A large hare was seen bouncing around Appletree Cottage garden this morning. The first sighting this year.
Walking from Appletree Cottage
Croftamie used to have a handful of water powered mills and one of the larger ones was a sawmill. The site of this sawmill is visible by way of some overgrown flat ground to the left of the path between the path and the burn. The site has been completely cleared however and almost no evidence of this ancient industry remains.
After a pleasant walk we're out of the woods and into the open courtesy of an old iron gate. The views are excellent. To the north west we can follow the Endrick Water as it makes its way to Loch Lomond. It passes under the former Forth and Clyde Junction Railway Bridge which is now used to carry a section of the water pipe way which runs from Loch Lomond to Edinburgh. There is now a pedestrian and cycle bridge built over the pipe way and this forms part of both the Sustrans Cycle Route 7 (which runs from Sunderland in the north of England to Inverness in the Highlands) and the John Muir Way.
Walking south, along the route of the Endrick for a bit we have great views of Killearn in the distance. Before the bridge at Drymen was constructed there were various ways to cross the Endrick. One of these was a ferry at more or less the same place where the bridge is now. Otherwise fords were the order of the day. Many of the fords have washed away but the old roadways leading up to them on either side can sometimes still be discerned either by ground levels or by lines of trees or both.
At Dalnair Castle
Our route across the parkland took us back to where we had come in - the former service entrance gates. From there we walked back into the village and down to where the former Fourth and Clyde Junction Railway used to cross the main road. The station house is still visible on the eastern side of the road. From there we walked up the former railway track which is now a cycle and pedestrian walkway forming part of the John Muir Way.
Back to Appletree Cottage
The former railway line forms an excellent short cut from Appletree Cottage to the village of Croftamie. In the village the former famous Wayfarers Inn has undergone major refurbishment under its new owners. It was to re-open in April as the But & Ben bistro but due to covid this has been delayed. We are hoping that all is well and that the new owners will open with huge success when the pandemic is over.
On the railway path the gorse (known in Scotland as Whin) and the Broom are in full bloom.
In Autumn there is also a huge display of sloe berries which are popularly picked by locals for their home made sloe gin.
At the top of the railway path we join the back road leading to Appletree Cottage and Shandon Farm. This road is quiet with occasional farm traffic making it an excellent route popular with walkers and cyclists. There are good views across the landscape towards Stirling and Killearn giving a beautiful open aspect to living in and visiting this area.
Appletree Cottage, Loch Lomond, Scotland
When things ease up after lockdown Appletree Cottage is the place come and visit. Set in beautiful rolling countryside at the southern edge of Loch Lomond it is the perfect location for walking, cycling and exploring in clean fresh air.
The cottage itself has its own private garden and every bedroom has its own private bathroom with shower, w.c. and wash basin making it ideal for post-covid get togethers.
The one downstairs bedroom is ideal for elderly friends or relatives who find difficulty climbing stairs. A large open plan downstairs communal living area and patio provide plenty of space.
To avoid crowds and visiting busy supermarkets, Sainsburys, Waitrose, Asda and Tesco all deliver to the cottage. For last minute requirements there is a well stocked mini market within four minutes drive as well as a pharmacy, newsagent and excellent butcher. These shops operate strict rules of allowing only one or two people in the shop at one time (depending on which shop it is) maintaining the safety of shop staff and customers.
The roads around Appletree Cottage are all quiet single track roads with occasional passing places. The road past Appletree and beyond forms part of the national Sustrans Cycle Route 7 which in its entirety runs from Sunderland in the north of England to Inverness in the highlands of Scotland. As these roads are quiet they are also popular with cyclists and walkers who are just exploring them for a day out.
