This is the third book of four in a series to walks in Scotland’s first National Park published by Northern Eye Books – Top 10 Easy Summits and Top 10 Lochside Walks were published in 2016, Top 10 Pub Walks will follow this year.They form part of their superb Top 10 series of guidebooks and are the first in the series to focus on walking in Scotland.
My love of hillwalking began on the mountains surrounding Loch Lomond, as they were, when growing up in Glasgow, my local hills. Mountains such as Ben Lomond, Ben Donich, Stob Binnein, Cruach Ardrain and The Cobbler have been climbed many times in the intervening years.
This book contains walks onto all of these mountains as well as Ben Vorlich, Ben Ledi and Ben Venue, several of the Crianlarich mountains and a couple of lesser-visited peaks above Tyndrum. The scenery from their slopes and summits is incredible which, on a clear day, can extend to the West and Central Highlands, to the rolling hills of Galloway, out across the Firth of Clyde to Ailsa Craig and to the serrated outline of Arran.
These are some of the best views in Britain and the ten routes detailed in this book show off some of Scotland’s finest mountain scenery.
Cruach Tairbeirt offers a magnificent panorama across much of Loch Lomond & the Trossachs National Park
Between Loch Lomond and Loch Long (and the villages of Tarbet and Arrochar) is a narrow neck of land measuring approximately 2 miles. Famously, in 1263, the Vikings, led by the wonderfully named Haakon King of Man, carried their longships over this ground, having sailed up Loch Long from the sea, to reach Loch Lomond where they conducted a series of devastating raids.
The ancient practice of dragging boats and their contents between bodies of water gave rise to the name Tarbet, which means ‘the place of portage’ and there are several similarly named settlements and lochs across Scotland.
Loch Long’s name has nothing to do with its length (although it extends for 20 miles) but instead means Loch of Ships; this may relate to the boats that once navigated their way inland from the sea. Loch Long is one of a number of sea lochs that bite into Scotland’s coastline and it was used as a torpedo testing ground during World War II.
Rising to 415-metres above Tarbet, Arrochar and Loch Long is the shapely hill of Cruach Tairbeirt. Woodland paths and open hillside gain the top where an extraordinary panorama awaits, particularly to the north and west; the Munro’s of Beinn Narnain, Ben Vane, and Ben Vorlich (with Loch Sloy nestled inbetween the latter two) and the Corbett of The Brack rise sharply from Arrochar and the long finger of Loch Long.
Loch Lomond is also visible with Ben Lomond standing guard, while the big jumble of muscular mountains above Crianlarich form an impressive barrier. However it is the view of The Cobbler that is a real standout with its iconic profile and triumvirate of peaks clearly visible.
To see a selection of my Loch Lomond and the Trossachs images please click here
For much of the past 18 months I have been walking and photographing in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
The work (if you want to call it that) was for 2 guidebooks that have just been published by Northern Eye Books. They form part of their superb Top 10 series of guidebooks and are the first in the series to focus on walking in Scotland.
The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park is almost my local patch, being only an hour or so from where I live. It is a place of great beauty, grandeur and drama and one I love exploring.
But what makes it so special?
Well for starters the landscape straddles the highland Boundary Fault Line and consequently has a magnificent array of rugged peaks.
It boasts 40 mountains over 2,500 feet in height including some of Scotland’s most iconic Munros and Corbetts: Ben Lomond, Ben Ledi, Stob Binnien and the incomparable Ben Arthur (better known as The Cobbler), to name but a few.
Yet away from the big mountains and the park is also home to numerous lower hills, such as Conic Hill, Ben A’an and Duncryne, each of which offer a challenge but are within reach of the general walker.
Also within the National Park’s confines are around 50 rivers and burns, 3 National Nature reserves, 2 Forest Parks and 22 large lochs, including Loch Lomond — at 28 miles long and 5 miles wide, the largest body of freshwater in the UK.
Add to this Loch Arklet, Loch Ard, Loch Katrine and Loch Venachar and you have an array of beautiful water with breathtaking scenery and wonderful wildlife.
Loch Katrine and Loch Arklet, which both sit in the heart of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, have been the source of Glasgow’s drinking water since 1914.
They are separated by a wild expanse of moorland where tangible evidence of this engineering marvel exists and a fantastic walk links both bodies of water.
The route begins from Stronachalacher (which translates from Gaelic as ‘The Stonemason’s Point), on the banks of Loch Katrine (itself possibly meaning ‘The Dusky Loch’), only a couple of miles away from Glengyle.
Here, in 1671, one Rob Roy MacGregor was born. He was involved in the Jacobite uprising of 1688 and became a folk hero, chiefly because of his feud with James Graham, 1st Duke of Montrose. Rob Roy died at Balquhidder in 1734.
In 1817, 7 years after writing his epic poem, ‘Lady of the Lake’, Sir Walter Scott published ‘Rob Roy’, a somewhat exaggerated account of Rob Roy MacGregor that romanticised his life. Just like ‘Lady of the Lake’, Scott’s book contributed greatly to the popularity of The Trossachs.
