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Great Round Trip from Appletree Cottage including a ferry to Dunoon and two good gourmet hotels

Updated: May 22

Excursion from Appletree Self-Catering Cottage, Loch Lomond on 8 Oct 2016


We had a great trip a few weeks ago on 8th October. 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

When we disembarked at the North shore, we drove in to Dunoon town centre, about 1 km from the ferry terminal. Dunoon has gone up in the world since the 1980s when it used to house a US base at close by Holy Loch. There are interesting shops and cafes in the bustling high street. The pier (as opposed to the ferry terminal) still has its Victorian pavilion which dates back to 1895. 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 and walked down to the shore of Loch Striven to watch the gannets diving into the water. This was hugely impressive. The birds glide 30 meters or so above the water, circling, looking for fish. Sighting prey the birds dive into the water at speeds of up to 100 km 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.

We watched this fishing frenzy for quite some time enjoying the remoteness of the Loch. 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.

We left Loch Long after Ardentinny and made our way up an impressively steep narrow road took us over a high pass with a long descent to join the A815 on the shore of Loch Eck. 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 descended to the village of Lochgoilhead. This area of Scotland among others is a strong-hold of the red squirrel and their proliferation 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 built 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 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 cuisine. 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 (Arrochar) 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 pondering their excellent menu.

This hotel is unrecognisable from previous years. It has been completely remodelled inside and is now warm, welcoming and friendly with excellent local beers on tap and fantastic food. We look forward to making another visit there. 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

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