We’ve been roaming around Scotland again with The Wee White Dug. This time our travels took us to the heart of the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park for a spot of glamping at the shiny, new Loch Katrine Eco Lodges.
Like Sir Walter Scott, I’ve been known to wax lyrical about Loch Katrine. I’ve been blown away by its icy, beauty in the dead of winter, and enthralled by its leafy, loveliness in the height of summer. I was looking forward to visiting again for a ramble and an overnight stay.
It takes a little over an hour to reach the Trossachs from Edinburgh. For once we didn’t need to leave the house at silly o’clock in the morning to reach our destination.
Three Lochs Forest Drive – Loch Drunkie hike
Three Lochs Forest Drive was our first stop of the day. The seven-mile scenic drive can be found along a beautiful stretch of road called the Duke’s Pass. The Duke’s Pass links the popular Trossachs town of Aberfoyle to the more remote Loch Achray.
It was an overcast morning, and the weather wasn’t going to let me show you the drive looking its bonniest. So, here’s the boy posing at the Three Lochs Forest Drive on a nice, sunny afternoon earlier this year!
The drive is a good way for anyone with mobility issues to experience the stunning scenery of the Trossachs. Pretty views of lochs Reòidhte, Drunkie and Achray can be enjoyed without having to leave the car. There are also picnic tables dotted around the drive, making it the perfect place to stop for a picnic, or to sit and enjoy the scenery.
Despite the name, walking trails can be found along the drive too. Ideal for those who like to get active in the great outdoors. We stopped at Loch Drunkie (I know the name cracks me up too) to stretch our legs.
We chose the green trail – a 1 1/4 mile way-marked trail noted as moderate.
About thirty seconds into our walk we arrived at a large wooden xylophone and stopped for a play.
The trail took us along the wooded shore of Loch Drunkie. There wasn’t another soul around, and we were buzzing to find ourselves outside exploring Scotland once more.
The boy was in his element and he trotted on ahead of us, stopping to sniff every ten seconds or so!
Our morning of music wasn’t over yet. We got to try our hand at campanology next! We discovered a wooden frame with ropes hanging from it, slap bang in the middle of the trail.
I pulled on all of the ropes like a woman possessed, feeling cheated whenever I found a silent one.
After channelling our inner Quasimodo, we continued on our walk. It soon left the side of the loch and snaked uphill through the trees.
It was a lush, green landscape of giant pines and mossy forest floor.
Walk over, we decided it was time for lunch before our afternoon entertainment began.
We wound our way out of Three Lochs Forest Drive and headed towards Aberfoyle in search of food.
We grabbed a take-away lunch of soup and toasties from a cafe in town. It was old school lentil soup for me, and tomato for Mr G.
Lunch devoured, it was time to head to Trossachs Pier for our afternoon entertainment.
Steamship cruise on SS Sir Walter Scott
Guests staying at Loch Katrine Eco Lodges get a 20% discount when booking a pleasure cruise on Loch Katrine’s elegant old lady – the 119 year old steamship Sir Walter Scott.
It’s one of our favourite attractions in the Trossachs, so we’d booked onto a one hour cruise, leaving Trossachs Pier at 1pm.
The steamship is another great way for people with mobility issues to enjoy spectacular Trossachs scenery and fresh air.
We’d barely taken our seats before the boy made friends with the on board photographer. He was lavished with treats and accepted each one with an ungentlemanly snap!
With no more driving planned for the day, we ordered a Loch Katrine (coffee with whisky – me) and a Rob Roy (hot chocolate with Baileys – Mr G) from the bar, before settling down to enjoy the cruise.
We bought some sugar laden Scottish tablet too. I broke off a square, and being a blogger who captures everything on camera I thought I’d take a photo of said tablet, before savouring its sugary sweetness. I was too slow on both counts. Too slow to snap it, and far too slow to eat it. In a flash the boy snatched the sweetie from me and unashamedly wolfed it down!
Although it was a grey day, the weather didn’t detract from the beauty of Loch Katrine in the slightest. In fact the low-lying cloud and mist gave the place a haunting feel, and it was easy to see how it had inspired artists, writers and composers.
The boy was treated like royalty on board. He had a lovely time meeting the crew and mooching for treats whenever he spotted his new photographer friend!
All too soon it was time for us to head back to Trossachs Pier. It’d been another wonderful Loch Katrine cruise, and although the sun didn’t shine like our last time on board, I think I preferred the mist more. It added an air of mystery to the rugged landscape, and hinted at adventure filled tales of heroes and heroines.
Home for the night – Loch Katrine Eco Lodges
Back on dry land, we collected the key to our eco lodge from the shop at the pier.
There are eight lodges in the camp (one is fully wheelchair accessible). They’re named after local lochs or hills (bens). The loch lodges are all fully en-suite, and the ben lodges have access to on-site shower and toilet facilities. All run on sustainable energy.
We stayed in Loch Venachar lodge, which sleeps two in a double bed, and two in a king-sized pull out bed.
The boy had the option of sleeping under the stars in a dog pod, but with urisks lurking in the camp he point-blank refused!
