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HOME AT FIRST's

ADVENTURE

CENTRAL SCOTLAND

WALKS IN

ROB ROY COUNTRY

Photos © Home At First

Looking east along Balquhidder Glen past Lochs Doine and Voil.
The vantage is the south flank of Stob Binnean above Inverlochlarig.
Rob Roy MacGregor farmed this land with his family and served as the local sheriff.
 

THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED IN FEBRUARY, 2002.                  EXPANDED 2010 & LAST UPDATED 2014.

Part 1:

Scenic Reasons for a Scottish National Park

          One of the first very visible public works of national scale to begin during the new era of Scottish autonomy was the development of a national park in central Scotland. The park, "Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park", encloses approximately 600 square miles of beautiful mountain and lake territory north and northeast of Glasgow. The park encloses many towns and villages, including several locations Home At First has sent guests for many years: Balquhidder, Strathyre, Lochearnhead, Killin, and Callander.
          While the controversial plan raised doubts in the minds of some local citizens, there has never been any doubt about the scenic treasures the park protects and promotes.

 

WORTHY OF NATIONAL PARK STATUS
          The citizens of Balquhidder and many other settlements in Central Scotland have reason to be concerned. Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, Scotland's first national park, has focused international attention on the remarkably scenic and fragile region of lakes and mountains north and northeast of Glasgow.
          Other areas of Scotland are more remote. Other areas of Scotland are much less settled. Other areas of Scotland are true wilderness.

Balquhidder Glen. Photo © Home At First.
Looking east down Balquhidder Glen
Photo © Home At First

          The national park, established in

 

part to protect the region from uncontrolled development, has the potential to create more development by bringing attention to the region. The very possibility of rapid development under the control of outsiders National Park Authority bureaucrats in Edinburgh is, for many affected residents, more frightening than the status quo. So far, at least, the fears have not been realized, as the broad economic slowdown of the early 21st century has certainly held many plans for development in check.

THE PRISTINE PRESENT
          The future may still be in doubt, but the present is certain: there is great natural beauty in this wonderfully convenient part of Scotland. Walkers and
cyclists can still experience the scenic wonders of the region privately, intimately. There are lovely, remote glens to explore, and some of Britain’s highest mountains to climb. There are grand views of pristine lochs from the hilltops. And there are no crowds, no concessions, and no entrance fees.

 

 

Rob Roy MacGregor's gravesite, Balquhidder Kirk. Photo © Home At First.
Rob Roy's grave
at Balquhidder Church

Photo © Home At First

SCENERY & HISTORY
         
A look at the map, suggests the area west of Balquhidder leading into the mountains and towards the northern tip of Loch Lomond is likely rugged, scenic, and unpopulated. The map is correct.
          This is
Rob Roy country, where the famous MacGregor outlaw lived, ran cattle (his and others), sheriffed, died (surprisingly, of natural causes), and is buried. Remarkably, despite the notoriety of Rob Roy, few tourists go beyond the Rob Roy Centre in Callander and his gravesite in Balquhidder churchyard. To get a real sense of the man and his environment, one need only go west of Balquhidder.

GETTING THERE
        Drive (slowly!) the one-lane paved road west from Balquhidder Village Hall along the north shore of Lochs Voil and Doine. If there is no wind, the lochs can mirror the rounded green and rust hills to the south.

 

Watch for the pink (!) house on the right that is the

Monachylemore restaurant (and hillwalkers’ bar). This small, remote way station is a top-ranked Scottish restaurant. If you don’t get a chance to have a meal there, at least make plans to stop for drink after walking. The hillwalkers’ bar is beyond cozy — it’s tiny — and there’s no avoiding sharing adventures with other walkers over a pint or a dram.
        You may not notice Loch Doine, which in wet times is a continuation of Loch Voil, and in dry times is connected to Loch Voil by a small stream. Nevertheless, west of the water you arrive at the signed parking place near the entrance to Inverlochlarig Farm, the largest estate in the Balquhidder Glen, encompassing the former farmland of Rob Roy MacGregor. The parking place is the start point for walks in all directions. Many climbers head north across the stile and up the south flank of Stob Binnein (1165m, 18th highest peak in Scotland) toward Ben More, the dominant mountain in the region and, at 1174m (3,851 ft), 16th highest peak in Scotland.
        If climbing the rarified heights of Stob Binnein and Ben More is not for everyone, following the trail out of the south end of the car park and then west along the stream (River Larig) is truly walking for everyone.

