Wednesday, 4 December 2013


Where, gleaming with the setting sun,
One burnished sheet of living gold,
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.

Sir Walter Scott

A golden sunrise over the Wallace monument at Stirling, set Pauline and I off on our 70mile bicycle trip for the weekend, setting out from the Bridge of Allan railway station toward the silver strand that is Loch Katrine.

It was cold and frosty as we weaved our way across farmland on quiet little backroads in the early morning light. In the far distance to the north east were the recognisable giant sentinels of Ben Vorlich and Stuc a'Chroin and directly ahead was Ben Ledi, all with a light dusting of icing-sugar snow.

Through the sleepy little village of Doune we were soon eating up the miles, passing the outskirts of Callander and on to the shores of Loch Venachar, it's surface as smooth as a mirror. We were following leafy forested tracks on the south shore, past little sailing clubs and half way along Invertrossachs House, visited by Queen Victoria in 1869 as one of her favourite destinations.

Four miles on from Loch Venachar we reached the winding Loch Katrine, at the small jetty where steam ship The Sir Walter Scott sets sail with tourists on it's cruises around the eight-mile-long loch. The wind picked up noticeably at this point, channeled down the valley at the north end from the sentinels of Ben Lui and Ben More, creating a choppy surface.

The Sir Walter Scott has been sailing the waters of Loch Katrine for over 100 years, and is named after the poet and novelist of the same name, who died in 1832, who gave us the poem The Lady of The Lake. It draws upon the Arthurian legend, where she is said to have given King Arthur the sword Excalibur. Sir Walter Scott's poem tells a different story though, and is set around the shores of Loch Katrine.

We were almost at the top end of the loch, some 35 miles since starting out, when we came upon a man-made promontory. The sun was starting to dip behind the mountain chain of Ben Lomond to the west, casting a lively silver light across the loch, as we parked up the bikes and wandered down to the point. Here was the burial ground of Malcolm Gregor, one of the chiefs of the clan MacGregor, buried in 1699. Rob Roy is the most famous member of the clan of course, but his remains are buried at a small church in Balquhidder. Here, on the shores of Loch Katrine, the chieftain had slept, looking out over this enchanted land for the past 300 years.

Turning round the head of the loch we headed south west now to the shores of Loch Chon, a tributary of Loch Ard, source of the River Forth that flows to our home city of Edinburgh. We camped for the night in dense pine woods on its western shore, with twinkling lights on the opposite shore from fellow campers. During the night I was awoken suddenly, when just beside my tent there was a thump thump thump and a snorting. I can only assume a deer had come upon our tents in the darkness.

A spectacular sunrise the following morning beckoned us to start our return journey home. Blue skies from horizon to horizon made the journey all the more pleasurable, as we picked our way past Loch Ard, the Lake of Mentieth, and through the towns and villages of Aberfoyle, gateway to the Trossachs, Thornhill and finally Doune.

We couldn't let a fabulous bike trip pass without indulging in a long standing tradition, and so it was we pulled into a little coffee shop in Doune for coffee and cake.

Tired but satisfied, once home I slipped into bed for a restful sleep with thoughts of enchanted lands, majestic lochs and sleeping chieftains.


Pauline said...

Maybe the thump thump snorting during the night was me having a rough night!

Graham Kitchener said...

If that was you then you have serious sinus problems!