The last few days have seen heavy snowfalls here at Appletree Cottage. About 30cms with drifts rising much higher.
It is certainly the heaviest snow we've had in Croftamie since we moved back to Scotland from London in 2013.
Snow consistency was very light and powdery so not ideal for making snowmen or igloos!
About Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National park is an area of outstanding beauty in Scotland covering 720 square miles (1,865 sq. km.) Stretching from the west coast to the edge of the central belt the area was designated a national park in 2002 in recognition of its stunning scenery and unspoiled natural habitat. The park contains one of the UK's largest nature reserves
Wondering where to base your stay in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park?
The Loch Lomond section of the park (particularly the southern end) is the most popular. Not just because of the outstanding and varied scenic beauty but also due to this area of the park, offering the greatest variety of activities – both indoor and outdoor for the holidaymaker.
This list of activities includes: Angling, Boating, Canoeing, Clay Pigeon Shooting, Climbing, Cycling, Fishing, Golf , Hiking, Kayaking, Pony Trekking, Tennis, Walking, Water Skiing whilst wet weather cover is within easy reach: Castles (Doune Castle, Stirling Castle and Dumbarton Castle) Indoor swimming pools and spas (Drymen and Balloch) Dumbarton maritime Museum, Balloch Sealive Centre, Stirling Museum, Wallace Monument at Stirling, Glasgow museums (Museum of Transport, Kelvingrove Museum and Huntarian Museum) and four excellent distilleries: Glengoyne, Deanston, Auchentoshan and Lomond Distilleries.
Wet weather cover is within easy reach: Castles (Doune Castle, Stirling Castle and Dumbarton Castle) Indoor swimming pools and spas (Drymen and Balloch) Dumbarton maritime Museum, Balloch Sealive Centre, Stirling Museum, Wallace Monument at Stirling, Glasgow museums (Museum of Transport, Kelvingrove Museum and Huntarian Museum) and four excellent distilleries: Glengoyne, Deanston, Auchentoshan and Lomond Distilleries.
And if you're not too exhausted after all that there is a great variety of eateries and pubs in which to relax afterwards
Despite the popularity of the southern end of the Loch Lomond the area does not feel busy or crowded in any way. There are many secluded spots to be explored and discovered with tranquillity and beauty always close by.
When choosing a holiday destination it is always good to take into account the closeness of facilities like shops, restaurants and inns. The ideal place for us when we’re booking our vacation is somewhere peaceful, away from a main road, but within easy reach of these ameneties..
Make sure you get a great view
Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National park is full of natural beauty and wonderful wildlife. Selecting a base with a terrific view is a must as it adds so much to the visitor experience. Even better is to get a great view with wildlife in it. A peaceful location will encourage the wildlife to show face.
After all what is the point of travelling to this magnificent area and not being able to see it at its best out of the window of where you are staying?
Self catering accommodation is best in
It was a short drive to Drymen Village where we took the left hand turn onto the A814 signposted towards Balmaha and Rowardennan.
Soon we were passing through Balmaha with its pretty bay and hugely popular Oak Tree Inn. We continued onwards, past Cashel Camping Site on the left until we reached Sallochy Bay Camping and Parking site where we parked.
We had been to Sallochy bay before when we explored the peninsula out to Ross Point and discovered a huge crop of blaeberries / bilberries in an unfrequented hidden woodland (see blog of 22 Aug 2017)
Today, rather than follow the shoreline as before, we were going to walk eastwards in part of what forms the Western edge of the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park – a 50,000 acre (20,234 hectares) stretching from the eastern shores of Loch Lomond to the mountains of Strathyre.
The Queen Elizabeth Forest Park is one of two forest parks (the other being the Argyll f.p.) within the much larger Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
A board in the car park illustrated some of the marked trails within this section of the park.
Parking at Sallochy Bay is £1 for an hour or £3 for the day. On this day however the charge was zero as the machine was not working. Money saved!
Queen Elizabeth Forest Park
The path was clear and the signing good. A gentle slope took us up to the first junction – we followed the right hand fork and continued up through this pine and birch woodland. Some very attractive sections as the path disappeared into the trees which were bathed in the winter sunlight.
According to the Forestry Commission website (http://scotland.forestry.gov.uk/news-releases/1736-uncovering-the-past-in-sallochy-s-oak-woodlands) the hillside was planted with oak over 200 years ago to be coppiced for timber for construction and for charcoal.
A by-product of the charcoal making process “wood vinegar” was used in the dyeing process in some of the Vale of Leven’s many textile factories.
