Another fine day at Appletree Cottage and today we explore the peninsula immediately north of Sallochy Bay on the east side of Loch Lomond (about 15 minutes drive away)
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
Fork in the road...
Also out at this time of year are the blaeberries (or wild blueberries) which grow in abundance by the side of the path. Our fingers are soon a deep red colour from the juice as we pick them.
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.
There is also a good selection of attractive flora still out at this time of year
We continue along the shoreline, climbing over fallen branches, ducking under low boughs until eventually we reach a little rocky promontory. Bog Myrtle abounds – a shrub like green plant with a fantastic smell if you rub the leaves – fragrant with a hint of eucalyptus.
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..
Spotting the sun and keeping the hills to the east in view we make a direct line, or as direct as we can, through quite rough undergrowth and young birch trees until we eventually (and happily) join the West Highland Way again.
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!
A lovely day with a little bit of a breeze and occasional cloud. Perfect for walking.
The plan was to walk from Arrochar at the head of Loch Long and follow the northern end of the Cowal Way up to Loch Sloy
Leaving Appletree Cottage we drove to Balloch and then up the western shore of Loch Lomond. At Tarbert, about half way up Loch Lomond we continued straight on towards Arrochar and Invararay.
Arrochar was only a couple of miles further on and we drove through the village and parked in the car park immediately before the bridge at the head of the loch.
There was a sign saying there was a charge of £1 per day for parking at the time of our visit (although the machines were still being installed and were wrapped in plastic bags - hooray!)
Walking out from Arrochar
From the car park we crossed the main road and followed a narrow road up the south side of the river (we did not ever cross the river) After about quarter of a mile (1/2km) there was a sign to the right saying “Cowal Way” . We followed the track up about 100 yards and turned left, away from the loch and continued along this for about a mile when it eventually became a path.
The walk was relatively easy, very peaceful and unspoilt. Mostly on the level there was the occasional small hill or mound which the path would contour up. It was easy to see where we were going and the path, though rutted in places with some loose rocks on the inclines, was generally well maintained.
After about 4 miles (6.5 km we skirted round the side of and entered a wood of tall handsome trees. Emerging eventually in open country and through a gate at the end of the path.
We had a choice to turn left or right (as signposted) across a small wooden bridge and up onto there dam service road (tarmac) where we turned left.
It was only about another mile to Loch Sloy Dam as the road climbed gently up the hillside.
About Loch Sloy Dam
Loch Sloy is the largest conventional hydroelectric plant in Britain. Its water flows from Loch Sloy along 3km tunnels cut through Ben Vorlich, to power the station on the shore of Loch Lomond below. Four huge pipes are clearly visible from the Loch Lomond shore carrying the water on its final journey to the generating station next to the main road.
Construction on the Dam commenced in May 1945 and was completed in 1949, the official opening ceremony being on 18 Oct 1950. Initially prisoners worked on the construction but when the war finished workers came from as far away as Cornwall to join the project. At its
peak the workforce exceed 2,200 men. The tunnelling was hard and 21 men lost their lives during construction.
The dam doubled the lengh of Loch Sloy and raised its water level by 47 meters.
The complex is used as stand-by power to the national grid and can be at full capacity (152mw) from a standing start in only five minutes.
For more detailed information about Loch Sloy Dam visit http://www.engineering-timelines.com/scripts/engineeringItem.asp?id=1014
At the Dam
The road had been gently climbing since we joined it and after about half a mile we got our first glimpses of the dam. Looking dark, menacing and somewhat satanic in the day’s light.
It grew larger and larger as we approached and the bold designs of architect Harold Ogle Tarbolton’s now A listed structure became clearer.
As we arrived at the foot of the dam the stillness of the air and the silence in the hills, with not another person in sight served to exaggerate the presence of this enormous structure.
We walked up the road to the west end of the top of the dam and through the short tunnel which obviously serves as a shelter for sheep on the wilder days. We were free to walk across the top of the dam and through the gate at the eastern end. From there led a set of stones set in the hillside as a staircase. The interesting thing about this staircase was that it could only be seen from above as not clue to its existence could be discerned from below.
End of a great day
After exploring the dam and taking in the surrounding views we made our way back along the route from which we’d come to return to our car.
As an alternative we did consider walking up to the dam from Inveruglas (where the four huge pipes come out the hill down to the generating station on the shore of Loch Lomond.
We decided not to do this as the parking in Inveruglas car park was £4 and there was quite a long walk (about ½ mile) beside the main road before beginning to ascend the service road to
Our route was moderate, about 10.5miles in lengh (17km) and thoroughly enjoyable.
Car journey – about 50 minutes from Appletree Cottage
Walking duration – about 5 hours with lots of stops.
One of the best walks we’ve had this year!