In the United States Muir is credited for being instrumental in the protection and foundation of Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. More can be read about John Muir here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Muir. In Scotland the John Muir Trust was formed to protect wilderness and more can be found about the trust here: www.johnmuirtrust.org/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIrKnu7czl6QIVQuztCh0OAQ9jEAAYAiAAEgJI0_D_BwE
Cycling and Walking, Loch Lomond
From Appletree Cottage there are plenty of places to cycle and walk. One of our favourites is to cycle down to the village of Gartocharn and from there to go along the path through the nature reserve by the shore of the loch. At the end of this beautiful trail through the woods the views up the loch are spectacular as are the collections of wading birds to be seen.
Cottage Garden enhancement
Whilst Appletree Cottage has been closed to visitors during the Covid-19 pandemic we have taken the opportunity to enhance the garden area by adding a small rockery with a picket fence and gate to protect it from any harsh wind. We have also planted up rows of willow and refurbished the lawn areas. We hope that you'll chose to come and visit us when we re-open (hopefully July / August) and are able to enjoy the many advantages and beauty of Appletree Cottage!
The orchard at Shand0n Farm, home of Appletree Cottage was in full bloom last week.
The trees - the oldest of which were planted six years ago grow bigger every year.
Despite the mild winter the blossom on the trees is quite amazing
There are three orchard areas - the main orchard planted in March 2014, the western orchard planted a year later and the paddock orchard planted in 2018 & 2019. The western orchard is the closest to the cottage and was successfully added to last year.
Creating a wind break
One of the first things we did, at the same time as planting the main orchard was to also put in a wind break. For this we chose Willow and Hornbeam. The willow, which went in as pencil sized sticks can be seen on the left of the picture below. Hasn't it grown!
In all we have planted 48 varieties - many of them Scottish. Some are surprised to discover that there was a lot of apple growing in Scotland - particularly in the Clyde Valley, Lothian and Fife. When the supermarkets became popular and centralised their distribution Scottish apples didn't fare so well - partly because they bruised in transit. Many orchards were grubbed up in the 1950's - 1970's. Recently there have been revivals of the old Scottish varieties and orchards are being planted across the land - albeit on a relatively small scale. Below is one of the excellent Scottish strains - Beauty of Moray. This apple, although a cooker produces a beautiful crisp clear juice which we bottle, pastuerise and sell locally.
The eastern or paddock orchard was planted in 2018 and 2019. By way of variation we planted the centre of this area on the same mm106 rootstock as the main orchard but the peripheral rows are on mm9, less vigorous stock with the trees closer together.
Over by Appletree (luxury self catering cottage for 8 people) is the western orchard. This was planted in 2016, much of it on what was a former stock yard. The soil here is not as good as the other areas so the trees have required more feeding. Drainage was also initially a problem but works undertaken over the intervening period have alleviated the situation.
In this area we have also planted blueberries, cherry and plum trees.
In total we have planted 350 trees. With all this blossom our fingers are crossed for a good harvest this year!
For the third year in a row we are having a long, dry, sunny period in Spring. Whilst very pleasant we do have to keep an eye that recent plantings and young flora don't run dry. Here are a few things which are in full bloom in this beautiful weather....
This year we tried a selection of Tulips. These bulbs produce flowers in many different colours and styles. Particularly satisfying were the red and yellow variety we planted in an old fam feeding trough.
Forget-me-nots grow wild now having been introduced as a small clump. Pretty and tenacious they have spread to many parts of the farm. We're encouraging them to take over even more as they are very attractive at this time of year.
Daffodils are a good reliable favourite. This double crown offers an alternative to the common variety.. Near the Appletree sign by the gate there are some with miniature heads.
Stone feeding troughs which we inherited when we took over the farm have proved very useful planters. A few holes drilled in the base and they're ready to go...
Wall flowers are very attractive - especially when planted against the white harling. This particular one has been coming back for year after year..
During the Covid 19 lockdown we've taken the opportunity the start a rock garden in the cottage garden along with picket fence and gate. Two colours of rhododendrons (red and white) have been planted along with grasses, primroses and a large selection of bulbs.
With the beginning of May the apple trees around Appletree Cottage and Shandon Farm are coming into full bloom
The trees around Appletree Cottage are part of the more recent planting.
