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
Beautiful surroundings even in the fog
Today we woke up to find a dense fog surrounding Appletree Cottage and the farm. The mist has started clearing now but still provides some great atmospheric settings.
Usually you can see for miles around Appletree Cottage. Guests in the self catering have views from the cottage across to the Kilpatrick Hills, four miles away. Just around the corner from the cottage there are usually clear views of Conic Hill with the peak of Ben Lomond peeking above its horizon. But not today
Appletree Cottage faces south getting most of the sun all day. The sun was just beginning to poke through when we took these photos
Wonderful autumn colours await the explorer
The route is via Drymen Village where the road up the eastern side of Loch Lomond turns off to the left. It takes only a few minutes to pass through the small hamlets en route to the shore. First is Buchanan Smiddy - a couple of rows of terraced houses on the right hand side of the road. Next is Milton of Buchanan. On the right is the old mill which although a private dwelling still retains its mill wheel and some of the internal workings.
After Milton of Buchanan we arrive at Balmaha. This hamlet grew up around a dye factory which ceased trading when synthetic dyes were produced. Since then it has grown into a small marina with a number of self catering properties, all squeezed in to get a loch view.
There is a popular pub The Oak Tree, a coffee shop and a small general store.
Down by the shore is a statue of Tom Weir, a much celebrated presenter of Scottish Television's hugely popular travelogue of Scotland "Weir's Way" Tom lived in nearby Gartocharn village and thoughout his long television career travelled to almost every part of Scotland. The statue often wears a red wooly hat.
In Balmaha Boatyard most of the boats have been taken out of the water for the winter. Remaining berthed up at the jetty however is the ferry boat to the isle of Inchcailloch. This boat, which it is said served at the Dunkirk rescue in the Second World War, transports passengers across the short isthmus to the island which is now a nature reserve. There are no roads on the island but a foot path leads through the centre to a beach at the western end. There the wooden picnic tables have been provided with steel plates on which to place a disposable barbecue whilst taking a dip in the secluded gentle sloping bay. Bit cold at this time of year though.
Heading further north up the eastern side of the loch is Mallarochy Bay camp and caravan site which is still open at this time of year. There the loch is still and the leafless trees dark against the water and sky. The mist is creeping over the headland.
After Millarochy bay another campsite at Cashel. This smaller site is closed for the winter but the low winter sun poking though the trees is nonetheless stunning. This popular camping site in the summer lies at the foot of Queen Elizabeth Forest, planted with native species in the 1990's, partly funded by the National Lottery. The nearby Cashel Farm has an exhibition hall and a well maintained small apple orchard to visit.
Still further up the loch is Sallochy Bay. There are some good walks from this location which we have blogged about in the past. One route follows the shoreline around Sallochy point, the other is up into the hills to the ruins of a once busy farm steading.
Sallochy bay with its pebbly beach is popular with paddlers, swimmers and picnickers in the summer. Today it is a perfect place for dog walkers.
The road on the east shore of Loch Lomond does not go all the way up the loch. It goes as far as Rowardennan Hotel which is at the foot of a path leading up Ben Lomond. At the end of the road is a car park, a small pier, a caravan site and the aforementioned hotel.
In summer the hotel is a great place to have lunch outside in nice weather. As well as the terraced patios there is a large well kept lawn leading down to the shore of the loch.
Rowardennan was a popular visiting point for The Maid of the Loch paddle steamer. This ship is currently undergoing renovation in Balloch slipway (see previous blog). In the meantime the pier is served by vessels from Sweeney's Cruises and the Loch Lomond water bus.
The view looking north from Rowardennan is fantastic - with the Arrochar Alps in the distance. Immediately to the west at this point is the small island of Eileen nan Deargainnan (Gaelic meaning Isle of the fleas or sand hoppers)
Autumn Colours in Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park
Over in the main house a couple of rooms were open for teas, coffees, soup and cakes as well as a tombola stall to raise funds for Geilston Gardens. On the lawn outside the house various tents and marquees were set up. One stall was dedicated to pressing apple juice from fruit picked in the Geilston orchard and giving a hands on experience to children and grown ups who could scrat, press and sample the produce of their labours.
Other stalls included local bee keepers, Friends of Geilston, Girl Guides and locally made jellies. After a good look around we got back in the car and returned to Appletree Cottage after a very pleasant afternoon out at Geilston Gardens.
Self catering herb garden
At Appletree Cottage there is now a well established herb garden which guests are welcome to make use of for their cooking
The herb garden has been established for about three years now - really since Appletree Cottage opened. Good stalwarts are Rosemary, Chives, Parsley, Oregon and Sage. In the summer we have grown artichokes but they do not grow as well in this part of Scotland as they did in our allotment when we stayed down south. However they still give a good architectural structure to the garden. We have also had success with strawberries but the trick is getting to them before the deer see them. Spring onions, rocket and garlic have all been successes in the past.
Cottage-for-all-seasons celebrates three fabulous years of fantastic self-catering guests
Luxury self catering for eight in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
Luxury spacious self catering for eight people
Spacious and full of natural light, Appletree is the perfect space for eight people to get together. Four double bedrooms, (two of which can be set up as twins) are all en-suite with shower, wash basin and WC. Perfect for our guests who come from all over the world.
Warm and welcoming whatever the weather
Appletree luxury self catering cottage is a perfect retreat whatever the weather.
In summer bask in the sun on the private patio and enjoy the spacious garden. In winter enjoy the cosy underfloor heating and warm log stove fire. In spring it is a joy to see the trees and flowers come back into life whilst autumn brings crisp clear glorious days.