Leaving Stronachlachar, a private road runs above the loch, soon crossing an aqueduct. This flows from Loch Arklet and was opened in 1914 to provide extra water for Loch Katrine, which had supplied Glasgow’s water since 1859.
The 34-mile Loch Katrine/Glasgow aqueduct was an incredible feat of engineering, as it required no pumps, the water’s flow wholly driven by gravity.
The road provides easy walking for a further 3km where it reaches a waymarked footpath on the right. Yet it’s worthwhile keeping on for another 100 metres to the striking Royal Cottage. This was built as accommodation for Queen Victoria when opening the water scheme in 1859.
However a local story states that a 21-gun salute smashed all the windows and therefore she couldn’t stay overnight.
Walk back to the waymarked path which climbs away from Loch Katrine. Continue over moorland, passing a ventilation shaft, a legacy of the aqueduct’s construction. Turn right at the next shaft, following a narrow path to the walks highest point.
This spot has a wilder air and presents a superb view to Ben Lui’s magnificent profile, while to the southwest rises Ben Lomond.
Back at the main path continue as it traverses beneath Tom Ard, eventually descending to a forestry track. Turn right and follow this to a path on the right, just before the B829.
A wonderful section of the walk continues across moorland, following the route of the Statute Labour Road that once ran between Aberfoyle and Inversnaid.
The paths and roads alongside Loch Arklet have been used for centuries. The old Military Road (which the B829 runs along today) was built around 300 years ago to serve the Inversnaid Garrison. Soldiers were stationed here to guard the road and keep control of local rebels and cattle thieves, who would have had superb knowledge of the local topography for their illicit deeds.
In due course a stunning view across Loch Arklet and the Arrochar Alps grabs your attention and once at the B829, an easy walk returns to Stronachlachar.
Beinn an t-Sidhein (pronounced Ben Shee-han) rises above the attractive village of Strathyre, in the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
It is thought that Strathyre means ‘twisting valley’ and certainly the River Balvag winds its way through Strathyre’s tight confines.
It was part of the main droving route between the Highlands and Lowlands during the 17th century while Strathyre village became a popular tourist destination with the arrival of the Callander to Oban railway in the 1870’s.
The poet Duguld Buchanan was born in Strathyre in 1716. He helped the Reverend James Stewart of Killin translate the New Testament into Scottish Gaelic and wrote an important collection of Gaelic religious poems. A monument dedicated to Buchanan stands in the village.
Folklore is prevalent in many mountain names, including Beinn an t-Sidhein, which means Fairy Mountain.
Robert Kirk, who was born in 1644 near Strathyre, in Aberfoyle, documented many of these stories during his life. However it wasn’t until 1815 (over 120 years after his death) that Sir Walter Scott published Kirk’s work in a book called The Secret Commonwealth. It is still in print today.
A good path climbs steeply through Strathyre Forest onto open hillside where there are striking views of Loch Lubnaig. It is approximately 3½ miles long and is thought to translate from Gaelic as Loch of the Bend. The Corbett of Ben Ledi rises steeply from its southern edge.
After negotiating a boggier stretch of path the top of An t-Sidhein is attained.
At 546-metres An t-Sidhein grants a breathtaking view. The rounded shape of Beinn an t-Sidhein rises a little to the north, with Strathyre and the River Balvag, hemmed in by steep hillside, drawing the eye to Loch Earn and the huge bulk of Ben Lawers. However it is the view east to Ben Vorlich and Stuc a Chroin and west to the long line of jagged Crianlarich Munro’s that really catches the eye.
The path then extends across rougher, heather clad moorland onto Beinn an t-Sidhein 562-metre summit and an incredible panorama across a mountainous landscape.
The lonely landscape of Glen Buckie sits way below Beinn an t-Sidhein while beyond Stob Binnein, Ben More, Cruach Ardrain and Beinn Tulaichean, above Crianlarich, take centre stage.
The late, great hillwalker and broadcaster Tom Weir lived much of his life in Gartocharn, which sits near the southern edge of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
The little hill of Duncryne rises above Gartocharn and Tom climbed onto its summit almost every day (and sometimes at night). He described the view as the best from any small hill in Scotland.
Known locally (and perhaps a little disparagingly) as ‘The Dumpling’, due to its profile, Duncryne means ‘the rounded hill-fort’, and when on the summit it is not difficult to understand why it was once used as a defensive site. However Duncryne’s history dates back some 350-million years when it was formed through volcanic activity.
From its 146-metre summit Gartocharn nestles comfortably below amongst its rural confines, where fields spread northwest to reach Loch Lomond, its full width and many of its islands on display.
Surrounding the loch is the great beacon of Ben Lomond, the distinctive ridge of Conic Hill and the rounded Luss Hills, scored with deep glens. Beyond, the Cobbler’s iconic profile and the brawny Arrochar Alps draw the eye to a great procession of Southern Highland mountains. To the east the lowland landscape is broken by the long line of the Campsie Fells.
Therefore it is hard to disagree with Tom Weir’s view.