The glorious sunny weather we've been having provides great opportunity for the bees and other insects to do their bit. The blossoms on the trees range from white to deep pink.
As well as around 350 Appletree's we have 2 pear trees - which this year are looking very promising. We may get our first pears yet if this blossom is anything to go by.
The Beauty of Moray trees are a very similar shape to the pear trees and have a similar amount of blossom this year
The first trees were planted in March 2014 and have now started producing apples in reasonable quantities. After picking we press the apples - mixing varieties together - to produce juice which we bottle and sell locally.
During the recent lockdown for Covid-19 it has been sad to see the cottage empty of visitors during such spectacularly beautiful weather. Hoping that you'll all come and visit us when things get back to normal. In the meantime stay well and stay safe.
Spring has Sprung at Appletree Cottage
Spring is in the air at Appletree Cottage, Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
Daffodils are starting to raise their heads above ground, snowdrops are in abundance and the world has started to come to life again. This hedgehog has come out of hibernation and is looking for something to eat. It is unusual to see hedgehogs during the day - often it can be a sign of sickness - but this fellow appears to be in excellent health
This male pheasant was seen having a good look at Appletree Self Catering Cottage through the window. As well as this pheasant a medium sized roe deer has been spotted at the foot of the slope in front of the cottage. It appears to be munching its way through the stack of pruning from our apple trees. Better that than chewing the trees themselves.
Snowdrops are now out in force. The daffodils are trying to catch them up and other bulbs are beginning to poke their heads above the soil. Watch this space for further updates...
Walking part of the John Muir Way
A great walk is from Carbeth to Appletree Self Catering Cottage. This follows part of the John Muir Way – the first section cross country with paths and the latter part along quiet single track roads at the southern end of Loch Lomond
The John Muir Way is a walking and cycling route commemorating the John Muir (1838-1914) who founded the National Park movement in the USA. His activism was responsible for saving the Yosemite Valley wilderness and Sequoia National Park.
The trail runs from Muir’s birthplace in the town of Dunbar on the east coast of Scotland to Helensburgh on the west coast.
The section from Carbeth to Appletree Cottage is perhaps most suited to walkers and perhaps mountain bikes. There is an alternative part of the route which follows the quiet single track roads at this stage and is more suited to cyclists.
The best way to approach doing this route is with two cars. We left one car at Carbeth and walked back to Appletree Self Catering Cottage and then drove to pick up the car we’d left at Carbeth.
Carbeth is a small hamlet which over the last 200 years has grown around the former Carbeth Inn. The inn, made famous in Sir Walter Scott’s 1817 novel Rob Roy was popular, particularly with bikers. It closed in 2017 and is currently undergoing major - reportedly £1 million – refurbishment.
We parked the car in one of the spaces opposite the pub and walked along the path beside the road for about one hundred yards in the direction of Glasgow until we came to a track leading off to the right.
After going through the gateway we walked down this dirt road, past an old bunt- out abandoned house and followed signs for the John Muir Way.
Soon we were walking gently up hill with the famous Carbeth fisheries on to the right, between us and the main road. Stocked every day with rainbow trout it offers bait and fly fishing in its varous ponds. A lovely relaxing day out on a sunny day.
More information about Carbeth Fishery can be found here: https://carbethfishery.co.uk
After the fishery we continue walking along the dirt track, following signs for the John Muir Way and soon pass through the courtyard of Eden Mill.
Eden Mill, accessible from the main road and part of a chain is a Farm Shop, Café and Soft Play area. In late November and in December it is a popular haunt for Christmas Tree purchasers from Glasgow and the Loch Lomond area.
More information about Eden Mill in Carbeth can be found here: https://edenmill.co.uk
From Eden Mill the route climbs at a steady pace up into the hills. Through some pine trees and past a water treatment works. Near the top of the hill the trail enters a wood and soon opens out onto the Burncrooks Reservoir.
The path follows the shore of this attractive body of water. Right up in the hills the views from here to the north are both panoramic and spectacular.
