Despite my inevitable worries that we won’t find it, we locate Trossachs Pier without difficulty. We are here for a trip round Loch Katrine (pronounced Kat-rin) on the steam ship Sir Walter Scott. The vessel was built in 1899 in Dumbarton by William Denny and brothers. It now runs on bio-fuel, using 300 litres a day. The Loch is 540 feet deep and as it is the source of Glasgow’s drinking water, we are encouraged not to pollute the supply by jumping in. As the water temperature is 3-4 degrees, this seems unlikely. This used to be a sheep farming area but worries about contamination of the water meant that they and local cattle were all moved away. Recently Scottish Water have allowed cattle to graze near the Loch again and we see some by the shore. There are also some intrepid goats clinging to a rock face. The majority of our fellow passengers have bikes with them. It seems the thing to do, for those with the stamina, is to take a one way Loch trip and cycle back. Other passengers have their dog with them. Not unusual you may think but they have also brought the dog’s bed!
Here we are in Rob Roy country. Rob Roy MacGregor, outlaw and notorious cattle raider was born at Glengyle on the shores of Loch Katrine. His story was embellished by Sir Walter Scott. The other literary figure with a connection to the Loch was Jules Verne, who wrote a science fiction story ‘The Underground City’ about a city under the loch. We also see Royal Cottage on the shoreline. This was constructed especially for a royal visit by Queen Victoria in 1859; she spent just one night there. Twenty one cannons were dragged to the lochside in order to provide a twenty-one gun salute; the reverberation succeeded in breaking the windows of the cottage.
Our guide book suggests we visit Crieff where there are allegedly spectacular views from Knock Hill. It is quite a long way out of our way but we can’t resist a ‘must see’. We fail to locate Glen Tullet, where we were aiming for but at the second attempt, park in Crieff, making use of the car park belonging to The Famous Grouse distillery attraction. Every distillery in Scotland seems to be open to the public, famous or not. Allegedly a walk to Knock Hill is signposted from here. It certainly begins to be signposted and then, after a short while, we are left to guess. We guess wrong and end up on a quad bike track, dodging hurtling vehicles. The views are good but probably not worth the effort and we cut our losses and return to the van.
Day 16 Wednesday 6 August 2014 Killin Highland Games
Our site at Blair Drummond is enclosed within a large high wall. Also enclosed within the wall are numerous children. It is the school holidays so this is not unexpected and I don’t have anything against children but these do seem to have particularly piercing voices and a desire to career around the site on bikes and scooters incessantly. We attempt to move on to our next location. This van comes with various high-tech gadgets that are all very well when they are working. In theory we turn a key, press a button and the caravan’s legs automatically raise or lower. The trouble is that, despite arrows for up and down, the mechanism seems to opt for one or the other at random. Today we need the legs to go up but they only seem to want to lower. After a bit of judicious jiggling we achieve the desired effect. The next problem is attaching the van to the car. The terrain means that the car is higher than the van, too high in fact for the two to join together. Chris suggests that I jump up and down in the back of the van. Our knowledge of physics tells us that if I can make the back go down, the front will rise and all will be well, Fortunately I have eaten plenty of chocolate and my great weight tips the front of the van up sufficiently to hitch up the van.
We are making a short journey back eastwards to Killin. Here we are on a beautiful, peaceful, wooded site. Other residents tell us that deer are regular visitors. It seems that we have arrived in Killin on the day of their Highland Games so we decide to join in the fun. There are bagpipe and highland dancing contests and displays of local food as well as a hill run and the traditional highland games. We watch ten kilt-clad contestants, including an Icelander and an Australian, the latter fresh from competing in the Commonwealth Games. They put shots and throw a 56 pound weight. Some of the contestants have a quick practice playing catch with this and I wonder about the health and safety implications of the event. The wielding of a long handled wooden hammer is even more risky but there are no casualties. Caber tossing looks very tricky and I wonder what military activity provided the origin for this activity. Bridge building comes to mind but why would the tree trunks be thrown and not just tipped over? Chris takes and interest in the Arbroath Smokies and even a fan of offal, consumes some haggis. Much as I like sampling local cuisine, I settle for sausage.
We take a quick look at Dochart Falls on the way home. Our site has no internet access put we have been given permission to lurk in the car park of the site up the road, which has the same owners. I duly lurk and discover what I have missed in the last few days. Despite the lack of internet and phone signal our media blackout is lifting as here we can get ITV channels on the TV, despite the site wardens being convinced otherwise.