the lowlands meet the mountains of the north and west. Both the Trossachs
and Loch Lomond have enthralled travellers since Sir Walter Scott's writings
first popularised the area in the early 19th century. The romantic landscapes
and islands of Argyll are also dramatic but the gentler hills and communities
of the Lowland edge, by Falkirk, around Clackmannanshire and in Stirling
- focal points of the nation's history - have plenty to attract visitors.
days, all routes led to Stirling. Because of its strategic position, whoever
held Stirling Castle controlled the Scottish nation. The
Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, one of the most significant conflicts of
the Scottish Wars of Independence, was fought within sight of its walls.
Led by Robert the Bruce, the Scots defeated the English occupying forces
and gained almost three centuries of independence.
Castle still watches over the Old Town of Stirling with its many picturesque
buildings. Close by is the National Wallace Monument, a
tribute to Scotland's first freedom fighter, Sir William Wallace, whose
struggle to free Scotland from England's occupation was portrayed in the
unforgettable Oscar-winning movie, "Braveheart".
AND LOCH LOMOND
Stirling, the Trossachs, with their heather-clad hills and lochs half-hidden
in woodlands have attracted generations in search of the picturesque.
There are plenty of walks and marked trails through the woods and on to
the peaks. Start your Trossachs adventure from the Rob Roy and Trossachs
Visitor Centre in Callander. Rob Roy MacGregor was a real life
Highlander, cattle dealer and outlaw who became a Scottish folk hero,
a story portrayed in the Hollywood film "Rob Roy".
To the west,
Loch Lomond, famed in song, also offers a choice of cruising or a chance
to walk the West Highland Way, the official long distance
footpath, which runs through the wooded slopes of its eastern bank. Road
and rail run parallel to the walking route. They climb dramatic Glen Falloch
to the junction community of Crianlarich, surrounded by the mighty hills
of Breadalbane (literally, in Gaelic, meaning the high grounds of Scotland).
The charming village of Killin with its folklore centre
again lies the small village of Tyndrum, a popular stopover place for
the West Highland Way walkers. This upland area is of great botanical
interest and is enjoyed by walkers and wildlife enthusiasts alike. In
the other direction, to the south from Loch Lomond, you will find the
former shipbuilding town of Dumbarton with Dumbarton Castle
perched on a conspicuous rock guarding the River Clyde approaches. There
are cruising options in plenty on the sheltered waters of the Clyde estuary.
Though a favourite haunt of yachting enthusiasts, there is also a programme
of pleasure cruises revealing the grandeur of the sea-lochs, from resorts
such as Dunoon and Helensburgh.
Stirling, the steep slopes of the Ochil Hills overlook the Hillfoots towns
strung together by a common heritage in textile weaving and forming a
trail, which starts from Scotland's Mill Trail Visitor Centre
in Alva. On the other side of the River Forth, the town of Falkirk features
Callender House as just one of its attractions. Set in
attractive parkland, this mansion has connections with Mary, Queen of
Scots and here, costumed servants bring to life a working kitchen of the
past of a different kind is evoked by the Bo'ness and Kinneil Railway,
with its recreation of a typical Scottish branch line from the days of
steam. To the south and west of Stirling, the beautiful hills known as
the "Campsie Fells" provide the backdrop for many delightful rural
southwesterly winds prevail on the western seaboard and create a climate
without extremes, much appreciated by gardeners. The glorious gardens
of Argyll and Bute are the result. Visit Achamore Garden
or Jura House Garden as examples of mature woodland gardens
on the Hebrides. Enjoy the wild setting of Crarae Garden
on Loch Fyne, the specialties of Arduaine Garden to the
south of Oban or the grand scale of the Younger Botanic Garden
by Dunoon, with giant redwoods and thriving rhododendrons.
resort and ferry port of Oban features a range of attractions - the
Highland Theatre, Oban Distillery, Oban Experience, Oban Glass
and A World in Miniature, to name but a few. Touring routes
south from Oban offer a wealth of other places to visit, including little
Kilmartin with its prehistoric sites. At the Loch Fyne end
of the picturesque Crinan Canal, the handsome little town of Lochgilphead
marks the start of the peninsula running down through the highly attractive
area of Knapdale into Kintyre.
loops through Knapdale's woodland to a rugged seacoast, giving fine views
of the Hebridean islands of Jura and Islay. There are magnificent seascapes
to be enjoyed all the way down the Kintyre peninsula. Near its southern
end is the town of Campbeltown, which boasts a ferry connection to Northern
Ireland. Here too is the famed Macrihanish Golf Links, as
well as the Mull of Kintyre right at the tip, offering great
views at sunset.
north and following the long saltwater reaches of Loch Fyne, the fascinating
Auchindrain Highland Township is an authentic survivor from
earlier rural times. Inveraray itself is one of the most handsome of Scottish
towns. Inveraray Castle is the seat of the Clan Campbell,
while other attractions include the popular Inveraray Jail Museum.
around the head of Loch Fyne and turning southwards brings the visitor
to the Cowal Peninsula, with attractive wooded countryside and views of
the Kyles of Bute at its southern end. The island of Bute is easy to reach
and is a peaceful place with the traditional resort of Rothesay as its
main town. Four miles from Rothesay is the magnificently ornate 19th century
stately home, Mount Stuart, a Gothic fantasy in marble and
OF THE WEST
spectacles, castles and the tiny adjacent island of Iona are among the
many attractions of Mull. Whether approaching by ferry from Oban, via
the main route or from Lochaline in Morven, visitors arrive within easy
reach of both Duart Castle, the restored seat of the Clan
Maclean and Torosay Castle, a charming and friendly Victorian
mansion. Mull Little Railway runs from the Craignure ferry
pier to Torosay and back.
visit the tiny island of Iona are charmed by the sense of peace and stillness
pervading at its ancient abbey, which was the cradle of Christianity in
Scotland. Outdoor lovers visit Mull for the adventurous walking along
its spectacular coastline to places such as the Carsaig Arches
or The Burg, with its ancient fossil tree embedded in the
Jura are two contrasting islands. Islay has a strong sense of a vibrant
working community and is a centre for whisky distilling. Empty beaches
where seals bask, outstanding bird-life, wild seascapes and the exquisite
perfection of the 8th century Kildalton Cross, testimony
to the expertise of its early Christian craftsmen, are some of the other
attractions. By contrast, Jura is a veritable island wilderness, whose
peaks, the Paps of Jura, watch over an empty moorland landscape given
over to red deer.
make it possible to combine a visit to the two islands of Islay and Colonsay,
using Oban and Tarbert on the mainland, if you time it right. The very
essence of a small Hebridean island, Colonsay offers a gentle and peaceful
outdoor experience. Coll and Tiree, just beyond Mull, also have many enthusiasts.
Both low-lying, Tiree in particular is noted for its good sunshine records
and is a favourite of the surfing fraternity.
islands come in all sizes. Just one popular excursion (from both Mull
and the mainland) goes to Staffa, noted for its unusual rock formations
and caves, the best known of which is Fingal's Cave. Other
islands to explore include Lismore in Loch Linnhe and Kerrera, just offshore
from Oban. In fact, there is a Hebridean island to suit every schedule.
You can, for example reach Seil Island, located south of Oban, in just
a moment by crossing a picturesque hump-backed 18th century bridge, known
as "The Bridge over the Atlantic".