Inside, our lodge was kitted out to a really high standard. There was a shaker style kitchen with a concealed fridge, microwave/grill oven, and a space-saving fold-away dining table and chairs.
A good-sized double bed was fitted with quality bed linen, and fluffy towels were neatly folded waiting for us.
The en-suite was a pleasant surprise. Normally, glamping pods have teeny wet rooms containing a small sink and toilet. When the shower’s in use it soaks the whole room. You need to use a window cleaner’s squeegee after showering to dry the room off. This pod had a proper shower cubicle with an electric shower – the height of glamping luxury.
I was delighted to spot Arran Aromatics toiletries. I love to see local brands used in Scottish tourist accommodation, especially when they’re quality brands like Arran Aromatics.
And for those who can’t survive without electronic devices (us to a degree), we had a smart TV and WiFi.
Primrose Hill hike
It was still too early to settle down for the day, so we decided to head out for another hike.
We set off along the private road that skirts the north side of the loch. The road is well-surfaced and fairly flat, so after a while we left it and followed a path on our right uphill.
The track up Primrose Hill follows the same route as the road, and eventually descends back down to meet it, but it feels like it’s a million miles away.
We were back in our happy terrain. Uphill, away from people and surrounded by spectacular scenery. Bliss, even on a misty day!
The boy trotted along happily, stopping periodically to stare off whimsically into the distance.
We spotted the SS Sir Walter Scott gliding through the water below us, a tiny speck dwarfed by incredible scenery.
For me, nothing beats the feeling of freedom you get from rambling around, surrounded by awe-inspiring natural beauty.
Back at ground level we followed the road back towards our lodge. We stopped briefly to watch a tiny pipistrelle bat fluttering overhead.
Travels over for the day, SS Sir Walter Scott was berthed at Trossachs Pier.
Our travels over for the day too, it was time to relax in our cosy glamping pod.
Glamping in style – Loch Katrine Eco Lodges
Wet from his hike the boy donned his drying robe. He wasn’t ready to relax quite yet, and put in a shift of sentry duty by the door before his laziness got the better of him!
We dined on chicken and asparagus risotto, and lasagne from Marks & Spencer. You can always rely on M&S to make microwave food taste edible.
Later that evening, we cracked open some M&S fizz, and the tacky light up flutes made another appearance.
We spent the night drinking fizz, watching tv and chatting. The boy snoozed on his blankie by our feet.
We slept like logs that night.
The next morning the unthinkable happened. Something that’s NEVER happened on our travels before. We slept in till 8:25am!!!! I blame the super comfy bed.
We enjoyed an al fresco breakfast on the decking. Our first al fresco dining experience of 2018 – yay. Breakfast was a fusion of Scottish and Continental. A hearty bowl of porridge, with bread, cheese and meat. It was perfect.
We absolutely loved our stay at Loch Katrine Eco Lodges and were sad to check out after only a fleeting visit.
Ben A’an hike
We had time for one final hike before heading home. Ben A’an is an old favourite of ours which is right on the doorstep of Loch Katrine Eco Lodges. The summit boasts one of the most incredible views in all of Scotland. Ben A’an is a mere 454 metres tall, but if asked to describe it I’d say that it’s a steep wee b****r of a hill! You won’t meet anyone ascending it that isn’t puffing and panting.
Two minutes into our walk and I was moaning about what a waste of time it was climbing a hill with an amazing view when it was topped with cloud!
I love hills, but hate a relentless ascent. Niggles are commonplace when we climb them, as are sly jibes and sometimes even flouncing off in the huff. It all blows over after five minutes, and we laugh and continue on our way.
Unlike his Mum the boy adores scrambling up hills. He set us a brisk, some might say impatient pace up Ben A’an.
Despite the low-lying cloud, it was mild and our layers of waterproof and fleece were soon shed.
It takes me all of thirty seconds to overheat climbing a hill. In the colder months I must look hypothermic hiking in a base layer, when in reality I have the body temperature of molten lava!
As you near the summit of Ben A’an the path gets rockier and is replaced by stone steps. This didn’t hinder the boy any, and he urged us on – full steam ahead.
Reaching the viewless summit my temperature dropped from molten lava to hot coffee. Ahhhh, how delightfully refreshing to be enveloped by a damp cloud.
Not a hint of the dramatic landscape that surrounded us could be seen, but despite that we were high on the great outdoors.
We descended Ben A’an chattering happily about our favourite subject – travel!
For those of you wondering what the view from one of Scotland’s most spectacular viewpoints looks like, wonder no more – here it is. The lovely Loch Katrine from Ben A’an.
Sun, wind, cloud, mist, rain – the boy doesn’t care a jot about the weather. As long as his muddy wee hiker’s feet are outside exploring he’s a happy chap.
We may only have spent 24 hours in the Trossachs, but we packed loads in and left having benefited from the emotional wellbeing that comes from immersing yourself in nature.
A huge thanks to Stuart and the team at Loch Katrine for making our visit a memorable one. Although our cruise and stay were provided on a complimentary basis, all opinions are my own.
Until next time ……….