|Murky, mysterious, unearthly. The view from our room was utterly captivating. A light rain was falling creating a hazy film over the landscape and a mist hung heavily over the morning sky like a lingering kiss from a dream. The stillness of the loch broken only by the soft ripple of the ghostly geese as they floated around the bend. The first day of a long awaited romantic break at Loch Lomond finally arrived and even in the rain I was enchanted.
Most of Scotland’s lakes (which are called lochs when they are narrow and firths when broad) lie in deep Highland valleys. Inland, freshwater Loch Lomond is Britain’s largest lake. It is 23 miles (37 km) long and 5 miles (8 km) at its widest point. The northern end of Loch Lomond is steep sided and very deep. But to the south the lake becomes broader, shallow and dotted with wooded islands.
The main gateway is through the Highland village of Balloch. From here you travel farther south to Alexandria (Dumbartonshire). This is where Cameron House is located just a pebble’s throw from the lake.
We had arrived the night before at this five-star castle resort on the southern shores of Loch Lomond, just 30 minutes outside of Glasgow in the countryside and looked forward to three days of recharging our batteries in the sumptuous surroundings.
|The Cameron House is a five-star castle resort just a “pebble’s throw” from the bonny shores of Loch Lomond.
We visited the newly created Loch Lomond Shores, the National Park Gateway Center, which is just a 10-minute stroll from the hotel. Nestled into the most southerly corner, it’s positioned for glorious views across the water to Ben Lomond, a 3,000-foot (914 m) grey, rocky mountain that dominates the skyline.
The center is filled with plenty of things to do, including restaurants, luxury and outdoor shops, canoe and bike rental, and its own giant cinema screen housed in Drumkinnon Tower. Designed by one of Scotland’s leading architects, David Page, the tall circular tower features a 40-minute film revealing the history of the famous song “On the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond.” Immortalizd by Scottish bards it may sound like a happy song at first. Yet the story behind it is heartbreaking.
It was written at the time of the 1745 Scottish Jacobite uprising. Two Scottish brothers were captured by English soldiers and thrown into Carlisle jail. One was to be sentenced to death for his part in the revolt while the other was to be released. The younger brother had a sweetheart by Loch Lomond. But his elder sibling had a family to take care of. So the younger one chose death.
Execution and release of the two prisoners was scheduled for the same time. The freed man was allowed to go back home, taking the normal way, The High Road. His sibling however, according to an old Celtic belief that if you die away from your homeland you return by an underground spirit route called The Low Road, would be transported back to Loch Lomond instantly after being executed and therefore be home first.
You’ll take the high road
And I’ll take the low road
And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye
But me and my true love will never meet again
On the Bonny Bonny Banks of Loch Lomond.
I’ll admit to shedding tear or two while my friend Ian, an outdoor enthusiast found the majestic views filmed by helicopter over the loch far more impressive. The top floor restaurant of the tower boasts panoramic views. We marveled at the sight while spooning a hearty bowl of carrot and coriander soup to fortify us for the damp walk back to Cameron House.
|From the shores of Loch Lomond can be seen Ben Lomond, “the rocky mountain that dominates the skyline.”
Day two dawned with gusty winds and torrents of rain, and after a quick peak out the window, I crawled back under the enveloping warmth of the duvet and decided it was just the excuse needed to sleep in. Emerging mid-morning, shameless indulgence filled the day; a massage, manicure and a spell in the hot tub followed with reading by the fire and an afternoon game of snooker. Dinner in the formal Georgian Room of the resort completed our day of extravagance. While candles filled the room with a warm glow, we feasted on fresh Scottish salmon and Aberdeen Angus steak finished with an array of creamy local cheeses and drams of rich, honeyed scotch.
Eager to explore the Scottish Hills, the blue sky and warm sunshine of our third day provided a stunning backdrop to our picnic lunch at the top of nearby Conic Hill. Recommended by the concierge as a ‘cracking little climb,’ he also arranged for packed lunches to be enjoyed at the peak.
We reached the peak of this 1,100 foot (335 m) climb after about an hour and collapsed on a spot of springy heather to enjoy our lunch. White shaggy sheep dotted the vibrant green hillsides, their bleating calls echoing in the distance. Sunshine danced across the deep blue loch where tiny sailboats swished along with the waves. Day cruise ships meandered over to the forested islands where tiny hamlets of houses were clustered along the shore.
|The sun shines on rare occasions at Loch Lomond, making days like these perfect for exploring the surrounding Scottish hills.
I could see why we weren’t the only ones to become enchanted with this place. Loch Lomond also bewitched Sir Walter Scott, the famous author of Rob Roy and the Lady of the Lake, who set both of his best-selling novels right here on the banks of Loch Lomond.
The natural beauty of Loch Lomond entrances you whatever the weather. However, with an average of 250 days of rainfall each year, it’s more likely you’ll find rain than sunshine during your visit. But while the sunshine provides a glorious setting, to experience the full mystery and romance of Loch Lomond, you must see how it shines in the rain.
If You Go
Loch Lomond area
Classic double rooms start at £245 ($440) per night at Cameron House
Loch Lomond Shores shops are open from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. daily (7 p.m. on Saturdays)