Best places to visit on holiday in the Trossachs
The Trossachs for the heart of Rob Roy’s old stomping ground, and the glens and bens beyond Lochend are absolutely packed with historical interest. It is impossible to list all the castles and monuments, historic villages and boat trips in the area, but we’ve picked out a few favourites, all within a half-hour drive of the chalets.
Marooned in the Lake of Menteith, and visible across the bay from our waterfront chalets, Inchmahome is a magical five-acre island and site of the ruins of a haunting 13th century priory, where Mary Queen of Scots spent several weeks on the run in 1547. You are no longer allowed to clamber all over the ruins like we did as kids, but there is a beautiful, woodland path right round the island (carpeted in bluebells towards the end of May), while a Yew Tree clearing is perfect for picnics, and exactly where I always imagined the infant Mary once played!
Perched high on a volcanic rock overlooking Stirling, and visible for many miles in every direction, Stirling Castle is every bit as dramatic as Edinburgh Castle – but only 25 minutes from Lochend. On a fine day the gardens are spectacular; on a wet day, the Great Hall, old kitchens and military museum provide a fascinating escape from the rain! There are often re-enactments on summer weekends, while a nice new Costa cafe has married new architecture with some really atmospheric old vaults. Great for young and old.
Lording it over the Forth Valley from its own hilltop perch just across the river from Stirling Castle, this fabulously Gothic tower has mighty views from the top over Stirling, the Trossachs, and the site of Wallace’s famous victory over the English at Stirling Bridge (see Braveheart for details!). A spookily narrow staircase leads to a series of galleries containing all sorts of fascinating stuff, including Wallace’s 66” broadsword and William himself, recreated in 3D interactive audiovisual display.
Battle of Bannockburn Centre
Completed in 2014, the Battle of Bannockburn Centre is a brilliantly entertaining museum our guests say their children really love. Built just a longbow launch from where Robert The Bruce’s army defeated King Edward’s Army, the centre uses animated films, 3D imagery and interactive technology to bring the battle to life.
Rob Roy’s grave
Britain’s biggest lake (by surface area) is also one of its most beautiful. There are spectacular walks here, but one of the things we really love about Loch Lomond is the wee ferry from Balmaha to Inchcailloch. A gorgeous island, Inchcailloch is covered in oak woodland, with a sandy beach just crying out for your picnic rug.
Loch Lomond Shores
A retail and leisure extravaganza right on the loch’s southern shores, Loch Lomond Shores has cafes, restaurants, shops, a visitor centre, SeaLife aquarium, bird of prey centre, TreeZone aerial adventure course, minigolf, and if that wasn’t enough, cruises on the Maid of the Loch paddle steamer!
There is a bike-hire centre and a fabulous cycle path along this beautiful, remote loch, which I always think feels like a Norwegian fjord, hemmed in by the “purple peaks” and “flinty spires” that inspired Sir Walter Scott’s poem, Lady of the Lake. Or just sit back and let the beauty come to you on board the steamship, SS Sir Walter Scott, which cruises up to a cafe at the far end of the loch, very close to the house where Rob Roy was born.
The UK’s largest raised bog to remain in a near-natural state lies only 15 minutes away on the lovely back road between Thornhill and Kippen. It’s a magical, ancient-feeling place, with a viewing tower and lovely half-mile boardwalk around the peat domes and colourful sphagnum mosses, cotton grass and heather. I’ve never seen adders and lizards here myself, but many guests have.
Scottish Wool Centre
A pretty 10-minute drive west of Lochend, Aberfoyle has a friendly Co-op supermarket, a couple of pubs, the walk-tastic Lodge and the Scottish Wool Centre. As well as selling whisky and a foreverness of cashmere cardies, the centre has daily sheepdog demos, birds of prey displays, and a rare breeds farm.
Villages & Towns
Killin is the cutest with its ancient, stone bridge spanning dramatic rapids.
Kippen is a pretty hilltop village only 10 minutes from Lochend, with a couple of lovely pubs and deli, and amazing views over the Trossachs summits.
Callander (aka Gateway to the Highlands), is a handsome Victorian town on the banks of the River Teith (great fishing), with one or two galleries, a tonne of outdoor clothing shops, some fab cafes and wonderful walks.
Salmon Leap, Gartness
About half an hour from Lochend – and five minutes from Glengoyne Distillery – the Pots of Gartness are a series of beautiful rockpools on the Endrick Water, and site of one of the most spectacular wildlife events in Scotland. Because it is here in October and November that salmon hurl themselves up a 10ft waterfall in order to reach spawning grounds upstream. It really is an incredible sight – with sightings guaranteed if there’s been a bit of rain around.