Places to visit
There are many great days out from here. Trips to places like Inveraray (with its 18th Century jail and courthouse) and Auchendrain, a highland village museum where you can see how people lived centuries ago.
On the way to or from Inveraray there is the excellent Loch Fyne Fisheries shop and restaurant supplying fantastic fresh seafood.
Another good trip is to drive to Colintraive (near the pretty village of Tighnabruich) and take the ferry across to the Isle of Bute. You can then explore Bute from north to south, see the ancient castle in the island capital Rothesay or visit the beautifully preserved Mount Stewart Castle (a magnificent house) on the south end of the island before taking the ferry across to Wemyss Bay on the mainland and driving back to Appletree Cottage.
Luss on the shores of Loch Lomond is worth a visit. It is a neatly laid out former estate village of cottages with a small pier. Boats go from Luss on pleasure cruises around the loch.
Pleasure cruises on Loch Lomond also go from Balloch and Balmaha. At Balmaha you can also catch a ferry to Inchcailloch, an uninhabited island nature reserve on Loch Lomond - a favourite of ours. If you're feeling fit you can carry on past Balmaha and go up to Rowardennan where you can climb Ben Lomond (4000ft) for fantastic views. But when I do this I sometimes find my legs are a bit wobbly the next day!
A day out in Oban is good too - more of a town than a village but with a couple of excellent fresh fish shacks on the pier. On the way to Oban you might want to stop off at Taynuilt and see the ancient Bonawe iron furnace (founded in 1753) where they made pig iron and cannon balls. The furnace is now preserved and in a beautiful setting. You can take the train from Helensburgh to Oban along the West Highland Line, one of the most beautiful railway lines in the world.
Another good trip we did recently was to drive up to Loch Katrine and take the boat to the far end of the loch to the tiny hamlet of Stronachlacher. We took our bikes with us and cycled back along the private road (virtually traffic free) that follows the shore of the loch back to where we started. Another fun thing to do is to drive to Gourock (about 40 mins) and take the car ferry across to Dunoon a nice little village on the Clyde estuary.
If you turn left when you get off the ferry you can get to Loch Striven which feels surprisingly remote. We saw some herring gulls there giving a spectacular diving display. Also a huge number of pheasants perched on the side of the road watching us! Someone must be breeding them there.
If you turn right at the Dunoon ferry you can take one of a couple of routes - all very pretty - through little villages - back to Tarbert on Loch Lomond and then back to Appletree Cottage.
Not a coastal village I know, but if it is raining there are a some good options - the Kelvingrove Museum and the Transport museum in Glasgow (40 mins drive) are a good option and are free. Stirling Castle and Wallace Monument (also by Stirling) are good wet weather cover. There's lots more. When you come we can lend you some large scale maps of the area so you can find your way about and view points of interest etc.
About Appletree Cottage and its immediate surroundings
Appletree Cottage is on the grounds of an old farm We built Appletree last year 2016 on the former site of an ancient barn which had been demolished before we bought the (semi derelict) Shandon Farm in 2013.
The farm itself we have found recently on a map dated 1746!
At time of writing (May 2017) Google Maps show Appletree Cottage nearly completed whilst Google Street View is still showing the old barn which the cottage replaced
Although there are a couple of houses nearby Appletree Cottage is not overlooked. You are not overlooked by the farmhouse either - there is a line of old stone barns between us.
The cottage looks out across open countryside which is home to some sheep, some cattle and wildlife. Recent visitors in April spotted 30 species of bird from the cottage. A roe deer and her foals have recently been seen wandering through the grounds and you may spot a large pheasant or two.
The cottage grounds extend to the edge of the patio on one side with lawn on two other sides. A new hedge is planted on the fourth side.
The farm and the cottage are on a quiet back road The road forms part of two leisure routes - Cycle Route 7 - a long and circuitous route which runs from Sunderland in England to Inverness in north Scotland - John Muir Way path which celebrates the man who founded the national park movement in the US. It runs from his home town Dunbar on the east coast of Scotland to Helensburgh in the west. So the traffic on our road consists of very occasional farm traffic, even more occasional groups of cyclists and walkers.
There is a cycle hire shop in Drymen 1.5 miles away if cycling takes your fancy. If the mood takes you there is a local village pub in Croftamie (12-15 minutes walk) which has outside seating for sunny days. There are other good pubs / restaurants within easy driving distance, and a local taxi firm if you want to leave the car.
There are also good walks from the cottage and the scenery is fantastic.
We hope the above gives you an idea of what to expect.
We look forward to meeting and welcoming you and your family soon
Murray and Alli
Group of Ornithologists spot thirty species from Appletree
Slightly further afield is Inversnaid on the remote eastern shore of Loch Lomond and home to some black grouse and golden eagles.
The spotting records our April visitors are detailed below...