Soon we come to the reservoir dam and our descent begins – with some gently ups and downs.
Travelling from north to south as we are (as opposed to south to north) we get the best views. Travelling in the other direction we would always be looking back over our shoulder.
First we travel through recently planted woodland which gives way to more mature forest.
Much of this forest to the north has been felled. After a bit our view to the north is clear again and in the middle distance we can see Appletree Cottage and Shandon Farm buildings.
Cameron Muir and Wester Cameron
We follow the path through the forest eventually joining a track with runs across Cameron Muir form Finnich Toll in the east to Wester Cameron Farm in the west.
We turn left and head for Wester Cameron Farm. Like our own ancient Shandon Farm the buildings at Wester Cameron bear testament to a long history.
Wester Cameron Farm is at the end of the tarmac single track road which we now follow west. We follow it happily without a car in sight, across the lands of Gallangad until we come to a cross roads where we turn right down to Caldarvan Station.
Caldarvan Station, so called because it was a station on the Forth and Clyde Junction Railway which ran from Stirling in the east to Balloch in the west.
Little more than a halt Caldarvan Station served the sparse local community with up to five trains a day. Although the line closed in the late fifties it is till possible to make out what was the platform. The neat little station cottage has recently been lovingly refurbished by its new occupants. More information about Caldarvan Railway Station is here: www.railscot.co.uk/locations/C/Caldarvan/
Shortly after Caldarvan Station we come to the T junction by the gates of Auchenlarich House and turn right, sign posted Croftamie. We’re still walking along quiet, single track road and have now joined the other half of this section of the John Muir Way which is more suitable to road bikes.
Just over half a mile before we arrive at Appletree Self Catering Cottage we pass another distinctive remnant from the former Forth and Clyde Junction Railway – one of the 32 former manned level crossings on the line. All that can be seen nowadays is the crossing house and a small embankment leading up to it.
Soon we’re back at Appletree Cottage and looking forward to a nice cup of tea before going to collect the car from Carbeth.
Pruning Appletree whilst the weather is clear
Appletee Cottage is surrounded by apple orchards which we started planting in 2014.
We how have over 360 apple trees and now that the weather has improved and the rain has stopped (for a bit) we've started the annual pruning. This can take place any time between November and March whilst the trees are dormant.
There are four orchards to be pruned - one to the west and one to the south - both of which can be seen from the cottage, One to the east of Shandon Farm buildings which can be seen from the road, and one to the south east, This is the largest (and the first planted) which is on a south facing slope, protected by high willow wind breaks.
Pruning can take a few days. The larger the tree the longer the time taken. The purpose of pruning is to remove dead branches and branches which cross and rub. We also prune to try to make the centre of the tree less dense - to let the light in and reach the leaves. Some advocate pruning the trees into a bowl shape. While this lets in lots of light it does not work for all varieties. With some trees, if the branches are too spread they are in danger of snapping off the trunk - leaving a nasty scar which can let in disease.
When pruning it is essential to have the correct equipment. We use regular secateurs for the small branches, ratchet secateurs for the medium sized cuts and loppers or a saw for major limbs. All tools should be sharp so that a a clean cut is made and there are no splits or 'hairs" remaining.
Canker can be a problem with apple trees along with other diseases so we take care to paint all the cuts with Arbrex. This seals and disinfects the cut - provided it is applied soon after the cut has been made.
Between pruning each tree we wipe the cutting equipment with methylated spirits to prevent any disease spreading. Cleaning equipment (and hands) is more stringent if there is any canker on the tree. Fortunately canker is much reduced by painting cuts with Arbrex.
An interesting fact about apple trees is that if you plant a seed from an apple the plant that grows from it will never be the same variety as the tree it has come from. In order to preserve the variety (and we have 46 varieties in our orchards) the tree needs to be grafted.
