hosts up for a rowboat crossing! Maybe next time…
After some brief exploration in the rain, some serious wood chopping, and some head scratching by the pound operated electricity meter, we settled down for whiskies and beers by the fire. The next morning, we marched off into the woods around our cabin and discovered some mossy waterfalls and a clearing around the adjoining Loch Doine. There are, of course, numerous epic walks and munros around the park that you can tackle, if you’ve got the time and inclination!
Of course, we couldn’t let the Americans leave without visiting a whisky distillery. After a hasty lunch at nearby Mhor 84 we made our way over to Glengoyne Distillery just south of the Trossachs. Whisky has been distilled there since 1820, always unpeated, and usually aged in Jerez sherry barrels that go on a carefully curated six year journey before they make it to the Highlands. We skipped a tour and instead wandered off to find the hidden glen and waterfall behind the tasting room, before working our way through the core range and a few specials with friendly and knowledgeable shop staff.
We came away with a bottle of their exceptional Teapot Dram, a cask strength bottling that has been matured in first fill Oloroso casks. The name refers to the “thrice-daily dram that flowed from a bashed copper teapot in the distillery canteen until the 1970s” . That’s my kind of canteen. Glengoyne is only 15 miles from Glasgow, and 50 miles from Edinburgh, so it’s relatively easy to get to compared to the likes of Talisker, Old Pulteney and Laphroaig, and they make some very fine whisky.
Hopefully this was the first of many visits to this beautiful corner of Britain, as there’s so much more to explore. If you have any questions about where we went, or ideas for our next trip, don’t hesitate to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.