Birds Spotted from Appletree Cottage 21-25 April 2017
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Birds spotted at nearby wildlife sanctuaries (in addition to those already spotted at Appletree Cottage). 21-25 April 2017
On a lovely clear day we drove north towards Aberfoyle from Appletree Cottage. Following the following the A809 heading north from Croftamie village we joined the A811 and followed it past Drymen to join the A81 towards Aberfoyle.
Once in Aberfoyle, having made use of their handy petrol station we turned right at the end of the main street up the steep hill to Dukes Pass (A821). The pass is a long , steep and winding road over desolate countryside with some spectacular views to enjoy. Near the highest point of the pass a nouse of the left is all that remains of the village which once serviced Aberfoyle Slate Quarries further up the hill on the left (west)
As we began to decend the pass we could see the pointed peak of Ben A’an across the glen with loch Achray glistening below.
At the bottom of the hill, just past Loch Achray hotel on the left we came to a T junction with Loch Katrine to the left and Callendar and Brig O’ Turk to the right. We took the right hand turn and followed the road for a couple of miles to the small village of Brig O’Turk
We turned left at the excellent Brig O’Turk tearoom (featured in the cycling sequence in the 1959 film The 39 Steps starring Kenneth Moore) and continued past the schoolhouse up the hill to a small car park at the end of the road.
From the car park we continued on foot up the remainder of the road (authorised vehicles only) and soon we saw Glen Finglas dam in the distance.
Just at that point, near to some picnic tables, there is an information board concerning the pre-raphaelite artist John Everett Millais portrait of John Ruskin. A path leads down to the burn and the point at which John Ruskin is supposed to have stood for this picture. (there is more on this below and at website: www.lochlomondtrossachs.org.uk/park-stories/glen-finglas-and-a-victorian-scandal)
Ruturning to the road we made our final climb up to the dam. An impressive structure constructed by Glasgow Corporation Waterworks as an extension to the nearby Loch Katrine water scheme which pipes water by gravity feed to the city some thirty four miles (55km) distant. The dam now also produces hydro generated electricity.
From the top of the dam there are great views across Finglas reservoir to the north with small islands dotted here and there. Flocks of birds abound in this remote corner of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.
We made our way back to the car and back down the hill towards the village of Brig O’Turk. Nearby the old school and schoolhouse on the opposite side of the road is the famous “Bicycle Tree” . The tree can be seen from the road as can the remains of the bicycle which it has grown around, the rusting handlebars and forks clearly visible.
Back down at the excellent tearoom (which closes for winter) we turned right, back the way we had come. Just as we left the village a sign alerted us to the Byre Inn on the left. Set a little bit off the main road this cosy cottage pub offers excellent food and beers in front of a roaring log fire. More info at www.byreinn.co.uk
The round trip from Appletree Cottage took just under three hours and made for a nice easy winter stroll with a warm welcome at the end of it.
More about that John Ruskin portrait:
We didn't have to wait long until boarded the Loch Dunvegan car and passenger ferry. It was pleasantly quite at this time of year with only about seven cars and a handful of passengers. and, before we knew it we were on Bute! as the journey was only about 10 minutes. We disembarked via the small slipway at what was the end of a single track road. We waited until the other cars from the ferry had passed us and then set on our way, happy in the knowledge that there was nobody behind us and that we could take our time sightseeing as we travelled without fear of being at the head of a queue of cars waiting to pass!
At this point the journey from Appletree Cottage had taken us just over two hours. It seemed like another world.
We made our way down the east coast of the island, stopping occasionally to take in the views. The opposite shore on the mainland was hardly inhabited with only the the occasional house here and there. On Bute the road was now double track but with no sign of other vehicles. The habitation was initially sparse but as we headed south more buildings started to appear.
Approaching Port Bannatyne we saw an impressive number of yachts and other craft gently bobbing up and down in the safety of the marina. The Kyles of Bute and for that matter the rest of the Clyde estuary are very popular waters for sailing.
After a short time we arrived in the island's capital town of Rothesay. Here we parked up and had a bite to eat in one of the many cafes in the town.
Rothesay Castle is also worth a look. Dating back to the 13th century this impressive semi restore ruin in the centre of the town is surrounded by a water filled moat and high impregnable walls in an unusual circular plan.
South and South West Bute
We explored the island further - to the southern tip and then up the west coast. Here the views across to the hills of Arran were tremendous with ever changing sunlight dancing across the craggy distant peaks.
Time to return to Appletree Self Catering Cottage
in Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park
Great Round Trip excursion from Appletree Cottage including a ferry to Dunoon and two good gourmet hotels
Excursion from Appletree Self Catering Cottage, Loch Lomond on 8 Oct 2016
From Appletree Cottage we drove to Dumbarton then along the A82 then across the Clyde River on the magnificent Erskine Bridge.
Once over the bridge we followed signs to Gourock and the vehicle ferry to Dunoon.