Shortly we arrived at our quest. A collection of ruined buildings peeking out from the undergrowth forming the long abandoned settlement of Easter Sallochy.
The OS Names Book of 1858-61 for Stirlingshire lists Easter Sallochy as being a former farmhouse occupied (at that time) by cotters. More information can be found on this website: https://scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/digital-volumes/ordnance-survey-name-books/stirlingshire-os-name-books-1858-61/stirlingshire-volume-06?display=transcription
The Ordinance Survey 6 inches to the mile map of 1863 shows a road running north to south on the eastern side of Easter Sallochy. Little trace of that road can be seen now but the remains of the dry stone field wall which runs in line with where the road would have been can be glimpsed through the birch trees.
We turned right onto this road and followed it up hill.
Further up the hill
After taking a few minutes to admire the vistas we headed back to the forestry road and continued onwards and upwards in our exploration. A deer fence lines this upper section of road on the left hand side protecting the younger vegetation below.
We came to a fork in the road and turned left. This section of road had not seen traffic for some time. Broom and whin (gorse) bushes encroached the carriagway from both sides, sometimes almost touching each other in the middle of the road. Despite this our passage was not hampered in any way and climbing gently and continuously we soon arrived at another junction where again we took the left hand fork.
Soon this section of road came to an end and we paused to take in the view – even more magnificent than before. Looking to the north we could see the snowy peak of Ben Narnain - the first of a series of Munros known locally as “The Arrochar Alps” (a Munro is a hill in Scotland over 3000ft.)
This was a great time of year for our walk as the lack of foliage in some sections permitted views which may have been otherwise obscured later in the year.
Allt a Mhuillin burn
Beautiful Snow at Appletree Self Catering Cottage, Loch Lomond
This hear has been the best for snow since we moved back to Scotland in 2013. Having had a little bit in December, the weekend before last was the best. Particularly on the Sunday when it snowed nearly all day - leaving about 6 inches deep in parts. Here are some pictures....
The Drymen Show, one of the oldest agricultural shows in Scotland is held every May in the fields adjacent to the Endrick. Fortunately by that time of year the floods have long since receded.
The barn on the immediate left had lost its roof by the time we arrived and we replaced it with a red corrugated iron roof (similar to many other barns on this same road) in 2015.
Other changes have been landscaping, the shortening of the distant barn (so the cottage now gets a fantastic view across Cameronmuir) and the replacement of the double gates which someone appeared to have tried to drive through without opening them!
Below are you can compare the current view with that of 2011.
Clear skies and sunshine have brought a touch of magic to our area:
Another glorious day at Appletree Cottage!
The sun is shining and the sky is clear as
we set off to find the source of the Endrick
Water, the river which rises in the Campsie
Hills and flows west down throughFintry,
Gartness and Drymen to Loch Lomond.
The walk was an easy one. After leaving the car we did not pass or see a single person in the whole afternoon.
A descent in the road led to another bridge over the Endrick Water – looking still narrower, then a climb again. We had passed through several gates – all of which were fixed open and although the road had no tarmac the surface was well made and even.
After a long gentle ascent the road started to veer over to the right over the shoulder of the hill (Cringate Law). In the distance we could see ruined farm buildings of the former Burnfoot Farm. Just at that point on the left hand side, next to what looked like a passing place was a single post with a broken disc on it and an arrow on the disc. The arrow pointed across open moor to the north west and we struck off into the banks of rushes heading down hill.
Close to this bridge is the confluence point of the Burnfoot Burn and the Backside Burn – the latter being the bottom one. Where the two waters of the Backside and the Burnfoot meet is the start of the Endrick.
The bridge over the Burnfoot Burn turns out to be quite important. Funded by Scotways with a grant of £22,800 from the Brown Forbes Memorial Fund (BFMF) and £4,600 from Forth Valley and Lomond LEADER and support from Scottish National Heritage the bridge was the “missing link” connecting existing paths to form the first off-road walking route across Central Scotland, linking the villages of Kippin and Kilsyth. Built by The Conservation Volunteers it provided a safe crossing on this route from 2014. For more information about the walking route follow this link: https://www.scotways.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=342:heritage-paths-in-the-campsie-fells-a-new-bridge-for-central-scotland&catid=1:news&Itemid=69
We could see a ruin up on the hill on the other side of the burn so we crossed the bridge and made our way up through the sometimes boggy ground to what turned out to be an old abandoned farmhouse. The roof appeared to have been off this building for many years and the rubble built stone walls were crumbling rapidly. An old swinging pot hook remained in place on the internal fireplace.
