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)
A brief history of Geilston...
Geilston Gardens are set around Geilston House, a manor house, originally a farm, which has its origins in the 14thCentury. The farmhouse fell into the hands of James Donald, a successful tobacco merchant in the 18thcentury.. In 1805 to the Geils of Glasgow took it over.. (hence the name) After the last inhabitant, and enthusiastic gardener, Margaret Bell, finally gave up the property the National Trust for Scotland took over the site.
The house is a great higgelty piggelty building comprising of many extensions which have been made over the years. The exterior was recently re-roofed but the interior of the house having now been empty for a number of years, is still awaiting refurbishment. The grounds however are in preside condition.
There are four distinct areas: the walled garden, the kitchen garden, the woodland garden and the orchard. We decided to explore the walled garden first...
The Walled Garden at Geilston
It was time to move from the Walled Garden to the Woodland Garden...
The Woodland Garden at Geilston
From the Walled Garden an arch framed gate leads into the woodland garden...
By the Weir in the Woodland Garden
We'd been exploring the Woodland Garden for a while when we rounded a corner and came across a bridge over the burn and the weir which we'd seen from the potting shed window. This was a magical place as the sunlight danced on the water...
The Woodland Garden trail had taken us right around the back of the Walled Garden and we now emerged at the entrance to the Kitchen Garden and the Orchard.
Geilston Vegetable Garden and Orchard
At the entrance to the Kitchen Garden is a bug house which accommodated a host of different insects. Then onto the garden itself. The first thing one is struck by is the enormous neatness, uniformity and rigour taken in maintaining this garden in immaculate condition. Row upon row of many varieties of each type of vegetable and fruit bush, beautifully tended. We were told that in addition to the two full time gardeners there are a number of part time workers as well as a large group of volunteers. Whatever they are doing is certainly working! When fruit and vegetables are ready for picking they are sold to visitors at the front gate of the gardens.
We had a great day at Geilston Gardens. Much to see - and also lots of stuff for kids to do and explore. We'll be back at the end of the summer to see how the produce got on and perhaps buy some. We may also take a picnic to have on one of the many well sited picnic benches throughout the gardens.
Nipped over to Garelochhead which is about 30 minutes drive from Appletree Cottage to visit the #Scottish National Rhododendron Show at the Gibson Hall in the village
Inside the beautifully restored Gibson Hall all manner and types of rhododendron flowers were on display having been judged by experts
Outside the hall in glorious sunshine people were selling plants (mostly rhododendrons!)
from makeshift stalls. The event although small appeared to be enormously popular.
A really nick trip across to Gareloch in the sunshine.
Apple Orchard begins to bloom
Its the beginning of May and our apple trees at Shandon Farm and Appletree Cottage are well underway with their blossom. Festoons of pink and white flowers are starting to appear on many trees
Different varietis of tree flower at different times. Orchardists need to take this into account when considering cross pollination.
Some trees have white flowers (eg Discovery) and others pink (eg. James Grieve and Beauty of Moray) If the flower is successfully pollinated by insects a small bulge appears on the flower stem immediately behind the flower head. This with luck will develop into an apple
We started planting apple trees at Shandon Farm in 2014 and now have over 360 trees and 46 varieties. Fingers crossed for a fruitful summer!
Glen Fruin to Helensburgh
A great easy walk with beautiful panoramic views is not what we were expecting on this day out from our brilliant #luxuryselfcatering #holidaycottage @lomondtrossachs which is Appletree Cottage
How to get there
From Appletree Cottage we drove to Balloch and then north along the A82 turning left at the roundabout at Arden following signs to Helensburgh.
At the second roundabout along this road we turned right and down a single track road into Glen Fruin. At the bottom of the hill, just over a cattle grid, we parked in a small (free) car park and traced our way back over the cattle grid up the hill for a bout a hundred yards to the beginning of our walk marked by a sign reading Helensburgh 3 miles.
The path is well maintained and the gradient is gentle. After a few minutes of easy climbing we looked back and got our first views of Loch Lomond.
About a mile further on as we reached the crest of the ridge the #riverclyde came into view. At that point we could see Loch Lomond to the north and the Clyde to the south, stretching up to Glasgow in the distance. Helensburgh hugged the bottom of the hill on the shore of the Clyde
The path took us through some very pretty woodland until we arrived at a car park just above Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s world famous Hill House.
