Day Out in Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park

It was grandma’s birthday yesterday, and it was my job to keep her out of the way while John,  her favourite son-in-law built her a new decking just where the late afternoon and evening sun pools in a golden pond (when it’s not raining).

First stop was The Lodge Forest Visitor Centre in the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, near Aberfoyle. Here you can do Go Ape (grandma wasn’t keen), go for numerous scenic walks, enjoy panoramic views, have lunch in the fabulous café, or … see the osprey. This was the main reason for our visit. We were met by Lucy, who showed us the osprey nest which can be seen on camera 24 hours a day. Katrine and Drunkie the regular adult male and female had 2 chicks which have just fledged, but they still come back to the nest several times a day and Drunkie continues to feed them until they migrate. Lucy showed us video footage of the first arrival of Drunkie in April, then the arrival of Katrine, the refurbishment of the nest, the hatching of the eggs, and the first wing flaps of the chicks to the actual flying of the nest. Amazing stuff and Lucy even showed us footage from last year when Katrine’s nest was under attack by a nasty and persistent raven.

osprey

Then we had lunch in the lovely café above the trees, with stunning views all around from every huge window. You can even see the Go Apers on the zip wire. After lunch we decided to take a wee dander in the woods to see the waterfall and the red squirrels. But we couldn’t tear ourselves away from the fantastic views outside The Lodge.

grandma at aberfoyle

I couldn’t resist a selfie.

selfie mary and mum

We headed off to the wildlife hide in the woods but on the way we came across the most amazing figures among the trees. They were barely visible, transparent figures of people. The artist is Rob Mulholland, and the collection is called Vestige, because it is a faint trace of the people who lived and worked in the woods here. The lifelike figures absorb and reflect the light and the surroundings. Fascinating and beautiful.

2 figures in woods

mum and figure in woods

We carried on through the woods still thinking about the figures and the people of old who had stories to tell of life: its joys and its sadness. This melancholy soon dissolved when grandma saw the red squirrels. Can you believe this wonderful octogenarian has never, ever seen a real life red squirrel in her puff? I know, that’s what I said! Well, she certainly saw plenty yesterday.

2 squirrels

squirrel

The were so funny to watch and very playful. There were also hundreds of birds around, more finches than you could shake a stick at. After what seemed a long time, I had to drag grandma away from there or we would miss the last boat over to Inchmahome Priory. “Boat?” she said warily, “I don’t do boats”. I smoothly changed the subject and bundled her away out of the woods and into the car. We drove a few miles outside Aberfoyle towards home, to Menteith. This is where we caught the boat, and I actually thought I would have to use chloroform to get her aboard. The boat was called Mary Queen of Scots, as Mary stayed here for a while when she was a lass.

boat to inchmahome priory

Finally we settled in the bow (you see, I can do nautical terms), and off we jolly well went – 7 minutes and some diesel fuel inhalation and we were there. Oh my, this tiny island, with it’s 13th century Augustinian Priory was balm to the soul; it’s beauty like iodine on a bruise, to steal from Leonard Cohen (to be honest Arnica is probably best for bruising but it doesn’t fit in with the song). Now here is a place that I will definitely come back to.

inchmahome priory

We wandered around Inchmahome Priory, imagining what life would have been like in the 1200’s, with a 2.30am start to the day, prayers, reflection, prayers, breakfast, work, prayers, prayers, prayers, prandial (dinner to you and me and I bet there was no post prandial brandy either), then prayers and a warm drink then … er  prayers and then bed. We saw the Chapter House (still with a roof on), where discipline and punishments were meted out to any naughty monk. I cannot imagine a) what misdemeanour they could possibly be guilty of and b) what the punishment might be. More prayers?

lake of menteith

Here’s a picture of Grandma looking out over Lake of Menteith (not many ‘lakes’ in Scotland) and psyching herself up for the boat journey back. There was a teeny tiny shower of rain then which produced this photo of a rainbow. We made friends with the Germans who shared our boat back (rather large some of them, to the point where the boat was listing dangerously), and learnt how to say “rainbow” in German, amongst other words they taught us, for example “sink” and “life jacket” should the need arise.

boat rainbow

We didn’t have time to nip into The Lake of Menteith Hotel for a cup of tea on the lawn, but it’s a great place to stop. We reluctantly sped past Doune Castle and the red kites as we were rushing hope to open the champagne, and I was anxious to see the new decking. Good old John had done a great job. More on this later.