WHAT TO BRING
Remember to carry the following things, even if you plan a leisurely stroll:

FOOD: Something to eat and drink.

WET WEATHER: Raingear or (less helpful) an umbrella.

DRY WEATHER: Sun protection & sunglasses (let’s be optimistic!).

COLD WEATHER: Layers to put on and take off: sweater, windbreaker, gloves, jacket or mackintosh.

MAPS: Ordnance Survey Pathfinder (1:25000) Series Sheets NN 41/51 and NN 21/31 or Landranger (1:50000) Series Sheets 50, 51, & 57 all apply, although not one map covers all the territory of western Balquhidder Glen. At the very least, refer to the Home At First map we’ve designed before heading out:

 
Balquhidder Hikes. Map © Home At First.
 

 

STARTING OUT
          After crossing a bridge, the trail becomes a rough, unpaved road, and takes off due west toward the hills at the end of the glen. In 5-10 minutes the road wanders through the farmhouses and barns at the Inverlochlarig Farm, then continues west, crossing a style, staying north of and parallel to the steam (River Larig). Now every step leads further from civilization, the last outpost of which is the farm. The road clambers up and down, following the topography and following the stream,

Walking by the River Larig. Photo © Home At First.
Late December west of Inverlochlarig
Photo © Home At First

crossing numerous tributaries on its way west.

 

CASUAL WALKING
        For casual walkers, the road is the thing. Follow it until you have had enough exercise, enough splendid scenery, enough of a sense of the majesty of remote Scotland, then turn around. The hills are largely rounded bald-tops: sometimes golden, sometimes brown, sometimes russet, sometimes purple with heather, always begging you to stop and gawk or take another photo. There is no shortage of picnic spots along the way. You will see animals, too — mostly sheep — but there will be some cattle, too, and maybe you will see large red deer or small roe deer, ptarmigan (grouse), pheasants, hawks, or even an eagle.

RESPECT FOR THE LAND AND PROPERTY
        Be kind to the environment, here. Stay to the road or on obvious trails. Don’t bother the animals. Take special care not to disturb the sheep during the lambing season in the spring. Take all your litter home. Remember, you are guests on private land, which will be welcome to guests only if the guests respect the land and its owner’s property.

SERIOUS WALKING
        If the walking west of Inverlochlarig is fine for casual walkers, it is even better for the dedicated day hiker and the long-distance overnight hiker. In
Part II we suggest walks for the experienced, properly-equipped day-hiker and long-distance hiker.

 

   

 

LEARN ABOUT HOME AT FIRST TRAVEL TO SCOTLAND.

Day-hiking in Balquhidder Glen and throughout the National Park
is possible from HOME AT FIRST’s lodgings in
CENTRAL SCOTLAND.

A full menu of walks is listed among dozens of activities suggested
in HOME AT FIRST’s "SCOTLAND ACTIVITY GUIDE”
provided exclusively to HOME AT FIRST guests to Scotland.

FOR MORE HIKING & BIKING ADVENTURES IN CENTRAL SCOTLAND, SEE:
• CLIMBING BEN LAWERS
• WALKS IN ROB ROY COUNTRY 2
• RAMBLING ROB ROY'S RUSTLING ROUTE
• HIKING ACROSS THE BRAES o' BALQUHIDDER
• THE DEVIL'S STAIRCASE (WEST HIGHLAND WAY)
• CYCLING IN THE CENTRAL HIGHLANDS — CALLANDER TO KILLIN.
-

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