This was the remains of Burnfoot Cottage, a former small steading.
We have been (reliably?) informed that as part of the deal for permission to install Earlsburn Windfarm it was agreed that the village of Fintry would benefit financially. The income from one of the wind generators would go directly to the village. This financed the building of their excellent sports centre. It may be this fact requires further investigation.
A rough track leads north from Burnfoot Cottage leading eventually down to the village of Kippen. It would have been a long journey in the days of horse and cart - and very few if any other inhabitants to meet on the way.
One other dwelling in this valley is marked on the 1890Ordinance Survey map - Backside Farm about one mile to the north. Little now remains of that particular dwelling.
A very pleasant stop on the way home was the Fintry Inn with their warm fire, local beers and excellent food. A great place to put your feet up and relax after a long walk.
The journey from Appletree Cottage took us about fifteen minutes.
After parking the car we walked the short distance to the shores of the loch.
Balloch Steam Slipway Engine
The enormous pistons were turning the gearing cogs making it easy to understand and visualise how easily a ship could be drawn out of the water by such enormous machinery. There were some great photos on display and a good book stall in the engine shed. We took the opportunity to toot the hooter for a 50p donation towards the restoration of The Maid of the Loch.
All this was very impressive. We decided to move further round the shore to inspect The Maid of the Loch where we could hear a band playing.
The Maid of the Loch
The Maid as she is known is unusual in being a "knock down" boat. That is, having been constructed in the shipyard, she was then taken to pieces again and transported by rail to the loch side at Balloch. There she was reconstructed and eventually launched on Thursday the 5th of March 1953.
Operated latterly by Caledonian Macbrayne (now known as Calmac) she operated as a pleasure boat, ferrying passengers up and down the loch calling at the various piers like Ardlui and Inversnaid.
One used to be able to take one of the electric trains from the centre of Glasgow to the little station on the pier at Balloch. From the train it was only the shortest of walks across the platform the the steamer.
The railway line to the pier is long since gone and The Maid of the Loch took her last passengers up the loch on 31 August 1981
Following her withdrawal from service the ship lay in an increasing state of disrepair exacerbated by wonton vandalism until Dumbarton Council came to the rescue in 1992. Three years later In 1995 the council supported a rescue plan by a group of enthusiasts formed as The Loch Lomond Steamship Company and passed the vessel into their care.
By 2000 The Maid had been restored enough to become a floating bar and cafe = helping raise further funds.
The next key to the paddle steamers salvation was, with the aid of a lottery grant, the restoration of the Steam Slipway. In June 2006 the newly re-opened slipway was used to lift the boat out of the water. This allowed repairs and restoration to begin on the hull.
Now back in the water the renovation continues and the aim of the charitable trust is to return the venerable vessel to service in 2018.
If you feel the urge to find out more about this great ship or contribute to her restoration more information is available at: http://www.maidoftheloch.org
on to Loch Lomond Food and Drink Festival...
After exploring the paddle steamer we wandered over to the food and drink festival itself. Very popular with both tourists and locals the festival is one of two food festivals throughout the year, the other one being in the Springiest - usually in early April.
Today a long line of stalls selling all types of food and drink filled the promenade and more of the Loch Lomond Shores development. In some years vendors travel from as far away as France to sell their sausages and other delicacies.
There are many hot food outlets of all sorts and music is provided by a programme of bands set up on a stage with nearby seating.
Drinks are available both from stalls near the music area or if you prefer a tipple can be taken on the first floor balcony of the permanent bar with a terrific view across Loch Lomond.
After watching the haggis eating competition (as you do) we noted the large number of Segways for hire and also the popularity of the boat trips on offer.
Loch Lomond Shores itself is an interesting place. Opened in 2002 a collection of upmarket retail outlets (Jenners, Hawkshead, Thorntons, Edinburgh Woollen Mill, Ashtins Aromatics and Loch Lomond Jewellers to name but a few) form one side of an attractive terrace with the waters of the loch lapping at the other. There is also a Sea Life Centre with the unusual attraction of a walk through tank with sharks swimming in it. It has proved popular with children who bring their sleeping bags to camp out for the night in the centre of the tank whilst sharks and other sea creatures swim all round them, staring out through the thick glass.
Loch Lomond Shores website can be found at: http://www.lochlomondshores.com and Loch Lomond Sea Life Centre is at::https://www.visitsealife.com/loch-lomond
Eventually, after another great day and having had our fill of a variety of fast food we made our way back to Appletree Cottage
Visit to Doune Castle - 26 Aug 2017
Leaving Appletree Cottage we head west along the A811 stopping briefly at east end of the village of Bucklyvie for some excellent refreshment at the newly opened roadside café.
