Scotland is a really beautiful country and I'm so lucky to live here and within easy reach of so many places to visit. Loch Katrine was our latest destination on a day trip and one I would like to share with you all, the area it is in is called the Trossachs.
~ Where is it? ~
Just ¾hour from Stirling, 1 hour from Glasgow and 1¼ hours from Edinburgh. All these cities have Railway Stations, and it's fairly easy to get to Callander, which is the nearest town where you can then catch the Trossach Trundler from there to the Trossachs Pier. Although a car is the easiest way to cover the 10 miles from Callander! The drive along the A84 to Kilmahog and then the A821 through Brig o' Turk, or from Aberfoyle along the A821 through the Duke's Pass, either way the scenery is beautiful and a lovely ride to enjoy the countryside.
There are hotels and B&B's in Aberfoyle and Callander and also a hotel near by at Loch Achray so it is easy to visit and enjoy for a full day or more.
~ Loch Katrine ~
The loch is a freshwater loch in the district of Stirling. It is roughly 8 miles long by 2/3 of a mile wide and runs the length of Strath Gartney. It is a popular destination for tourists and day visitors from Glasgow and other nearby towns. Loch Katrine is owned by Scottish Water and is the primary water reservoir for much of the city of Glasgow and its surrounding areas.
Oil-fired vessels are not permitted to sail in the Loch due to the danger of pollution to the drinking water of Glasgow. Instead a coke-burning, steam-powered boat named the SS Sir Walter Scott, offered local tourist transport between Trossachs Pier and Stronachlachar during summer or shorter trips on the Loch. The boat has since been converted to run on bio fuel. Robert Roy MacGregor was born at the head of the loch, Rob Roy fought in the Jacobite risings supporting King James who had been deposed by William of Orange.
Ben Venue or the hill of the caves, towers over the southern side of Loch Katrine with Ben A'an on the north side of the pass, but only visible from the water or the approach road. Ellen's isle was used in times of trouble as a refuge by the women and children of the MacGregor Clan. The peninsula close by, 'am Priosan' is reputed to be one of the places where Rob Roy MacGregor hid the cattle he 'lifted' from richer neighbours.
~ What's at the Trossachs Pier? ~
When we went early in August , admittedly it was a beautiful sunny day but it was very busy and difficult to park. The car park spaces were full and cars abandoned rather than parked around the edges! The coach spaces were full and our coach made the third one parked waiting for a space. Fortunately when the boats came back in several coaches left and there was more space! There is a toilet block - just 4 toilets for Ladies, so there was always a queue! Not sure about the gents and one for Disabled. In the centre of the car park was a kiosk for buying tickets , where there was a queue and the other side sold ice creams, drinks and snacks, where can you guess? There was an even longer queue!
There is a restaurant, called the Katrine café, where you can enjoy a scone and coffee or a bowl of homemade soup or baked potatoes, etc if it's cold. Full lunches are available and you can have a glass of wine too.
The Katrine gift shop was the former boat house and has a wide range of gifts if you want to buy a souvenir after your visit.
Katrinewheelz is the place to hire a bike so that you can cycle along the side of the loch, prices vary with the size and type of bike and length of time it is hired for, you maybe only want a couple of hiours or you prefer a half or full day. There are even electric bikes! Altghough it is recommended to book in advance, there seemed to be a good stock of bikes and we saw lots of people cycling when we were on the boat .
There was a covered area where people queued and a display of what homes would have been like in many years ago in Rob Roy's day.
The Stronachlachar Pier Tearoom is open during the holiday season and it is possible to fish at that end of the Loch too, electric boats are available for hire. Trout and pike is the fish you can try to catch. A picturesque island - Eilean Dharag - lies just off the pier. The 13 mile tarmac road back to the Trossachs Pier is quiet as very few cars are allowed.
