Is Loch Lomond and the Trossachs up there with the "Big Three"?
When people think of Scotland, they usually think of the "big Three"
- Our cultured capital city of Edinburgh
- The scenic beauty of the Isle of Skye
- Loch Ness, the home of our most spectacular resident, Nessie, the Loch Ness monster.
I've lost count of how many times I've been standing by the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond and been asked by a curious visitor, nodding and pointing to the water, usually with a wry smile on their face "Have you ever seen the Loch Ness monster in here?" It's as if they think I'm going to pull out a map with directions to where Nessie's secret hangout is.
So I hear you ask, where else is there?
Beautiful as this stunning trio are, there really is so much more to this wonderful country.
There's the raw ruggedness of Glencoe, with its featured mountain tops and deadly Jacobite history.
The Scottish Borders
The gentle lowlands and serene landscape of the borders are peppered with beautiful abbeys, ancient Castles and elegant stately homes.
Inner and Outer Hebrides
The myriad of extraordinary islands situated off the west coast of Scotland all have their own unique reasons to visit. High on the list is to spot an elusive White Tailed Sea Eagle soaring high in the sky above the sapphire waters or spend an evening watching Otters fishing for their dinner all set in a landscape moulded by the cultured history left to us by our ancestors. The Variation here is not limited to the flora, fauna and wildlife. You can have azure blue skies and calm seas, look away and by the time you look back there are monstrously impressive rolling waves crashing onto the perfect white sand beaches in a foamy crescendo.
As Mark Twain said "if you don't like the weather here, wait five minutes"
But what about Loch Lomond and the Trossachs?
Well this is my personal favourite and I believe it to be one of the most scenic places anywhere in the United Kingdom. Loch Lomond and the surrounding area, are now combined to make Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
As of 2002, Scotland was introduced to it's very first National Park, combining Loch Lomond, the Trossachs and a variety of lovely towns, villages and rolling countryside.
There's the beacon of Ben Lomond, conservation village, Luss, the botanic beauty of Benmore, the raging white water from Falls of Dochart, highland estates, Castles, geological pleasures, a large stretch of the West Highland Way, Islands, Glens, Salt Water Lochs and so much more all delightfully combined to make up 720 square miles (1159 square KM) of breathtaking landscape.
The centre peace of this area has surely got to be Loch Lomond. This exceptional expanse of water covers a fare sized chunk of the land, at over 44 square miles (71 square KM) making it Britain's largest body of fresh water.
Loch Lomond also has the most islands of any Loch (Lake) with anywhere between 30 and 50 of them, depending on the water level, who you ask and what they consider an Island. I'd say there are around 30, yet the ongoing debate continues. Have a wee count on the map below and leave a comment at the bottom of the page telling us what you think?
"The Loch" also boasts the biggest fresh water Island in the UK with Inchmurrin (Scottish Gaelic, Innis Mheadhran) sitting pretty at just under half a square mile.
It's a Sightseeing delight
Loch Lomond is scenically diverse and to really appreciate this, all you have to do is get yourself up one of the many Munros, Corbett's or hills. The Scottish Highland boundary fault line runs all the way through the National Park and it's from mountain tops that you really get a sense of the differing landscape and how it was formed hundreds of millions of years ago.
Looking south towards the Lowlands
If you look south from the top of your chosen hill, you see that the land is much flatter, the rivers meander more and any hills protruding up from the ground are much smaller.
Gazing North towards the Highlands
Facing north, you will see mountain tops, deep Glens and even in early to late summer, you might get a small glimpse of the remaining snow left over from the frosty winter. The sightseeing opportunities are everywhere and this is one of the reasons we get a huge amount of returning visitors to the area every year.
The Trossachs and Wildlife
The Trossachs, they truly are breathtaking. Known by many as the "highlands in miniature" there are Munro mountain tops scattered all over, turbulent rivers, fish filled Lochs and deciduous woodland, intertwined together to create the perfect environment, where you may see some tremendous wildlife in their natural habitats.
Strong, rough and ready, Britain's largest Deer species is perfectly adapted to the Scottish Highlands. They can weigh in up to an impressive 200kg. Each year the males grow an imposing set of antlers to keep other Stags away and attract the Hinds to his harem.
You will have a good chance of spotting these amazing creatures when you're out walking some of our upland hill paths and mountains.
Energetic and playful little mustelids, they love jumping in and out of the water, enjoy rolling around with each other and catching their daily supply of fresh fish.