From Bucklyvie we continue along the A811. We see Gargunnock village some distance away on the hill to the right. Then we turn left by Gargunnock Sawmill (B8075 signposted Doune)
We continue along this road for a mile or so and turn left at the end onto the A84.
Just after turning left there is a great new Farm Shop by the roadside which is worth a visit.
We continue along the last couple of miles and cross the bridge over the Teith River into Doune village following the signs to Doune Castle
We made our way along the single track road and soon the castle came into sight. It was a Saturday and parking was tight but we managed to find a space in the small carpark.
The exterior of the castle was clearly recognisable both as the factional Leoch Castle, the seat of the McKenzie clan in the Outlander TV series and multiple locations from Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
We entered through the huge open oak doors and bought our tickets. (£6 for Adults and £3.50 for children at time of writing.
Free with each ticket is a headset guide to the castle narrated mostly by Python Terry Jones with a couple of notes form Sam Heughan who plays Jamie Fraser in Outlander.
Terry Jones’ notes are particularly interesting.
A brief history...
Occupying one of the main routes to the highlands the castle was of strategic importance.
There is a good story of how, after the Battle of Falkirk in 1746 (part of the Jacobite uprising) the Jacobites took several prisoners back to Doune Castle and incarcerated them in the upper storey of the Castle's kitchen block. Among the prisoners was a minister calledJohn Witherspoon and being a young (23) and enterprising chap tore up some material and knotted it together to use as a rope and escape to the ground. Shortly after this Witherspoon emigrated to the America and became the only clergy member to sign the Declaration of Independence.
Inside Doune Castle
A flight of steps from the courtyard leads up to the Kitchens, Servery and the Great Hall.
The kitchen has a hugely impressive seventeen foot wide fireplace – large enough to roast an entire ox. Serving hatches allowed food to be passed to servants who would distribute it to those feasting in the main hall.
In The Holy Grail the kitchens were used as Castle Anthax where Sir Gallahad is unwillingly rescued from Zoot and her girlfriends. The Great Hall was the location of the Knights of the round table song and dance routine.
Most of the castle is open to the public so you are free to roam as you wish. The height of the doorways serve as a reminder as to how much smaller the human form was four hundred years ago!
Ivanhoe (BBC) as well as featuring in Sir Walter Scott's novel Waverley (1814)
After two very satisfying hours we returned our guide headsets and left through the entrance through which a Trojan Rabbit was once dragged!
Conclusion: A great family day out and well worth the money.
Sallochy Bay is a beach with a Forestry Commission run campsite beside it. It is clean, the water clear and the beach fine white pebbles where it cost us £3 to park the car for the day.
Setting out across the bridge
Leaving the car we headed north across the sturdy wooden pedestrian bridge which crosses the burn at the north end of Salloch car park and forms part of the West Highland Way
(The West Highland Way is a hugely popular hiking track running over 100 miles from Milngavie in the north of Glasgow to Fort William on the west coast)
The path, which runs along the loch side is well made and easy. We pass a series of pretty little bays as we walk along the tree lined shore, taking in the majestic oaks of the woodland.
It is very peaceful apart from the occasional footfall of West Highland Way walkers.
Rowan trees are in full fruit, their bright red berries hanging in clusters from the tips of branches. The berries although poisonous to eat are used for making Rowan Jelly and just as importantly Rowanberry Wine.
The heathers are also in full bloom in shades of purple.
After a while the path splits. The West Highland Way route is to the right, up a series of steps climbing the hill. We opt to continue straight ahead on the level.
Soon our path too begins to rise, over a hill and then fall again back town towards the water. The air is still, the water like glass and there is not a sound.
We take a little track from the main path and descend to one of the many little beaches.
After watching the ducks – in particular one very tame one, we continue our way along the shore for some time.
The tree roots by the shore, where the water has eroded the soil are fascinating contorted shapes.
Unable to follow the shore any further round we head inland following another very rough path through high bracken and heather. The path leads us quite a distance inland and up hill to the centre of a coppice and then disappears. We are now lost, without a path to follow.
As it is near the end of a damp August, come across a few interesting fungi..
We’ve rejoined the West Highland Way at the top of a hill and follow the path downwards until we reach the flight of steps we saw earlier in our walk. We descend to the shore line and once again follow the path, this time back to the car park.
This walk would have been a lot easier if we’d stuck to the paths!