~ The Boats ~
SS Sir Walter Scott
The SS Sir Walter Scott was refurbished a few years ago and hopefully will continue to sail for many years, it has been on Loch Katrine for over 100 years! There were bench seats on deck and a tarpaulin type cover, but had it been raining, it wouldn't have been so nice! There is a saloon if you prefer to be inside and also toilet facilities and a small kiosk selling drinks and refreshments. As you travel, the tales and legends of the loch was narrated by a member of the ship's crew, and you could enjoy the scenery which captured the imagination of Sir Walter Scott, inspiring him to write his poem "The Lady of the Lake". She is 110 ft long and 19 feet wide. The 2 hour cruise to Stronachlachar leaves at 10.30 and you can have a single ticket or return, there is a little room to take a bike for you to cycle back at an additional cost! The afternoon trips are from 1.30 and 3.00 during April to the end of October.
The Lady of the Lake
A smaller boat with a large heated saloon and some seating on top, we didn't go on it so I can't comment vwery much. Sailing at 11.30am and 1.00 daily from the end of May to September it costs £10.50 for adults, £9.50 concessions and £7.50 for children or 50p for under 5's for a 1 hour panoramic cruise, or £14.50 for adults for the 2 hour cruise in the afternoon.
~ Extras ~
You can buy Gift vouchers as a gift for someone, or enjoy events at special times throughout the season, like an evening cruise with a fiddler playing or you can even get married on the boat.
If the weather conditions are unsuitable the boat sailings may be cancelled. It is advisable to book in advance as during the summer months it is a popular destination and the sailings may be booked, this can be done online.
~ A wee bit of Poetry ~
Sir Walter Scott wrote his famous poem called the Lady of the Lake after visiting Loch Katrine, although it is a Loch and not a Lake! The only Lake in Scotland is not far away from there though and is called the Lake of Menteith. Here is a snippet from a a very long and beautiful poem:-
Loch Katrine lay beneath him rolled,
In all her length far winding lay,
With promontory, creek, and bay,
And islands that, empurpled bright,
Floated amid the livelier light,
And mountains that like giants stand
To sentinel enchanted land.
~ Verdict ~
Loch Katrine is very pretty with interesting little islands, some with lovely heather and even some figures representing Rob Roy and although it was very busy at the Trossachs Pier, once we were aboard the boat the peaceful countryside was so relaxing as we cruised along. A place I'll happily visit again, and not a midge was in sight whilst we were there! You can walk, cycle or sail, bring a picnic or eat at the cafe. Somewhere to enjoy Scotland's beautiful scenery.
I've spent many holidays in Scotland and seen some beautiful places but one of the most sticking has got to be Loch Katrine. It is situated off the A 821 just outside the small Scottish town of Calendar in the Trossachs.
This vast beautiful Loch owes its fame mainly to Sir Walter Scott who wrote his famous poem "Lady Of The Lake" on Ellens Isle, one of the six small islands situated within its waters. It is almost impossible to think that something as beautiful as Loch Katrine actually is the main water source for Glasgow. It is surrounded by lush heather covered mountains and forests and the only road round it is a cycle track so it still remains relatively peaceful.
A lovely way to see some of the Loch is to take a boat ride on the SS Sir Walter Scott. A lovely old steamer that was built in 1900 and is still sailing up and down the Loch. Up until 2007 it was still being run by coke with the ash being emptied ashore every day but it now runs on bio fuel to prevent pollution, although it still uses the original engine. It costs £11.00 for a 1 hour trip and its worth every penny just to see the beauty that surrounds Loch Katrine.
On the southern side Ben Venue (hill of the caves) towers over the water with Ben A'an on the northern side. It really is magnificent.
There is a small pier at the end of the Loch called Trossachs Pier that houses an old boat house which has been turned into a visitor centre/shop.
Further round the car park there is a Charles Renee Mackintosh styled restaurant which has beautiful views of Loch Katrine from its out side balcony eating area, which we used as it was a beautiful day. Although the restaurant is up a flight of stairs there is a lift available for those who need it. We found the restaurant to be clean and the food was very good although I have to say it was a bit on the expensive side. The loos were also clean with plenty of loo roll and soap etc.
