(aka "the Dumpling") Gartocharn, Loch Lomond
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 and went out into the winter air to take some pretty pictures. Our first stop was about ten minutes away at Duncryne Hill. Known locally as The Dumpling and about a five minute 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 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 minutes 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 furthest 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 a 15 minute drive from Appletree Cottage) More information can be found here: www.glengoyne.com/
After descending Duncryne Hill a little bit quicker than we climbed it, we arrived 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 still beautiful view looking up the loch.
Ross Priory, Gartocharn
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 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 is quickly back into rural bliss!
Drymen Bridge and Curling Pond
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 microlight 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.
Balmaha Moorings and Marina, Loch Lomond
A recent fixture at Balmaha is a statue of Tom Wear.
Tom Weir was a hugely popular presenter, famous for series on Scottish Television where he explored Scotland on foot.
He inspired many to don a rucksack and head for the hills to discover the joys of the great outdoors in this magnificent country of ours.
A much loved character he lived locally in Gartocharn.
Tom's sister was also famous and a household name. She was the actress Molly Weir. Her catchphrase can still occasionally uttered by older generations to this day "Flash - cleans baths without scratching"
Now the statue of Tom Weir and his just as famous bunnet stands handsomely beside Balmaha Bay. A fitting tribute to his everlasting contribution to outward bound exploration and Scottish Culture.
After 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 a fifteen minute drive from Appletree Cottage. There are many more to discover. Self-catering at its best!