A beautiful time to visit Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
During the winter months many of our guests at Appletree Cottage are from the UK - particularly Scotland as they know just how fantastic the days can be here in winter and what lovely walking there is to be had in unspoilt countryside.
One of our favourite walks is up to the hill with the TV mast on it. From here you can get fantastic views of Loch Lomond and also of the Campsie Hills.
It's a really good time of year to do this walk for two reasons:
Firstly it is easier to park in the lay-by at Finnich Toll (about 5 minutes drive from Appletree Cottage) as there are fewer people parking up in winter to explore Finnich Glen (The Devil's Pulpit).
Secondly, the cattle have all been taken indoors for the winter so there is much less danger of suddenly coming across a hears of cows demanding to know what you're doing in their field.
As we walk along we notice that the snowdrops are out in full flower (it is the 15th Feb 2019) and the whin (gorse) is starting to bloom, brought on by the recent mild weather.
After about ten minutes we come to a gate on our right. We go through, remembering to bolt it again behind us - although the cattle are indoors there may well be sheep about - and make our way up the track towards the TV mast in the distance.
It is an easy walk up to the mast along the sometimes grassy, sometimes muddy track. There is one other gate to open (and close) on the way.
Once at the top we stop to admire the view. It is a bright but hazy day and although we can easily see Loch Lomond below us with the naked eye, it is not so distinct in the photograph (at the top of this blog)
Looking to the east we can again see the Campsie Hills - though all the more clearly.
The walk to the mast has been across part of Cameron Muir - a wild and lonely place with few visitors. Romantic desolation to some, a nature spotters paradise to others with deer, pheasant, osprey and other birds of prey seeking their dinner.
In the distance we can see a notch in the hill where the famous Whangy rock formation nestles under the cliffs. This unusual site is hugely popular with climbers practicing their sport within easy reach of Glasgow.
Having taken in all the views which were to be viewed we started to make our way back down the track to the road. On a clear day we would usually be able to see the tower blocks of Glasgow peeking out from the gap between the hills.
Descent to the River Carnack
Once back on the road, walking towards Finnich Toll again we notice that the fence between the field to our right hand side (south) and the road has been removed, presumably for replacement.
As the cattle which usually inhabit this field were away in their winter quarters we took the opportunity to explore. Walking due south we came to a precipitous drop down to the Carnack burn. Following a trail, presumably made by the aforementioned cattle, we descended a long steep bank until we were down by the crystal clear fast flowing water.
Arriving by the river bank as the steep sides of the gorge levelled off to level ground we felt as though we were entering a secret world. Usually the preserve of cattle and visited by very few people.
Many trees had fallen across or into the water The sun peeped through the trees shining on clumps of snowdrops and a host of bluebells yet to bloom.
A little further west from where we took these photos the Carnack passes under the A809 Drymen to Glasgow road and then enters Finnich Glen better known to some as Devil's Pulpit. This sheer sided gorge has been used as a dramatic location in films such as The Eagle and the Outlander TV series and has been very popular with younger visitors.
More of that in a future blog.
As the sun began to set and the light started to fade we made our way back to the top again and walked back to the car feeling that we had discovered a magical spot we hadn't even known was there. Another excellent afternoon out!
Winter wonders on the doorstep of Appletree
Last weekend (2 Feb 19) after a light fall of snow the skies cleared to a clear blue and a warm sun shone brightly. So took our cameras (er. phones) and went out to take some petty pictures.
.Our first stop was about ten minutes away at Duncryne Hill. Known locally as The Dumpling and about five minutes drive from Appletree Cottage this drumlin is just south of the village of Gartocharn. The short ascent (10-15 minutes) from the small lay-by on the road road provides one of the best views of Loch lomond
From the small lay-by (free parking) above the village of Gartocharn a gate opens onto the footpath which threads through a pretty beech wood and upwards to the top of the hill. The ascent takes ten to fifteen minuites and is one of the best "hits" for time spent climbing versus fantastic views we've ever come across in this area.
And not just for the stunning views up Loch Lomond. Looking to the west one can see the Luss Hills and the ridge above the Vale of Leven.. Laid out to the east and clearly defined is the Forth Valley and the magnificent range of Campsie Hills which separate the Fourth Valley from Kirkintilloch, Lennoxtown, Glasgow and the south.
The furtherst right hill of the Campsie range is known as Drumgoyne. Slightly shorter and more pointed than the rest of the range. At the foot of Drumgoyne is the internationally famous and excellent (one of our favourites) Glengoyne Distillery which is well worth a visit for its tours (and only 15 minutes drive from Appletree Cottage) More information can be found here: https://www.glengoyne.com/
After descending Duncryne Hill (a little bit quicker than we climbed it!) we got back to the car and took a short drive via Gartocharn Village, (turning left onto the main road). Taking the first right after the village shop we passed the primary school and followed the road down towards Ross Priory - the country centre/club of the University of Strathclyde - but open to the public. It boasts a golf course, bar, restaurant, magnificent gardens and is hugely popular as a wedding venue.
Down on the shore by the Priory we are able to get an alternative but siill beautiful view looking up the loch.
From the shore at Ross Priory we could see the village and anchorage of Balmaha on the east coast of Loch Lomond and so decided to visit there for a drink, if not something to eat (they do a very nice smoked salmon salad) .
So we got back in the car and headed back onto the main road, turning left and heading west. Just before reaching Drymen we crossed over the road bridge over the river Endrick and decided to stop to take some more photos.
In ancient days, before the bridge a ferry used to ply its trade across the Endrick Water as it is properly known. Now the magnificent stone bridge ferries traffic on the the newly appointed trunk road between Balloch and Stirling.
Despite the route now being fairly busy with cars and lorries, only a few meters away from the main road one quickly back is back into rural bliss!
There is a huge open expanse of flat ground to the west of Drymen Bridge which as well as being a popular launching pad for microlite pilots is the venue of Drymen Show. The show, which is one of the longest running in Scotland takes place on the last Saturday of May. Featuring many of the usual agricultural competitions the show offers many exhibits and entertainments on the side including a fairground. Generally a very good day out in beautiful surroundings. More information about the Drymen Show can be found here: http://www.drymenshow.com
In the past the grounds were also popular for the curling pond.. Unfortunately the days of outdoor curling are not what they were and the curling pond, though still extant has been somewhat neglected over recent years.
After exploring the curling pond we were back in the car and driving through Drymen and up the east side of Loch Lomond towards Balmaha.
Balmaha has grown considerably over recent years, mainly due to the popularity of the Oak Tree Inn and the many holiday chalets which have been erected by the owners.
It is a pretty place to visit and the boatyard is always interesting to stroll through.
What was different on this day was that the recent cold snap had frozen the water of the loch in the bay and marina. The boats in the water were locked solid whilst ducks skidded around on the ice. The ice made a heaving and cracking noise as occasional water surges lapped at the sides of the frozen mass.
Ater a quick drink in the very busy and popular Oak Tree pub at Balmaha it was time to head back to Appletree Cottage.
All of the places we visited on this day were no more than fifteen minutes drive from Appletree Cottage.. There are many more to discover. Self-catering at its best!