There is also a cycle hire shop there which was very busy the day we went.
I really can't describe the full beauty of Loch Katrine it does have to be seen to be fully appreciated, all I will say is if you are ever in the Trosssachs then make this one of your visits it really is a spectacular sight with its vast water and magnificent mountains that tower above it.
We recently decided the have a healthy, fun, family day out. Having visited Loch Katrine a few years earlier we decided this would be the idea place to meet all our needs for a lovely day out. The last time we visited we hired bikes to cycle around the loch but this time we decided to take our own bikes.
Loch Katrine is a bit of a hidden gem. She is situated 8 Miles from Callander along the A821 through Brig o' Turk or alternatively 7 miles from Aberfoyle again along the A821 but this time travelling through the Duke's Pass, quite a narrow winding road but beautiful and scenic nevertheless.
The Loch is set in the heart of the Trossachs and is absolutely beautiful, surrounded by rolling, heather covered hills and many different species of trees. It is also so unbelievably quiet and peaceful, almost as if the hills are sheltering you from the noises of the world outside. The loch is the main supply of fresh water for Glasgow and has been since 1859. Since 1843 there have been paddle steamers ferrying passengers across the loch and today the SS Sir Walter Scott, one of Scotland's oldest screw driven steamers, is still in use after more than 100 years, giving many visitors a relaxing cruise across the lake. Named after the 19th century poet who wrote "The Lady of the Lake" the steamer was refurbished in 2007 and is now fighting fit and still giving great joy to so many. With the growing popularity of the Loch Katrine cruises, there is now a new cruiser, The Lady of the Lake, also available daily for pleasure cruises.
Around the loch there is a super tarred roadway 13 miles long , which takes you around the top of the loch to another pier at Stronachlachar where you will find the Pier Coffee Shop offering home baking and refreshments, a nice place to rest before your trek or cycle back again. The road does stop here and you will have to return the way you came.
Before you reach the loch itself there is a large well laid out car park, which is pay and display, so make sure you have some change to hand. Where the car park meets the loch you will find the bike hire office "Katrinewheelz", The Anchor's Rest bar and bistro, The Katrine Café, Katrine Gifts, which is housed in the former boathouse and the pier where you will board the boat for your cruise. This is also where you will find the lovely clean and well kept public toilets with baby-changing area.
If it's a day of cycling you are after then don't despair if you don't have your own bike. There are a great range of bikes on offer at Katrinewheelz. There are children's and adult's bike, tandems and trailers, tag-a-longs (one wheel and one seat to be attached to the back of an adult bike) and there are also electric buggies for hire for over 21s only and with a valid driving licence. Safety helmets are recommended for all riders but must be worn by those under 16. Bikes can be hired for 1 hour, 2 hours, half a day (4 hours) or a full day (5 hours) - not sure how they work out half a day 4 hours and a full day 5 hours but anyway! All bikes are well maintained and of a high quality.
The first time we visited the loch we hired bikes and they were great, Erin was younger then so she had a tag-a-long with her dad, which was good fun. This time however, we took our own bikes. The roadway around the loch is perfect for a family cycle. A super tarred path that is quiet and very peaceful with little or no traffic. It isn't an open road but there are one or two houses around the loch and the owners use this as an access road, but both times we were there we only saw one car, and they were driving very slowly. Being on a bike you should always take care as there are always plenty people walking as well, although the further round the loch you go the fewer people you see. I wouldn't class the road as an easy cycle, it is very up and down so, yes, there are some very easy bits (downhill!) but there are equally as many hard bits. If you are used to cycling then this is a great cycle route. For the beginner the first mile or so is fairly easy and not too exhausting and is pretty good for the younger cyclist. This is what we did the first time when the kids were younger and they both managed it well. This time however we managed to go a bit further, although not as far as we had hoped. We had hoped to make it round to the Stronachlachar Pier but it proved to be too much for us unfortunately, maybe the next time! We did however manage 8 miles giving us a total of 16 miles so not too bad at all!
