On Thursday it was the Wee White Dug’s fourth birthday. I’d announced earlier in the week at work that I was going to take the day off as a holiday. Of course you are my team mates agreed humouring me. This is the dug who wears Harris Tweed bow ties and has a monogrammed drying robe for the beach. They wouldn’t have expected anything less from me on his big day.
In my defence I was holidaying in Lake Garda on his third birthday, in Sorrento on his second and sweltering under the Marrakech sun the day he was born so his big day isn’t a day we’ve really had a chance to spend together having fun.
Four was going to be different. I consulted the Scottish weather map and took a gamble on the Trossachs. Loch Katrine looked like it was going to be dry and dare I dream – sunny?!
A Trossachs bound birthday boy
I booked us a one hour cruise on the historic and dug friendly steamship The Sir Walter Scott. Built by Denny Brothers at Dumbarton in 1899 the ship has been running pleasure cruises on the loch since the turn of the last century and still has her original steam engine which has now been upgraded to run on environmentally friendly bio-fuel.
When the big day arrived the wee dug donned his new birthday neckerchief and we left a grey Edinburgh, bound for Loch Katrine. We arrived at Trossachs Pier a couple of hours before the cruise departed so we could enjoy a walk first.
The teen had joined us on the trip. I suspected Pokemon hunting was her motive. When I saw her dejected face on arrival my suspicions were confirmed. No 3G signal – catastrophe. Apparently Pokemon hunting requires the bare minimum of 3G. Och well – I suggested she catch some wild Ulrichs (mythical Scottish beasties) instead but she looked at me as if I’d just asked her to get out of bed at 9am on a Saturday morning.
My gamble with the weather had paid off too – It was a lovely day. I felt slightly vindicated after monsoon season in Mallaig the weekend before.
We wandered along the private road that runs from the pier towards Brenachoile Point and beyond. As it’s closed to traffic other than local residents you rarely see a vehicle. Even the dreaded high-speed, cycling packs were conspicuous by their absence. Just the odd leisurely family group plodding along and not a hint of lycra in sight.
The last time we walked this road it was snowing and it was safely the most beautiful scene I’d ever witnessed. In summer its lush and green and the sunlight through the trees casts a beautiful light. Our snowy walk was easier going though as this day was hot and humid. The wee dug will walk for miles but he burns out quickly on a hot day. He made the most of every natural stream he found, lapping up the icy cold water running down from the hills and cooling his paws.
A birthday cruise on SS Sir Walter Scott
Back at the pier a small group were waiting to board the cruise, as the previous one returned packed full. The Wee White Dug puffed with pride as the disembarking passengers oohed and ahhed at his bonnie face and wished him a happy birthday.
On board we scrambled around trying to decide which seat we liked best. We opted for a bench towards the middle of the boat and under cover of a canopy. The Wee White Dug settled on his Big Sis’s knee.
Our sail took us on a 10 mile round trip from Trossachs Pier to Strone and back. The scenery is stunning. It was lovely viewing the craggy Ben A’an from the water. A couple of months earlier we’d climbed the hill on a gorgeous clear day and stood mesmerised by the view of lovely Loch Katrine stretching out below us. It’s one of Scotland’s finest viewpoints. The wee dug wasn’t quite so enamoured as a strong summit wind whipped fiercely at his whiskers.
The cruise had periodic commentary, sharing interesting facts about the loch and its history – tales of cattle drovers, clearances, Sir Walter Scott and Rob Roy MacGregor. It was pitched at just the right level and didn’t intrude on the enjoyment of the scenery. In between they played some hauntingly beautiful Gaelic music. It set the scene perfectly.
The Sir Walter Scott is fully licensed and serves refreshments and snacks on board. Shortly after boarding they announced two specials on sale. The Loch Katrine which was coffee with a wee tot of whisky or the Rob Roy which was hot chocolate with brandy.
Deciding I needed to keep my hand in with whisky, having only recently conquered ‘the fear’ I ordered myself a Loch Katrine. Mr G still very much in the grip of ‘the fear’ and also driving took a latte and the teen took a brandy free, hot chocolate which she then proceeded to drip all down the poor wee dug’s back! If I hadn’t intervened he’d have ended up looking like a miniature Dalmatian.
I sipped my Loch Katrine feeling smug at having conquered ‘the fear’ and watched the stunning scenery glide by, any cares I had in the World slipping away.
Our cruise on the beautiful old steamship was an hour well spent, we all loved it and at £13 an adult and £1 a dug it was great value too. It’s also a lovely option for the elderly and infirm. A way to enjoy Scotland’s beautiful scenery, outside in fresh air without having to walk.
I’d definitely return and maybe for the 2 hour jazz cruise next time or the 5th November fireworks sailing. I did hint at taking the Wee White Dug on the December Santa cruise but Mr G vetoed that suggestion straight away.
As we arrived back at the pier a large crowd were waiting to board, so if you’re thinking of going, especially in high season my tip would be to take the 1pm cruise. It seems that as it falls at lunchtime it’s maybe not as popular as the earlier or later sailings. We had lots of room to move around on board without getting in anyone’s way and there were no queues to buy drinks.
As the sun was shining we grabbed some sandwiches for a late lunch and headed to a bench with a view. Mr G grumbled that his cheese and ham sandwich was cheese and tomato so he took it back to replace it. He returned with cheese, ham and tomato which turned out to be cheese and tomato again only this time on white bread instead of brown. The teen and I sniggered quietly. Her mood had been buoyed by the discovery of a free WIFI signal and Pokemon in the vicinity.
No sooner were we seated than Mr G was flailing around like a man dancing barefoot on hot coals. The dreaded Scottish midgie had pitched up to feast on us. I’ll tolerate midgies to a degree before slathering on some anti midgie potion. Mr G on the other hand makes a big song and dance about them. You’d think at each bite he’d been hit by a poisoned dart. I suggested he apply some of the anti-midgie potion I had in my rucksack, but no off he fled as if pursued by a swarm of angry, killer bees. The Teen and I rolled our eyes, chuckling into our sandwiches.
All in all we had a lovely day out with the birthday boy. Once home he tucked into a nice tripe filled bone while we toasted our travelling buddy with a glass of fizz or two.
Until next time ……..