Inchmahom Priory, Lake of Menteith
Our journey to Port of Menteith takes us just under half an hour.
Leaving Appletree Cottage we drive down to Croftamie village and then along the A811 past Drymen. At Ballat crossroads we turn left up the A81 towards Aberfoyle. Shortly before Aberfoyle at the roundabout next to the Rob Roy Hotel we turn right along the A81 to Port of Menteith.
Port of Menteith is a small hamlet beside Lake of Menteith.
Once in Port of Menteith hamlet we take the right hand turn onto the B8034 (towards Arnprior), past the excellent Port of Menteith Hotel, past Lake of Menteith fisheries (where you can hire fishing boats and tackle by the hour) and park a few hundred yards down this road on the right in the car park signposted “Inchmahome Priory”.
From the shore by the car park two small boats, each seating up to 12 people, regularly ferry visitors to the island of Inchmahome and its famous priory during the summer months.
We board the first boat which is waiting and take our seats.
We don’t part with any money at this stage as payment is taken once on the island. The enterprise is run by Historic Environment Scotland. Charges are £7.50 per adult – but many membership cards are accepted – including English Heritage cardholders who go free.
It is a beautiful day and the waters are like glass with the occasional fishing dingy dotted here and there.
The name "Inchmahome" comes from the Gaelic Innis MoCholmaig, which means Island of St Colmaig. The priory, founded in 1238 by the Earl of Menteith, Walter Comyn, for a small community of the Augustinian order (the Black Canons is said to replace an earlier structure on the island.
The buildings are in a semi ruinous state but the remains and the surrounding grounds around them have been beautifully maintained and are in pristine condition. Information boards around the buildings give visitors a guide as to what the various sections were used for and some artistes' reconstructions are interesting.
Among its many prominent visitors the priory was one of many hide-away places for Mary Queen of Scots as she sought to escape the clutches of Elizabeth 1st and her court.
Besides the Priory ruins there are other interests on the island. Some of the trees are said to be over 500 years old. We came across an interesting sweet chestnut tree. A large area of the land is covered with brambles which are very nearly ripe. They taste so much better than the common blackberry which is easy to mistake as bramble.
A path leads around the entire perimeter of the island. After exploring the priory, we walk along the western shoreline. Trees dip into the water and the ripples glisten in the sunshine. In the distance the fishermen sit poised on their craft whilst here and there a trout leaps.
Just to the west we can see the tiny island of Inchtalla . Although appearing as a mass of trees, lost within the undergrowth lie the ruined remains of Talla Castle. More information about this can be found here: canmore.org.uk/site/24064/lake-of-menteith-inch-talla-talla-castle
We decide it is time to take the return ferry (they run regularly until late afternoon) and so make our way to the pier. As we near the pier on the mainland we get a good view of The Lake of Menteith Hotel on the shore. Beautifully situated next the ancient church the hotel serves excellent food and makes an ideal stop for lunch or dinner.
Soon we are safely ashore and back in the car and heading back to Appletree Cottage, having had a thoroughly magical time on this mystical island.
From Appletree Self Catering Cottage to Luss
Luss is a pretty estate village on the western shore of Loch Lomond. There is little traffic and a wander through the village is very popular with tourists.
From Appletree Cottage we drive to Croftamie then along the A811 to Balloch. We travel straight through Balloch and up onto the A82 towards Crianlarich. After another fifteen minutes we see a turn off to Luss on the right. Shortly after this on the left is a single-track road signposted Glenn Luss. We turn into this single track road and park on the right - just opposite the Faerie Trail experience (A fairy forest trail for younger children, website at: www.lochlomondfaerietrail.com)
Close to where we parked (no charge) and on the same side of the road is the beginning of a path to Ben Dubh with a signpost pointing the way.
The first part of the path is a brief gentle ascent through pasture, shortly after followed by a meandering trail through a young birch wood with high bracken on the upper reaches.
After about ten minutes we were clear of the birch trees and the land opened out into heather and grass land. As we climbed the views across Loch Lomond grew more spectacular with the definition of the many islands becoming clearer. We could see the pretty village of Luss nestling on the shore below us.
In the picture below the small island just off Luss is Fraoch Eilean. Tradition has it that if you caused trouble you could end up on Fraoch island. In one map of 1792 plan of Dunbartsontshire, Fraoch Eilean is marked as "Luss Prison"
On our best behaviour we continue our steady climb upwards. The path is well established and easy to follow. It is obviously a popular route but even though we are walking during the peak of the summer holidays, on a weekend and in clear sunny weather we encounter only a handful of people during the entire expedition.
After a couple of false summits we reach the cairn at the top of Beinn Dubh (black hill). From there the views are fantastic. We can see Glasgow to the south, Loch Lomond and its many islands with the distinctive Conic hill to the east with the towering magnificent mountain of Ben Lomond further up the loch. To the north we can see some of the famous “Arrochar Alps”.
Looking west from the summit of Beinn Dubh we can see an enticing horseshoe of hills. A glance at the map showed us that a walk across to Beinn Ruisg then round to Balcnock and descending via Craperoch could be achieved with minimal rise or fall. However, also to the west we can see some dark rain clouds creeping in from the distance so decide to make our descent back to Luss with a plan to tackle the horseshoe another day when we were better prepared.
We make it back down to the bottom of the hill, safe and dry. Fortunately, the rainclouds did not affect us.
All in all a fantastic and relatively easy peaceful walk with fantastic views throughout – and now back to Appletree Cottage with plans for a return trip another day!