The scenery along the way is spectacular with lots of trees and evidence of squirrels, although we didn't see any, lots of little waterfalls falling by the path and then heading under the path to the loch. There were also lots of little pebble beach areas suitable to stop for a picnic, or for the more conventional picnic there were plenty picnic areas with a few tables too. Plenty to see with lots of interesting nature topics to chat to the family about along the way.
Cruises are available daily for both boats from the start of April until the end of October with different timetables being available throughout the seasons. There are cruises to take you around the loch returning to where you started and there are also cruises to take you to the smaller pier at the other side of the loch at Stronachlachar. This one way cruise is quite popular with those who don't want to cycle or walk around the loch and back again. You can either take the ferry (with your bikes) over to the pier and cycle back again or the other way around, cycle round to the pier and then get the boat back again.
Once you have finished your activities for the day you can either stop for a snack in the Katrine Café or alternatively you can have a meal in the Anchor's Rest Bar Bistro. You can also have a browse around the little gift shop, which sells lots of lovely local crafts and also plenty Loch Katrine Souvenirs.
I would list the prices and times of the cruises and bike hire but there are so many different options for both it would be more sensible just to list the web address and if you plan on visiting the loch then you can look at the times and prices to suit yourself www.lochkatrine.com
If you are ever in the area I would definitely recommend Loch Katrine as a great day out. Suitable for all ages and fully accessible for wheelchair users too this really is a great place to visit and have some outdoor family fun.
August, 2004 was our first visit to Scotland, and frankly, despite the midges, and partially because of the rain, we found it to be simply lovely. One of the more picturesque places we visited was Loch Katrine, and since no one else here has bothered to tell anyone about it, I thought I might give it a try.
Where and What is Loch Katrine?
Loch Katrine is located almost smack dab in the middle of Scotland's most lovely Trossachs National Park, on the north-western edge of the Trossachs' Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, and nestling to the north of Ben Venue (729 meters high) and Ben Bhreac (700) on its eastern tip, and to the south of Meall Mor (747) and Stob a'Choin (865) on its most western point. On the map, this is a backwards tilde shaped loch (a tilde is this symbol ~, for those who don't know), or - if you will - a reclining, lazy S shaped loch. According to my Michelin Green Guide, it is 10 miles long and, at its widest point, is 2 miles wide, and is apparently the main loch that supplies water to Glasgow. I thought that slightly strange since it is hardly a rival to its impressively large neighbour to the west, Loch Lomond. But what it lacks in size, it certainly makes up in many different ways, which I'll tell you more about later.
How do you get there?
If you're walking or cycling the West Highland Way, you could stop for the night on Loch Lomond at Inversnaid Hotel, and then walk or ride east the next day on the road to Stronachlachar, which comes out on the western side the loch. I suppose if you're boating on Lomond, you might also be able to moor at that point and also walk or cycle - which I approximate is about 6 miles long and which goes all along Loch Arklet. But if you're driving like us, there are a few ways to reach Loch Katrine. Where the A81 meets up with the A821 at Aberfoyle, you can take the tiny B829 through the forest along Loch Ard and Loch Chon, and you'll meet up with the above mentioned path just about a mile from Stronachlachar. Or you can continue, as we did, all the way to Loch Katrine Pier from the A821. If you're in a bit of a hurry, and you find yourself on the A84, north-west of Callander, the other end of the A821 comes out at Kilmahog, and you can ride that along the Loch Venachar and Loch Achray through the forest - which is how we went back.
What is special about Loch Katrine?
There are many things about this loch that make it special. Firstly, it is featured in Sir Walter Scott's poem, "The Lady of the Lake". I also understand that Glen Gyle, which is on Loch Katrine, is the birthplace of Rob Roy. More importantly, and most interestingly, is that Loch Katrine is haunted - or rather, there are lots of goblins, elves, fairies and monsters on or around the loch. Unfortunately, we cannot vouch for this, since we didn't witness any of these showing up during our visit (and luckily we were mostly midge free while visiting as well), but just the idea of the fantasy makes this spot all the more attractive.
