In the Heart of #TheTrossachs

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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.

Loch Katrine

Above Loch Katrine

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.

Loch Arklet

Loch Arklet and the Arrochar Alps

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.

Stronachlachar

Walking along the old Statute Labour Road

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 Dubh – The Black Hill of #Luss

Sitting near the craggy Arrochar Alps and overlooked by the ever-popular Munro of Ben Lomond, the Luss Hills that rise above Loch Lomond’s western shore are vastly underrated and grant superb walking with wonderful far-reaching views.

Ben Lomond and Loch Lomond from Beinn Dubh

Ben Lomond and Loch Lomond from Beinn Dubh

Bounded by Glen Fruin in the south and Glen Douglas to the north this lovely range of hills reaches its high point of 713 metres on Beinn Chaorach. Glen Luss strikes through the heart of the Luss Hills and when up high the ruggedness of the upland topography, scored with deep v-shaped passes, wouldn’t look out of place in the Lake District. The name Luss, from the Gaelic ‘lus’, means herb.

Clan Colquhoun has held lands in and around Luss since the 1300’s and during the 16th century the family stayed in Rossdhu Castle (now a ruin) on the banks of Loch Lomond. The most infamous episode in the clan’s history happened in 1603 when they met neighbouring Clan MacGregor in Glen Fruin where a bloody battle left the Colquhoun’s with 140 of their clan dead.

Beinn Dubh makes for a fabulous ½ days hillwalk. In general good paths line the walk, which can be steep at times, and as the 642-metre top is approached the ground underfoot becomes a little rougher.

Glen Luss and the Luss Hills

Glen Luss and the Luss Hills

Having left the attractive confines of Luss village it does not take long to gain height. As you climb up Beinn Dubh’s southeastern shoulder a fabulous view across Glen Luss to Coille-eughainn Hill, Beinn Chaorach and Beinn Eich opens out while it is worth looking back for a wonderful view across Loch Lomond, its many islands mapped out below, to Dumbarton Rock and the River Clyde. On a clear day, Tinto Hill, some 50 miles to the southeast, is also visible.

Loch Lomond and the Arrochar Alps from Beinn Dubh

Loch Lomond and the Arrochar Alps from Beinn Dubh

Just beyond the summit cairn the full panorama is complete with a breathtaking view of the Arrochar Alps (Beinn Narnain and the Cobbler in particular), big Munro’s such as Beinn Chabhair and An Caisteal above Crianlarich and a great outlook north along Loch Lomond to Ben Lomond.

Beinn an Lochain – the finest #ArrocharAlp?

Beinn an Lochain rises sharply above the Rest and Be Thankful, a few miles west of Arrochar in Argyll & Bute, and grants a short, tough but rewarding out and back walk.

It is a Corbett, a Scottish mountain between 2500-2999 feet but of all the Arrochar Alps, with perhaps the exception of The Cobbler, Beinn an Lochain has the most mountain character, with great crags, an airy ridge and several steep ascents; magnificent views emanate from her slopes and summit.

A fine walk begins from either of the 2 lay-bys on each side of the A83, 1.5km north of the Rest and Be Thankful on the wonderfully named Bealach an Easian Dubh (the Pass of the Black Water).

The Rest and Be Thankful sits at 244-metres above sea level, at the junction of the A83 and the B828, and is overlooked by the steep crags of Beinn an Lochain. Its name refers to the inscribed stone that was placed by soldiers when they completed the original military road in the mid-1700’s. Ever since it has provided a welcome break for drovers, travellers and cyclists who have taken the steep climb from either Loch Long or Butterbridge; Thomas Pennant, Boswell and Johnson and Dorothy and William Wordsworth are just some of those who have enjoyed the spectacle.

As height is gained when ascending Beinn an Lochain there are superb views of Binnein an Fhidhleir’s spiky ridge, Ben Ime’s conical outline, and northeast along the length of Glen Kinglas. Below is the Kinglas Water at Butterbridge, spanned by the wonderful old stone bridge, built as part of General Wade’s 18th century military road network.

The higher you climb the outlook north to Ben More, Ben Lui and Ben Oss is remarkable while Loch Restil lies directly below. Beinn an Lochain’s sharp profile rises above and a real sense of its mountain character can now be appreciated – it is a marvellous sight.

The path then follows a line to the left of steep crags up its eastern face to arrive at the summit cairn – the panorama extends to the Arrochar Alps and Ben Lomond, the Cruachan Massif, Glen Etive Hills and, on a clear day, Mull.

Glen Kinglas from Beinn an Lochain

Glen Kinglas from Beinn an Lochain