Its another lovely day at Appletree Cottage! Today we travel thirty minutes in the car to Port of Monteith and take a small ferry across to Inchmahome Island and its magnificent and atmospheric ruined priory.
Inchmahom Priory, Lake of Menteith
Our journey to Port of Menteith takes us just under half an hour. Leaving Appletree Cottage we drive down to Croftamie village and then along the A811 past Drymen. At Ballat crossroads we turn left up the A81 towards Aberfoyle. Shortly before Aberfoyle at the roundabout next to the Rob Roy Hotel we turn right along the A81 to Port of Menteith. Port of Menteith is a small hamlet beside Lake of Menteith. Once in Port of Menteith hamlet we take the right hand turn onto the B8034 (towards Arnprior), past the excellent Port of Menteith Hotel, past Lake of Menteith fisheries (where you can hire fishing boats and tackle by the hour) and park a few hundred yards down this road on the right in the car park signposted “Inchmahome Priory”.
From the shore by the car park two small boats, each seating up to 12 people, regularly ferry visitors to the island of Inchmahome and its famous priory during the summer months.
We board the first boat which is waiting and take our seats.
We don’t part with any money at this stage as payment is taken once on the island. The enterprise is run by Historic Environment Scotland. Charges are £7.50 per adult, but many membership cards are accepted, including English Heritage cardholders who go free.
It is a beautiful day and the waters are like glass with the occasional fishing dingy dotted here and there.
Lake of Menteith is Scotland’s only lake (everything else is a loch).
Wikipedia differs on this point citing a few other lakes, but all those mentioned are very small.
The word 'lake' in this case is supposed to have been a misinterpretation of 'Laich of Menteith' which means lowlands of Menteith.
There is no public jetty on the lake and so all boats have to be hired on site.
The shores are particularly good for bird spotting, especially in the early hours of the day.
After a few minutes boat ride we arrive at the small stone pier. Following a few notes about the island given by the somewhat bumptious skipper we are permitted to disembark.
The name "Inchmahome" comes from the Gaelic Innis MoCholmaig, which means Island of St Colmaig. The priory, founded in 1238 by the Earl of Menteith, Walter Comyn, for a small community of the Augustinian order The Black Canons is said to replace an earlier structure on the island.
The buildings are in a semi ruinous state but the remains and the surrounding grounds around them have been beautifully maintained and are in pristine condition. Information boards around the buildings give visitors a guide as to what the various sections were used for and some artistes' reconstructions are interesting.
Among its many prominent visitors the priory was one of many hide-away places for Mary Queen of Scots as she sought to escape the clutches of Elizabeth I and her court.
Besides the Priory ruins there are other interests on the island. Some of the trees are said to be over 500 years old. We came across an interesting sweet chestnut tree. A large area of the land is covered with brambles which are very nearly ripe. They taste so much better than the common blackberry which is easy to mistake as bramble.
A path leads around the entire perimeter of the island. After exploring the priory, we walk along the western shoreline. Trees dip into the water and the ripples glisten in the sunshine. In the distance the fishermen sit poised on their craft whilst here and there a trout leaps.
Just to the West we can see the tiny island of Inchtalla . Although appearing as a mass of trees, lost within the undergrowth lie the ruined remains of Talla Castle. More information about this can be found here: canmore.org.uk/site/24064/lake-of-menteith-inch-talla-talla-castle
We decide it is time to take the return ferry (they run regularly until late afternoon) and so make our way to the pier. As we near the pier on the mainland we get a good view of The Lake of Menteith Hotel on the shore. Beautifully situated next the ancient church the hotel serves excellent food and makes an ideal stop for lunch or dinner.
Soon we are safely ashore and back in the car and heading back to Appletree Cottage, having had a thoroughly magical time on this mystical island.