#Hillhouse is currently undergoing renovation and repair. In order to carry out this work the contractors are building a huge steel cage around the house. This will eventually have glass or clear Perspex to allow maximum light whilst roof repairs and dry rot removal are undertaken.
From Hill House it is about a twenty minute stroll down the hill into Helensburgh. We decided however to retrace our steps back to the car once again enjoying the stunning views on our return journey.
Luxury Self Catering Cottage Loch Lomond in prime position for Flying Scotsman Rally
Today, Sunday 7th April 2019, the 11th Flying Scotsman Vintage Car Rally passed Appletree Cottage. A procession of 104 beautifully manicured motors, spaced approximately two minutes apart, kept us entertained for over an hour.
The Rally started in Windermere on Friday and made its way to Slaley, then Donald Trump's Turnberry Hotel finishing at Gleneagles Hotel. Contestants stay in luxury accommodation in all three of these locations, revitalising their driving and map-reading skills for the following day
Despite their age the cars passed us at a fair speed making it difficult to photograph them with out motion blurr. The drivers then made much use of their brakes at the junction just beyond us to make their left hand turn.
The quiet single track road past Appletree Cottage was no doubt selected as part of the route because of its stunning views and scarcity of traffic. For drivers it would not be too difficult to imagine that they were traveling in an earlier age.
More information about the Flying Scotsman Vintage Car Rally and a list of the entrants can be found here
along with details of the much more ambitious Peking to Paris Vintage Car Rally!
Appletree Luxury Self-Catering Loch Lomond - a nice half day excursion
7At the village of Tarbet the road splits. Straight ahead is the A81 to Arrochar and Invararay. We stayed on the A82 by turning right towards Ardlui and Crianlarich.
Although still double track this road has quite a lot of bends in it until we reached Inveruglas Visitor Center and its large car park on the right hand side of the road. Immediately before arriving at this point its worth a look out on the left hand side of the road for the four giant pipes carrying the water from Loch Sloy on the other side of the hill (Ben Vorlich) to the turbine power station beside the main road. (For a great walk to Loch Sloy from Arrochar see our previous blog with pictures from August 2017
Further along the road we came to Ardlui, the last village before the head of the loch. It has a railway station, a hotel and a marina as well as a handful of houses.
About thee miles after Ardlui we passed the Drovers’ Inn at Inverarnan. Well worth a look inside this ancient hostelry is just what it says on the tin – it was a rest for the drovers who were taking their cattle and sheep to the markets in the south to be sold.
The walk up Ben Glas beside the waterfall is also worth a visit – but that was for an other day.
After the Drovers Inn we began to look out for signs to the Falls of Falloch on the right hand side of the road.
Soon the path arrives at the edge of a huge almost circular pool with a high waterfall flowing into it. The deep peaty pool is about 21 meters (70 feet) across. This is what is known locally as Rob Roy’s bath tub. Whether Rob Roy actually bathed in this pool or not is unknown. It is however the most idyllic spot and popular with walkers and visitors in the summer when swimmers brave the cool waters.
Paths on either side of the pool lead to plunge points where wild swimmers can jump off the top of a cliff into the water. It must be noted however that there are strong currents in the pool – especially around the waterfall and the point at which the water leaves the pool to follow the River Falloch. More information about swimming in Rob Roy’s Bath tub along with information and warnings of certain aspects of the site can be found here: https://wildswim.com/falls-of-falloch-rob-roys-bath tub
Who was Rob Roy?
To those not already in the know, Rob Roy MacGregor (1671-1734) was a Scottish outlaw and cattleman who later became a folk hero. He took part in the eventually unsuccessful Jacobite rising of 1689 to support King James II of Scotland who had fleed to France.
More about Rob Roy can be found here:
For those on foot, not wishing to divest and take the plunge, a steel viewing platform has been built out over one side of the pool to enable visitors to see the site safely.
After some time at the bath tub we followed the River Falloch for a bit looking at the other smaller pools until we returned to the car park and were heading back down the road enjoying the views of Loch Lomond.
Nearly back home, we decided to have a quick refreshment at the excellent Clachan Inn in Drymen (https://www.clachaninndrymen.co.uk) which is only five minutes from Appletree Cottage. This ancient inn, the oldest licenced establishment in Scotland, was once managed by Rob Roy’s sister. However, as far as we know, there is no surviving account as to where her bath tub was located.
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!