In past years we have used the scions (the off cuts with a growing tip) to make new trees. Using a scion about the thickness of a pencil we graft it onto bought in rootstock and plant it in our nursery. The grafts usually have about a 70-75% success rate. However, we have been getting about 90% success in the last couple of years. Could it be the Scottish weather?
Ben Ledi from base to summit
When you drive from Drymen to Stirling along the A811 and look to the north there is one mountain which appears to be higher than all the others visible. Often snow capped it can be observed for a large part of the journey. It can also be seen from Stirling, the Forth Road Bridge and Edinburgh Castle. There are higher mountains to the west but this one is prominent due to its position approximately half way across the country on the Highland Boundary Faultline. The hill in question is Ben Ledi.
.The hill is best accessed from the car park at the south end of Loch Lubnaig. The car park is on the west side of the A84 about 1.7 miles (2.75km) north of the small village of Kilmahog and accessed via a single track bridge over the Garbh Uisge otherwise known as the River Leny. You may notice the deep cutting in the rock on the way to the car park. This is part of the former Callander and Oban railway which used to furn up the western side of Loch Lubnaig and was closed between Callander and Crianlarich on 28th September 1965.
Once parked we walked back to the western side of the bridge we had just driven over. From there a path begins to climb up the hill. Steep in parts it threads its way through forest old and new.
The eastern flank of Ben Ledi is owned by the Forestry Commission forms part of the south east extremety of the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park which itself forms part of the spectacular Loch Lomond and Trossachs Park.
Rising to 2884 feet (879m) Ledi is classed as a Corbet. In Scotland mountains over 3000ft are referred to as Munros and hills between 2500ft and 300ft are known as Corbetts. The name Corbett by the way is not a reference to the late diminutive Scottish entertainer and comedian Ronnie Corbett but derives from the original compiler of the list of hills between 2,500ft and 3000ft (762-914m) John Rooke Corbett. Another feature of Corbetts is that they must also have a drop of 500ft on all sides (prominence). Ben Ledi most certainly has this feature.
About half way up to the summit the trees give way to grass and heather. The path is well made but there are a few boggy bits later on.
In 1791 the parish minister James Robertson when compiling details for entry in The First Statistical Account of Scotland apparently mistook the meaning “Hill of God” for the mountain due to the similarity of the French Le Dia. It is also asaid that Ben Ledi gets its name from a corruption of the Gaelic Beinn Leitir meaning Hill of the Slope. Quite apt!
The path has been well attended and many parts have stone steps formed into the hill. Particularly at the steepest parts.
The climb is almost continuously steep with a few gently inclined sections.
After a couple of false summits we finally reached the top, a distance of about 3km from where we started.
At the summit is a cairn, originally built to commemorate Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee in 1887, and a trig point installed by the Ordnance Survey.
There are also some spectacular views.
To the east we could see Stirling Castle, the National Wallace Monument and the river Forth right down to the flames burning at Grangemouth.
To the west we could see Ben Lomond, the Arrochar Alps and the hills inbetween.
After a morning roll and marmalade (a great hillwalking snack) we started to make our descent.
Just down from the summit is a large cross set into the rock and a plaque commemorating Sgt. Harry Lawrie BEM of the Killin Mountain Rescue Team. Sgt. Lawrie lost his life when the blades of the Wessex helicopter in which he was travelling encountered some rocks on Ben More during a mountain rescue operation in 1987. The cross was erected on 1 Febuary 1987 on Ben Ledi where Harry’s and his wife’s ashes lie.
The commemorative cross serves as a reminder to walkers to have the correct equipment and experience when climbing hills and mountains in Scotland.
Our descent down to the carpark was naturally much faster than the ascent – although we had to slow down considerably on some icy rocks and slippy path sections.
We did our walk when there was snow on the ground and although we did it in about 4 hours with a pause at the top it is best to allow six hours in case detours and hazards are encountered. Certainly aim to get down before dark.
There are more details about the walk up Ben Ledi and other hills at the excellent site Walk Highlands: https://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/lochlomond/ben-ledi.shtml