The ferry runs every fifteen minutes and you can buy your tickets on board. If you want to save a bit of money you can buy your tickets in the Co-op and other shops close to the ferry in Gourock.
The ferry crossing is about fifteen minutes and offers fresh air and fantastic views up and down the Clyde with the islands of Arran and Bute to the south.
On board the ferry from Gourock to Dunoon
From Dunoon we then drove south west, through Inellan with its grand seaside houses and the unusually named village of Toward then following the ever narrowing road round to head through Knockdow and onwards towards Inverchaolain.
Huge numbers of pheasant lined part of the road just after Inverchaolain, perched on the roadside fences until the presence of our approaching car inspired them to seek refuge in the adjacent fields.
We parked the car (not in a passing place!) and walked down to the shore of Loch Striven to watch the gannets diving into the water. This was hugely impressive.
The birds glide a 30 meters or so above the water, circling, looking for fish. When they see their prey they dive into the water at speeds of up to 100km per hour! When they hit the water there is quite a bang and shortly afterwards, if they have been lucky the bird emerge with a fish waggling in its beak.
The road down which we had been travelling is a dead end so we made our way back to Dunoon - stopping off at an excellent old time sweet shop to purchase some in-car treats for the next part of our journey.
From Dunoon we took the A885 north. I think we would have preferred to follow the coastal route (A815) past the ferry terminal and the village of Kirn. However, the A885 soon joined the A815 and we continued our journey north with the Holy Loch on our right.
At the head of the Holy Loch we had the option of continuing north on the relatively faster A815 but instead we turned right onto the A880 and followed the coastline round to the south end of Loch Long, through Otterburn, Blairmore and then Ardentinny.
From there it was a short time on this much wider road until we arrived at the settlement of Struchur on the shore of Loch Fyne.
As we continued north along the bank of Loch Fyne we could see the attractive white historic buildings of Inveraray, glistening in the sun across the water on the opposite shore.
Just by Ardnoe we took a right hand turning onto a single track road signposted Lochgoilhead B839. This took us up another steep pass with terrific views and then through woodland until we decended to the village of Lochgoilhead.
This area of Scotland among others is a stonghold of the red squirrel and their prolification here has necessitated a sign requesting motorists to keep an eye out and not run over these beautiful creatures.
Lochgoilhead has, since I last visited in the 1970's is largely unchanged although the caravan / chalet park on the western shore, just outside the village has expanded. Not surprisingly as Lochgoilhead is a popular outdoor sports centre and many in the cities of Glasgow and Edinburgh have their holiday caravan / chalet here.
We drove down the western shore for 6.5km to view Carrick Castle, a 15th Century tower house. This is the third building on this site, the first thought to be a Viking Fort and the second structure which is believed to have been build in the 12th Century was sacked by Robert the Bruce before passing into the hands of the Campbell Earls of Argyll in the mid 1368. The present and third structure was built by the same Earls of Argyll and used as their southern stronghold. Not untypically Mary Queen of Scots visited here in 1563. After passing the the Murrays of Dunmore the castle became a ruin and is now a private residence and undergoing restoration.
Back in Lochgoilhead we made a brief comfort break at the Lochgoilhead Hotel. The smell of food here was amazing and the menu looked fantastic. Had we had more time and had it been nearer mealtime we would have taken advantage of this cosy, welcoming establishment's fayre.
Back on the road again we retraced our journey up the B839 to where it forks and from there took the B828 up to the pass at the famous Rest and Be Thankful.
This pass is approached by steep roads on all sides and the troops who built the roads under General Wade, upon completion in 1750 carved a stone with the words Rest and be Thankful, a sentiment inspired by the long climb to get there.
We stopped in the car park to take in the views and admire the Arrochar Alps - a range of mountains - to the west which include The Cobbler (Ben Arthur) so named because the rock formation at the summit is by some seen as the outline of a cobbler bending over his last.
From Rest and Be Thankful we joined the main A83 south on the long run down to the shores of Loch Long. Round the head of Loch Long is the little village of Arrochar. Continuing up the hill out of Arrochar we passed the tiny railway station which Arrochar shares with its neighbouring village of Tarbert (Arrochar and Tarbert Station.)
This station which is on the beautiful West Highland line to Oban and Fort William and Mallaig is midway between Loch Long (Arrocher) and Loch Lomond (Tarbert)
On reaching Tarbert with the mighty Ben Lomond on the opposite side of the loch, we continued south to Luss where we made another stop - at the excellent Loch Lomond Arms for a short drink and a warm by the roaring fire whilst looking at the excellent menu.
From Luss it was a short journey south along the A82 to join the A811 at the roundabout just outside Balloch.to take us home to Croftamie.
The whole journey took us about five hours including stops and took us to many interesting places off the beaten track including two hotels serving excellent food.
End of a lovely day out from Appletree Cottage Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park