Otters are a bit trickier to spot, still, you do have good chance at seeing one, or a whole family by sitting next to a river, first thing in the morning or last thing at night.
They seem to have a fantastic time running around the tree tops chasing each other and searching for nuts. Red Squirrels are fairly easy to distinguish from their more common grey counterparts by their red coats, little tufted ears and big bushy tail.
You'll have a great chance at chance of seeing red squirrels from Balmaha and eastwards towards Callander where their making a healthy comeback from near Scottish extinction.
Keep your eyes peeled and look up towards the skies for the chance to see Britain's second largest, though most iconic bird of prey, the mighty and majestic Golden Eagle. These lovely birds relish the chance of a good hunt and with their huge eyes, they can spot their prey from miles away.
And the rest
As if having the UK's favourite wildlife wasn't enough, the National Park also has a few other "wee beauties", there's Wild Goats (above), Common Seals, Capercaillie, Black Grouse, Peregrine Falcons, Pine Martins, Fallow, Sika and Roe Deer along with returning Ospreys who make a long flight home from Africa every year.
There's also, the not so wild animal that everyone loves
Things to do in the area
I'm sure by now you're already thinking of a wee visit, so let me tell you some of my top things to do.
Walk up Conic Hill
I've already mentioned the highland boundary fault line that runs from Stonehaven in the East to the Isle of Arran in the West, separating the highlands from the lowlands.
Conic hill (Scottish Gaelic, Cnoc Coinnich) happens to be part of the fault line and there's no better place to genuinely appreciate this geological creation than from the top of the hill. It's a nice few hours walk, starting from Balmaha, taking you to a manageable 361 meter to a captivating view which looks out to one of the most wondrous landscapes you will see in Scotland.
It's not just the splendour of the contrasting highlands and lowlands, but the scene as you look out over Loch Lomond and the scattering of islands left behind from the glacier which melted only around 13,000 years ago.
Driving over the Dukes Pass
The Dukes pass is a beautiful narrow road connecting the alluring little town of Aberfoyle (Scottish Gaelic, Obar Phill) to the character filled Loch Achrey (Scottish Gaelic, Ath Chrathaidh). The road winds and bends for a short 7 miles and it seems there's a new scenic pleasure around every one of those bends.
Cycling around Loch Katrine with a cruise on a Steamship
I do relish a cycle and this really is a joy. It's a 12 mile stretch of private road, gated at both ends, so is usually very quiet with vehicles. The bike ride takes you from Loch Katrine (Scottish Gaelic, Loch Ceiteirein) visitor centre to Stronachlachar (Scottish Gaelic, Sron a Chlachair).
The cycling is fairly easy with a few small ascents and descents but all in all it's a great day out looking out over the heather clad scenery with the chance to see Scotland's last daily operating steamship, cruising past.
SS Sir Walter Scott Steamship
Here's the fun little perk. At the end of the cycle when your legs might be starting to feel the pain of the peddling, you actually have the chance to catch a ride on the charming SS Sir Walter Scott, back to your starting location.
A visit to the Falls of Dochart in Killin
There are many breathtaking rivers around the National Park, but the River Dochart, flowing from Loch Lubhair (pronounced Loch YOOur) has got to be one of the most captivating sites in the park.
The river flows through Glen Dochart and just before it empties out into Loch Tay, there is the most spectacular set of falls I have ever seen. The falls themselves are not that big, though what it lacks in size, it more than makes up for it in rock formation, character and beauty.
So... Is Loch Lomond and the Trossachs as good a place for a visit as Edinburgh, Skye and Loch Ness?
We would certainly say so. Each of these places has it's quality that attracts visitors in big numbers, though Loch Lomond and its surroundings has it's unique quirks that also attracts many a visitor.
I suppose the only way to really answer the question is by coming to the area and experiencing it for yourself.
So what you waiting for?
Come book up and join us on a National Park Tour?
I hope I've convinced you about how spectacular an area we have here and how you could enjoy a remarkable experience in this amazing setting.
If your still looking for that little something extra, we provide the areas only 5 star, Extra Small Group, Active sightseeing Tour of Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.
So come and enjoy the best locations and actually get out and experience the landscape with a comfortable drive around the park and healthy walk in the company of a knowledgeable and friendly guide. Have a look or book up on-line here. Alternatively give us a call on 01389 513467
Love, Share, Comment & Subscribe
If you've been to our fantastic area or would like to come for a visit one day, give us some love, share this with friends or leave a comment below, telling us about your favourite place or what you enjoyed most about our great country