Fantastic views from inside and outside
Whether you're soaking up the rays on the patio or enjoying the comfortable warmth of the lounge area the views across three miles of moorland rising up to the Kilpatrick hills in the distance are ever changing and always stunning. Grouse, roe deer and hares regularly visit the grassy area immediately in front of the cottage and over thirty varieties of bird fill the air.
Repeat bookings and extended stays
Many guests book a return visit to Appletree whilst others have requested to extend their booking just after they arrive when they discover what the cottage and its setting are really like.
Great prices! Great deals!
Our low season prices work out really good value if eight people are sharing the cottage.
Further discounts can be gained for bookings of seven nights or more. Visit our website nowwww.lomondappletree.co.uk to find out more and book your memorable stay!
Another great day out from Appletree Cottage
Entering the vegetable garden and orchard section of the gardens the first thing that took our attention was the wild flower meadow strip. This had been a strip of bare earth showing little sign of life when we were last here. Now a profusion of colour and variety. The photo here does not really do it justice.
The gardeners of Geilston certainly know their stuff. The vegetable garden planted in immaculate rows earlier in the year were now nearing readiness.
Geilston Gardens Apple Orchard
As we run a large apple orchard ourselves we were able to appreciate the excellent condition in which the trees were kept at Geilston. Nice rounded trees with unblemished fruits
After the vegetable garden and the orchard we took a brief trip to the glass house where many varieties of ripening tomatoes gave off a delicious scent. There again we saw a plant which has fascinated me since I first saw it at Geilston. Reminiscent of the flora in the film The Lorax these intriguing succulents are named Aeonium...
Soon it was time to go and make the half hour journey back to Appletree luxury self-catering cottage in Croftamie with happy memories of our day out at Geilston Gardens
A visit to @Hillhouse Helensburgh and the new fantastic surrounding structure
We visited Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s masterpiece which is @Hill House in Helensburgh briefly earlier in the year (see blog of 30/4/19 ‘Fantastic Walk to Helensburgh”
This time we decided to explore this building more fully as the box or cage to protect it from the elements has now been fully installed.
The reception desk is situated in a well stocked shop of Rennie Mackintosh literature and souvenirs. One item of note was the limited edition Lego model of Hill House – for £120.
Entry to Hill House is free to National Trust members. Non members pay £12.50 per adult but there are child, senior citizen and family concessions available as well as others.
More information can be found here: https://www.nts.org.uk/visit/places/the-hill-house
A brief history of Hill House
Charles Rennie Mackintosh, now perhaps Scotland’s most well known architect, was commissioned to design Hill House by Walter Blackie of Backie,, the famous book publishers.
Built between 1902-1904 it is lauded to be Mackintosh’s best work second only to his Glasgow Art School building which was recently and catastrophically destroyed by a second devastating fire.
As well as designing the building Mackintosh was also charged with designing the interior décor and furnishings – most of which remain in situ with some artifacts undergoing painstaking restoration.
In 1982 the house was donated to the National Trust for Scotland, the body now responsible for the safety and upkeep of the property.
Don't forget Margaret Mackintosh (Mrs.)
Charles Rennie Mackintosh's wife, Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh was responsible for much of the interior decor and design of her husbands projects.
Construction Techniques and Decay
Unfortunately, some of the new construction techniques and materials used at the time of construction led to decay many years on. For example the use of Portland cement render applied to stone surfaces resulted in cracking of the outer layer and water penetration on a fairly major scale. Further leakage problems have arisen around the windows and chimneys as Mackintosh preferred not to make use of chimney caps or weather proof window surrounds as they did not fit with his aesthetic design.
The box, now fully completed is itself a stunning structure. It incorporates walkways at high level so it is now possible to walk above the roof of the house - thus allowing visitors to view construction details which up until now only the roofers and birds could appreciate!
More views of the exterior of the house later...
Inside Hill House
We decided to explore the interior of the house first so we left the shop (which is a new and possibly temporary structure) and made our way across to the main entrance of Hill House.
Through the front door we were greeted by a grand hallway panelled in dark wood. A feint smell of damp could be discerned reminding us of the enormity of the restoration work which was to be undertaken.
Through the front door we were greeted by a grand hallway panelled in dark wood. A feint smell of damp could be discerned reminding us of the enormity of the restoration work which was to be undertaken.
The downstairs rooms
On the right the first room is the study. Lined with books, many of them Blackie’s own publications this snug room has uninterrupted views across the Clyde.
Upstairs in Hill House
A short journey up the stairs took us to the first floor.
This is where the family slept. The parents at one end of the house and the children at the other.
A couple of the bedrooms await restoration but the master bedroom and the dressing room annex (where the Blackie children slept when they were ill) are fully restored.
In the dressing room is one of the few pieces of furniture not designed by Mackintosh - a Kilmarnock chest. However, he did design the surround and cupboards for this item
Across the corridor from the Master Bedroom is the bathroom with its now antiquated fittings. These would have been state of the art at the time of construction and fortunately appear to have remained unaltered since..
In one of the second floor rooms there are models of Hill House and photographs of it during construction as well as plans for the buildings and furnishings. All very interesting!
Hill House exterior
The new protective box structure when viewed from within is both functional and elegant. The walkways and boundaries of the box have been set far enough back from the perimeter of the house to enable decent views of the building can be appreciated.
After walking around the garden and terrace immediately surrounding the house (but within the cage) we took the stairs up to the café (there is also a lift) which is above the shop, to be greeted with a slightly surreal image of tables and chairs neatly set out adjacent to the upper floors of the house.
Taking the walk way around the front of the house we were able to inspect construction and design at close quarters.
The walkway over the top of the house was particularly interesting. There are informative plaques throughout and good strong bannisters for those with susceptible to feelings of vertigo.
Going outside the Box
After a great day out it was time to get back into the car and return to Appletree Luxury Self Catering Cottage, Croftamie. (www.lomondappletree.co.uk)