What can you do there?
Essentially, there are only two things you can do when you reach Loch Katrine. You can take the SS Sir Walter Scott boat (link below) from either Stronachlachar to Loch Katrine Pier (or visa versa), or you could park your car and walk or cycle around the loch.
Since we arrived after the last sailing, we decided to take a walk and were rewarded with some of the most lovely views we'd had during our whole trip. For instance, just past the car park area, only about three minutes into our walk, was a hidden waterfall (and with all the rains during our trip, it was very active). As you wind around the loch, you'll be greeted with lush forest views on the steep banks with the mountains peaking up from behind. While the maps make this lock out to be a pretty plain shape, you'll find that there are many inlets and tiny islands on this loch to add to the interest. The banks are covered in pines and oaks and other types of trees (sorry, my horticultural skills are a bit weak, but I do know a pine and an oak when I see one) to add to the dappled feel with the different shades of green that they provide.
While the further you walk, the more forest you'll encounter (and the more likely you'll get bitten by midges - if you're going in July or August), much of the loch-side path seemed very breezy for us, and since it twists around the edges of the loch's shore, you'll find yourself about half of the time in the sun and half in the shade. For the bikers, the path is very wide - but none of it is marked out for just them, sadly. This could be a little bit of a problem, but since we got there late-ish, we didn't really have many crowds or bikers with us. We only walked for about 15 minutes and then returned, but we were given to understand that one can actually walk around the whole loch, if one wanted to - and good luck to those who want to give it a try, since that would be about 20-25 miles all told.
But most of all, I have to mention that by mid-September this whole walk will be totally lined to overflowing with ripe blackberries - which I think you call brambles. We were lucky enough to find a few that had ripened before the rest, and what a treat they were - succulent and sweet and tart all at the same time - just perfect!
What's My Verdict:
For the berry-picking lovers out there, this will be a dream world if you get there in the early fall. And for those who just like a free treat with their exercise and views, this could be just the thing. We were sorry that we didn't make it in time for the boat ride, which comes highly recommended, and doesn't seem too terribly dear (for example, Adult return for the morning sailing would have cost us £7.25 and for the afternoon sailing which we missed, would have been £6.25). But even if boats aren't your thing, you'll certainly find this to be a charming walk for as long as you take it, and we found it to be just the stroll we needed before a long-ish car trip back to our B&B. All in all, highly recommended.
Thanks for Reading!
Davida Chazan © August, 2004 (for Ciao) - revised, December, 2005 for DooYoo.
Information on the SS Sir Walter Scott boat trips can be found at http://www.incallander.co.uk/steam.htm (where you'll find current tarrifs for the boat ride) or phone 01877 376316.
For more information about this area and ways to visit it, this is a good site http://www.incallander.co.uk/trossachs_katrine.htm
And for the cultural, you can read a bit of the poem, The Lady of the Lake here - http://www.lenymede.demon.co.uk/history/lady_of_the_lake.html
Note: The car park at the pier is "pay and display" until (we believe) 18:00, so if you want a long visit there, do keep this in mind. At the pier there is a restaurant as well as a gift shop (of course) but we weren't tempted - mostly because they were closed by the time we arrived! Good for our pocketbooks, that was.
The scenery and the landscape of the Trossachs have played a significant part in the history and literature of Scotland. This dramatic scenery was the inspiration and setting for Sir Walter Scott`s first major work "The Lady of the Lake". Scott's colourful description of the scenery of the Trossachs inspired the first tourists to venture to Highland Scotland. So it is fitting that the steamer which ventures into the deep highland vastness, on the sparkling waters of the beautiful Loch Katrine, should be named after the author who also penned the tales of folk hero Rob Roy MacGregor.