This is Great Britain’s largest inland stretch of water and the surrounding park, which is situated just 40 minutes on the train north of Glasgow, boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in northern Europe.
It’s a haven for anyone who has even a passing interest in the outdoors. Cyclists, walkers, wildlife enthusiasts, and those looking to indulge in a spot of fishing can all fill their boots.
Arriving in late October, we fully expected a carpet of cloud and daily downpours. Alas, you’ve got to make the most of it. Get your waterproofs on and get out there and enjoy it.
But we hit the jackpot. Tee-shirt weather in Scotland, in late October. Not a cloud in the sky and warm enough that I returned home (I live in Southern Spain) with more of a tan than I had left with.
We started off at the picturesque village of Drymen, a popular overnight stop for hikers on the West Highland Way and about 8km inland from our intended Lochside destination of Balmaha.
Our path led us through some diverse scenery. Look one way and you’re presented with a tundra-like landscape that brings to mind the wilds of Alaska, look another and there are the reds, golds, and fading greens of autumnal conifers upon the rolling hills that surround the lake.
We walked for about 5km, enjoying the rich tapestry of landscapes on offer before rising up Conic Hill’s sharp little summit and taking in dramatic views of the Loch and its many islands.
A row of lush, verdant islands, glistening like jewels in the early afternoon sun. I imagined I was in Fiji, Australia’s Whitsundays, or somewhere else equally tropical. But then, my partner handed me a can of Irn Bru and I knew I was far from the tropics. I was most definitely, without question, in Scotland. And I was loving it.
The next day we returned to Balmaha where we hired a rowing boat and made the short voyage to the “enchanted” island of Inchcailloch.
That’s the description on the official website. And, while the tourist board may well have been playing fast and loose with the dictionary, there was something a little bewitching about this 50-hectare entanglement of trees and earth.
The island receives around 20,000 visitors a year, but when we arrived it was eerily quiet.
We walked along a rickety jetty and proceeded down the narrow woodland path which took us deeper into the arms of the forest until we reached our first point of interest.
The information board at the gate also revealed the origin of the island’s Gaelic name ‘Inchailloch’, which translates to “Isle of the old woman”. The old woman in question was Saint Kentigerna.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a creature shot past me at breakneck speed. I reeled back in shock, caught a fleeting glimpse of the beast, and was relieved it was just a deer.
Roe deer have been roaming Incahilloch since the time of Robert the Bruce. But they’re not the most curious residents on the Loch, not by a long stretch.
Neighboring Inchconnachan is actually home to a colony of wallabies.
While there were no antipodean anomalies to be seen bounding around Incahilloch our mini excursion was proving worthwhile. There was still time to head to the shore and enjoy the sunset before returning to the boat.